Thursday, May 31, 2012


Just a quick post to inform all three readers out there that I'm not gone, though it seems I may have forgotten this blog.  Truth be told I haven't - I've just been up to my eyeballs in sick kids, end of school year activities, and even more sick kids.

I can't even describe the amount of throw up that went through our house in the last two weeks as our three children passed around the stomach virus - suffice to say I think (God help me) we're over the worst - and back on track.


I probably just jinxed it...

But stay tuned - I have oodles to catch up on - so much I don't even know where to begin...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mothers and Daughters

Mothers and daughters.  Daughters and mothers.  I'm not sure what it is about that maternal bond between mother and daughter that causes such an intense, passionate, yearning between the two. Longing not only to be the best for the other, but often times, to be the other.  Daughters wanting to grow up and be the woman they see in their mother.  Mothers wanting to protect their daughters from all of the pitfalls they experienced;  not necessarily to relive their youth through their girls, rather to guide their footsteps as they navigate the path to womanhood.  And so, it seems the two are are often caught in an intricate and delicate dance of love and hate.

I've been witness to countless friends who struggle in their relationships with their mothers.  Constantly aiming to please, yet always feeling they fall short and resulting in hurt feelings, animosity, irritation, and down-right ire. I guess I'm lucky.  No.  Scratch that.  I KNOW I'm damn lucky to have had the relationship I had with my mother.  She and I were always close.  I've written about it before, but will write about it again and again because my mother defined me.  She helped me become the woman I am today.  Of course there were plenty of trying times - mostly during those awkward teenage years when I was sure I knew all there was to know and my mother just didn't understand.  And also during those especially trying years when I was trying to figure out how to be an adult - to gain my independence - and didn't know how to break those proverbial apron strings and ended up being horrible and sassy and (I'll admit it) pretty darn awful to my mother.

But the thing is, no matter how awful I was, no matter what wretched thing I spouted out, or horrible thing I did - my mom was always there.  She was always there to provide a hug, to hold my hand, to let me lie with my head in her lap while she stroked my hair, feeling the vibrations of her as she spoke.  She was simply my best friend.  There never has been (and probably never will be) another soul who could tell me when to pull my head out of my ass or when I was being dramatic or when I was over-reacting.  Not anyone who I would really listen to, that is.

I sought my mother's counsel for every major decision in my life.  The all important teenage angst of what outfit should I wear to what function to what college to attend.  What wedding dress to wear to who to marry.  How to mother my infant daughter to how to grieve the death of my father.  She was the first person I called when I was (insert emotion) - happy, sad, scared, elated, devastated, and often times, just because.  She was there.  For all of it.

Until that fateful day - when she was ripped away from me.  I suppose I'll never really get over that.  And just when it seems I feel like I've come to terms with it - something else happens that pulls me right back into that Place of Unhappiness.  When I need to hear my mother's voice, to hear her words of wisdom, to feel her hands stroking my hair as much as I need air to breathe.

Which is why this situation with Anna is even more unbearable at times.  I desperately want to talk to my mother, to hear her take on the situation.  I want her to tell me 'hey, it's not totally crazy for your daughter to talk to herself for hours in the mirror - you used to do the same.'  I want to hear her reassuring voice telling me that everything is going to be okay.  That I'm not totally screwing up my children.  And that no matter what happens, the love and bond between a mother and her daughter will somehow, in some way, provide that safety net for my child that I'm so afraid I've forgotten to secure the ropes for.

I've been reading a book called Bloom for my book club.  It's the account of a young mother who had to come to terms with the surprising news that her child was born with Down Syndrome, with no previous knowledge, no expectation until she met her for the first time in the birthing room.  Its the story of  how she struggled in the days and weeks after her daughter's birth.  It's a deeply moving book, well written, courageous, thought provoking, and tear-jerking at times.

Want to know what caused me to cry - and I mean really cry - those big, fat tears - those snotty, air-gulping, need to sleep for days after tears?  It wasn't the struggle this woman went through as she figured out how to mother the child she didn't expect she'd have.  No, it was her account of her own mother.  How her mother came rushing in - how she picked up the pieces - how she handed her the 'get out of adulthood free' card - and took care of her baby by folding laundry and making casseroles and tidying her house.  How when she needed it most - her mother was there - to smooth her hair and tell her in her only-a-mom-can-do-way that everything was going to be alright.

And it made me miss my mother even more.

My mommy.

I don't want her to come fold laundry or make casseroles or water the plants or sweep the floor.  Don't get me wrong - I'd relish the help - and there is many a day when I fully covet a 'get out of adulthood free' card where for just one day, one day, I wouldn't have to be responsible for anyone or anything but instead, have someone taking care of me and making the most simplest of decisions for me.  But what I really want, what I really crave, is time with my mother.  To feel her hands.  To feel her voice vibrating through her body as I lay my head on her lap - telling me its going to be okay.

And I want her to tell me how to do it.  How to create that bond with my daughter. One that is apparently atypical, that is not filled with feelings of inadequacy or hurt but rather a fulfilling and loving and safe place.  I want my relationship with my daughter to be as strong as mine was with my mother.  I want to be able to tell Anna when to pull her head out of her ass and when she's being dramatic - and have her really listen.  I want to be the person she runs to at the end of the day to tell all her secrets to.  When things are wrong, I want to be the one to help her pick up the pieces - to soothe her soul by laying her head in my lap and stroking her hair.  And when things are joyful, I want to be the one she calls to celebrate.

We're off to such a rocky start, she and I.  I'm not sure if its her personality versus mine - if its her 'disorder' that causes her to seem so indifferent to me - or some strange combination of the two.  When I share this with Deonne - he brushes it off and tells me 'she's not you and you're not your mother - you can't expect the same relationship.'  And while he may be right in his linear and orderly engineering world - I don't know how else to feel.  It's what I know.  I only know how to be the daughter I once was to the only mother I'll ever know.  And I struggle daily to be the mother I wish I could be to the only daughter I'll ever know.

Mothers and daughters.  Daughters and mothers.  I wonder where this crazy dance I am on - in limbo as a daughter - completely unsure as a mother - will take me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Girl

My daughter.  My first born child.  The person I struggled to conceive.  Who I cried uncountable tears for in the year I waited to learn if I would ever be a mother.  Who I dreamed about.  Who I prayed for.  Who I couldn’t wait to meet – to teach – to share everything with, from the smell of fresh cut grass in the summer to the feel of snowflakes on rosy cheeks in the winter.

She truly has been an answer to my prayers.  From the moment she was born and I heard the doctor exclaim ‘it’s a girl!’ and I saw her tiny pink fists punching the air, my heart was forever hers.  It’s funny  – how your life can change in an instant.  My life forever changed at 11:49 pm on September 21, 2004. 

I am blessed beyond measure.  I still can’t believe that I was trusted to guard and protect and raise this fragile soul.  Often times I look at the girl my daughter is becoming and marvel at the miracle she is.  That she is here, breathing and growing and finding her place in the world, all because her daddy and I fell in love.  We created this miracle.  We created this person.  And I’m in awe of that.

Of course as a mother, I want the very best for my child.  Not the ‘best’ in terms of material things (although she does look pretty cute in her Matilda Jane clothes we’re both so fond of) but rather the ‘best’ out of life.  I often think of Thoreau’s famous book "Walden" – and hope and pray that my girl will live each day deeply and 'suck out all the marrow of life.'  While I’ve been through enough to know that her life will not always be full of lollipops and bouquets of dandelion flowers, I do hope that she’ll have the strength and courage to face the un-fun times with grace.  I hope her dad and I will be able to instill in her the skills and the values needed to be the successful woman I can see when I glimpse into her future.

And I know things won’t always be easy for her - that there will indeed be struggles and tough times, adversity and heartbreak.  But I hope that those are minimal.  That the triumphs and successes, joys and loves will far outweigh the harder times.

And because I’m her mother, it’s really hard to hear when someone thinks there is something – how do I phrase this – not quite right – with my child.  It’s hard to hear observations made about her- especially when they conclude with a problem that I can’t fix.  I’m her mother.  I should be able to fix what is broken.   I should be able to teach and guide, to love and help, and to make her struggles easier rather than exacerbate and worsen something that my child seems to have no control over.

So we’ve been struggling with Anna.  (When haven’t we?)  If you’ve read this blog long enough, you’ll recognize the patterns, the ebbs and flows of the highs and lows we experience with our daughter.  Nothing too terrible, mind you – I mean our kid hasn’t been referred to juvenile detention (yet) – but significant enough to have a negative impact on our family of five.  Significant enough to affect (as her teacher pointed out) her ability to learn.  And significant enough to bring out the deep rooted seeds of guilt that I carry around.  Guilt that I’ve screwed my kid up – that I’ve not loved enough, not done enough, expected too much, pushed too hard, neglected too often, or pushed away too much. 

While some parents may view the recommendation to have their child evaluated for attention deficit disorders as some sort of relief – some sort of path to take to resolve the nightmares – I (simply) don’t.  Rather, I feel like a failure.  I feel like I’ve failed my child – in some way – in some manner.  Did I not take enough of the right kind of vitamin when I was pregnant with her – or drank too many beverages out of BPA-laden containers – or ate some unpasteurized cheese to cause the neurons of her brain to not develop properly such that she can’t transmit data like she should?  Did my own personal battles of trying to cope with the death of my father somehow have a negative impact on her when she was not even a year old?  Did my struggle to breathe after my mother’s stroke – to function on the most minimal of levels – cause her to retreat to the corners of her own little brain, because I couldn’t love her enough?

I don’t know.  I’m sure I’ll never know. 

Doctors and teachers and psychologists and principals all tell me ‘don’t beat yourself up’ and ‘you didn’t do anything to cause this’ and ‘this isn’t your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong.’  Really?  Then why does it feel that way?  Why does it feel like I’ve totally and completely failed my child?  This child that I prayed so hard for and desperately longed for.  That I couldn’t wait to be a mother to – to hold and rock and sing sweet songs to, that I couldn’t wait to show the wonder of a rainbow to or how to lick an ice-cream cone without drips.  I look at her sweet face, her intense eyes, and wonder how we got here.

My girl means the world to me.  She is everything to me.  Her and her two brothers – I’d lay down my life for them.  Gladly.  So I’ll do whatever it takes to help her – to figure out what we need to do to fix the problem. I’m just not sure I understand what is broken.  I am sure I’ll never understand why it is broken.

I will admit, there is some relief in knowing that the things we see at home, the behavior we’ve tried numerous times to discipline out, is mirrored at school.  And there is some relief in knowing that she might not be able to help it.  That her constant ‘spacing out’ and lack of attention isn’t her indifference, rather her inability to focus.  That her ‘hyper-focusing’ on one thing and tuning the world out isn’t her being stubborn or disobedient, rather it’s her inability to disengage – to tear herself away.  That her not being able to settle down from the ‘sillies’ (as we call it) – the acting completely crazy and doing weird things like panting like a dog or continuing to be loud and out of control after being told repeatedly to stop, again isn’t complete disobedience or disrespect.  Rather, it’s her inability to self-regulate and control her emotions.

I do wonder how we got this far without realizing we had a true problem.  It certainly hasn’t helped matters that  the kid is smart.  Stinking smart.  Her last reading test put her at the 5th grade reading level.  Her math and problem solving skills are off the charts.  She understands and comprehends things that most children that are older than her struggle with.  So she’s hidden a lot of this.  And we’ve allowed her to compensate for her struggles by chalking her bad behavior up to being a ‘strong-willed’ or ‘stubborn’ child.  Disciplining strongly, yes.  But always thinking she’s not focusing at school and getting into trouble because she’s bored.  Or not stimulated enough.

While I think there is an element of that in the mix – the underlying problem is there.  No amount of difficult or challenging schoolwork is going to help my daughter follow simple three-point directions.  Understanding algebra in first grade (which she does) isn’t going to help her be able to go to her room, get her socks, turn off her light, and come back downstairs without getting completely and utterly sidetracked.  And I truly believe it isn’t a product of not wanting to do what is right or making a bad choice – I don’t think she’s making any choice at all.  She’s like a squirrel – she’ll see something shiny and it diverts her attention – and whatever task she was trying to accomplish flies right out the window.

But here’s where the guilt comes in.  Rather than gently guide or teach or help – I get angry.  Unbelievably angry.  It’s usually when we’re trying to get out the door, and are late, and I see her dawdling in her room as being disrespectful to our entire family.  Deonne and I both lose our patience with her, constantly.

Basically, it comes to this.  If all of this concern as identified by her school psychologist, principal, and teacher is indeed true (and frankly the descriptions we were given yesterday afternoon were spot on) – and an evaluation reveals that our daughter has indeed had trouble this whole time – something beyond her control – something innate that she’s struggled with since birth - then what have we been doing to help?  Nothing.  We’ve been yelling and screaming, punishing and banishing, losing our tempers and losing our minds – when the child hasn’t been able to help herself.

We’re accepting nominations now for our Parent of the Year awards.

I’m sure I’ve secured the Mother of the Year award – and possibly the Mother who Screwed Up Her Kid the most award.

But in all seriousness, Anna has the memory of an elephant.  She recalls and remembers things in excruciating detail… from when she was two years old.  And I’m not kidding about that.  So I wonder what memories she’ll recall from her early childhood – that her mother yelled and screamed a lot and made her feel really bad about herself a lot.

Certainly not the memories I hoped my daughter would have of counting rainbows or collecting dandelion bouquets.

And I wonder, will she ever be able to forgive me?