Bitch! Please! Quoth the Raven

It was back to school night for many this week.  My husband attended Wee Baby Child’s kindergarten bragfest/drugery with my daughter.  He’s never had the opportunity to participate in this rite of passage for all families.  We are also filing the application for a nursing home for my father this week.  I’ve been juggling both ends of the spectrum for months, so I took the opportunity to sit back and read Winnie the Pooh with the little man instead of dealing with yet another year of PTA/PTO/BYOB/YOLO/STFU parental schmoozing.  I’m not the most social of creatures.  I like to watch from the corners of the room as the players reveal themselves.  Plus I did all twelve years (hard time) of my daughter’s primary schooling of which EVERY SINGLE YEAR I got to hear the joke I never tire of……

What were you when you had your daughter?  Ten?  You look like a baby yourself!

Yeah!  I was.  Feel better about yourself yet?  Well thanks for the ass backwards compliment that somehow always seems to imply that I’m less than moral.  In point of fact I was twenty and in some ways too young and idealistic to realize how toxic and abusive her father was; and while some could make the argument that I was still a baby, I was able to drive, vote, and work three jobs.  I wasn’t old enough to drink legally, nor did I really give a damn.  It was a hard road but it was the right road for me.  And I tried to plant seeds of greatness along that road every chance I had.  Any other astute observations you’d like to make?  No?  Mmmmkay.

So here we are twenty something years later.  I’m middle-aged and have a full head of silver hair and once again I am presented with the pithy observation that I’m too young to have a child/grandchild so old.  Who is the authority on this?  I’d really like to know.  Is it the same authority who wrote an article in Time magazine featuring a woman breast-feeding a four year old child on the cover while in big bold letters which managed to appear snide and accusing asking, “Are You Mom Enough?”  Well hell tootsie.  I never breast-fed my child so I guess not.  My daughter wouldn’t take to it and the women in my family have always had trouble producing enough milk and I had to make the decision of whether it was worth her suffering so I could say I breast fed.  The answer was no, so onto formula she went.  So what would be the proper measure of punishment for me?  Self loathing?  Handcuffs?  Social ostracization?  Finger pointing?  Oh wait…call me a bad mom.  Tell me how I don’t measure up to some elusive yard stick that most of us women can’t see or hear or touch or taste.  Should we cling to that archaic notion the same way we do that red hair or a dominant left hand is the sign of the devil?

No matter what, all mothers feel guilt.  We all subscribe to the notion that somehow, no matter how much we give, that we’re doing it wrong.  That we should only fed them organic food.  That gluten, fat and carbs are the devil when in reality for developments sake, most times that is exactly what our children need depending on their age.  That we should make their baby food from food we grew and picked ourselves or only wash their laundry in detergent made exclusively by nuns in the Scottish countryside who use filtered water and angel tears to get their whites really white and their sheets really soft.

If we work we feel like we should be at home to help with all the homework and make gourmet dinners that rival that of Martha Stewart’s.  If we’re at home we feel like we should be contributing more to the household or using that degree we worked so hard for.  We read blogs and articles and studies to improve on our mothering skills, and all the while loving our children more than we could possibly love ourselves.  And having said all that, at some point in their lives most of us have fed them McDonald’s…….

And they lived to tell the tale.

I’m tired of the divisiveness of the world we live in.  I’m tired of feeling like I was a bad mother or a bad grandmother or a bad daughter or a bad wife.  You know who can tell me if I was or am?  My daughter.  My grandson.  My parents.  My husband.  Anyone else can suppose whatever they need to.  If it helps them through the night then God speed.  I believe that if you are doing the best you can, then who the hell am I to judge?  Wee Baby Child got into his first fight yesterday.  With his best friend.  Over a hat.  There was yelling and hair pulling and the whole nine.  And you know what I told my daughter?  Don’t worry about it, they’ll be fine by tomorrow.  Bring him over to bestie’s house and have them both apologize and they’ll be fine.  I promise.  Guess what?  They’re fine.  It’s a lesson they both needed to learn.  Now they’ll start to realize that was not the most effective way of resolving a difference and that is basically the main objective in life; learning how to navigate the world with dignity.

I’m here to tell the moms out there that there’s little certainty in this world.  We do what we can.  There’s no more or less to it than that.  So no matter what you choose in rearing your child; the rest of us don’t know the in’s and out’s of your choices.  It’s not up to me to rip someone a new one because I don’t agree; as long as you’re not endangering yourself or your children or those who could suffer in direct correlation with your actions.  I can respectfully disengage from you if I don’t like you or I can respectfully learn something from you that I may not have known/thought about before.  But at the end of the day the only one who knows why we make the choices we do…is us.  Some things, most things are just not worth the “social outrage mafia” getting it’s knickers in a twist over.

Sending them to school in pajama pants because you didn’t have time to do laundry since you’ve been battling the flu for a week

Feeding them ice cream for breakfast because they made honor roll

Ending grace before dinner with “Yay God”

Not showering on Saturday because you forgot to buy soap at the store so you figure you’ll get it all done on Sunday and you didn’t want to take your sweatpants off anyway

Putting your dress on inside out only to realize it while you’re driving your kid to school

Saying “fuck” in front of your kid…..six times because you dropped the vacuum on your foot

Explaining the birds and the bees as delicately and gently as possible only to be told that Johnny is being raised by two lesbians…so how do they get babies since they don’t have penises

Teaching a soccer team to learn team coordination and anticipation by driving your car onto the soccer field and blaring Harry Belafonte from your speakers because it’s the only way they get it.  By dancing a little and laughing a little and learning to move up, back, side, other side..a little

Getting an irate phone call from your ex explaining that as he threw up his hand as he was cut off by someone in traffic, your seven year old asked “That’s an asshole right Daddy?”

Hiding behind your car to smoke a cigarette because you told your sweet angel that you quit

Hosting a Rocky Horror Picture party and introducing wayward hormonal teenagers to it in a controlled environment because you know the other option was a farming party two blocks away.  Your kid didn’t.  But you did.

Wondering at six AM if Jack Daniels is an acceptable accoutrement to coffee because you heard “MOM” for the 46th time THAT minute. Yes minute.  Not hour…

If you’re wondering who has done these things?  It’s me.  I’ve done every one of these things and my daughter is a fine person.  I don’t mean she’s fine in a “oh she’s fine thanks” kind of way.  I mean she’s a fine human being.  Everything decent and good and fine and noble and beautiful that I’ve ever been poured through from my soul to my womb and on to her and she’s carried with her since.  She inherited very little of my darkness or as Wee Baby Child puts it…my spiciness.  I couldn’t have messed it all up.

So I ask again?  Who is the utmost expert on gauging our abilities in child rearing?  Our children.  If they have character, you did it right.

I’ve managed to live 46 years in this world.  I’ve doubted myself.  I’ve questioned my sanity a few times.  I’ve laughed and I’ve loved.  I’ve failed.  I’ve picked myself up.  I’ve survived a few wars.  I’ve regretted little.  And when I see the people who insist on tearing down instead of building up I simply reject the notion that I should participate in that activity.

 

 

 

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The Nuts On My Family Tree (No Really It’s Just Me)

I am woman….hear me blow snot bubbles…..

I am also a card carrying member of the “sandwich generation”.

And I would like to punch whoever came  up with this notion of superwoman right in the left boob.

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Suck it Enjoli!  What’s wrong with asking for help?  Idiot!

#ineveraskforhelp  #becauseimstubbornnotbecauseiminvincible #letsjustgetthatstraight

Last night I hit a proverbial wall.  I tried to body slam my husband into it with me as I flailed through my house looking for a lost item.  This was the second crisis phone call of the week.  The first one was Tuesday night with my mother pleading that I speak with my father who insisted that…

… three men…

…picked him up from somewhere…

…drove him around and threatened him…

…scared him and said they would hurt people…

…and dropped him off at the place he is now and he has no money and nowhere to go and he can’t pay the bill for where they put him…

I did the precious little that I could to assure him that he was safe and I would never let harm come to him which he promptly forgot because he has little to no short-term memory left.  And round and round we go.  He doesn’t know his home.  He doesn’t know my mother.  He doesn’t know where his money is or if he should go to work.  He tries to help but only gets in the way.  He tries to remember and can’t and we get frustrated with him and then feel the guilt because none of this in our control, let alone his.

Last night I got the call that he lost his wallet.  I searched and at one point stood in my living room covering my face with my hands as I fought off tears.  Maximum fusion was met.  Critical mass.  Defcon status.

When they tell you that a loved one is ill, I think it’s human nature to cling to the furthest marker of the health barometer.  My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013.  The life expectancy of an Alzheimer’s patient is five to ten years.  So ten right?  Ten years is great.  One whole decade.  We can pack so much life into ten years.  We got this.  By then, who knows, they’ll have a cure.  This is what went through my mind upon his diagnosis; coupled with an overwhelming relief of finally being able to define what was happening to him.  Isn’t that a grand word?  Define.  Oh it’s been defined alright, but we all deluded ourselves into thinking that somehow we’d escape the dirty details.

They don’t prepare you for things like how to tell your mother that her marriage of almost fifty years is effectively over.  There’s only one participant left in it.  Spouse has been replaced by caregiver which is a modern-day synonym for superhero.  Screw Batman….he’s an idiot.  Have you met my Mom?  That’s a superhero.

They don’t tell you that you’ll have to face the stark terror in your loved one’s voice as they imagine horrible things happening and you can’t comfort them because in their mind they don’t remember who you are.  They don’t believe you when you say it’s alright because they’re old and tired and truly believe that all of their money is gone and they’ll be arrested momentarily for being a bum.  That some days they believe they’re 25 and not even married yet and the lady who is so nice and cares for them isn’t their wife but a nurse and then they catch a glimpse of themselves in the mirror and don’t see the hale and hearty 25 year they think they are.  And you have to watch their face drop in horror as the reality settles on them again and again and again.

They don’t tell you that Medicare covers relatively nothing in terms of adult daycare or visiting nurses.

They don’t tell you that your marriage vows…the mind’s eye promise that as their spouse you’ll see it through to the bitter end rarely happens.  It’s too much and at some point you will have to offer up your spouse to strangers to care for them.  Or that your daughter who tries to help truly sees what a marriage is all about.  It’s not the wedding day or the pretty ring he bought you for your anniversary.  It’s dressing him.  Bathing him.  Blocking the door at night so he won’t wander.  It’s loving him in spite of sometimes a very unlovable behavior.  It’s smiling at him when you want to cry.  It’s quietly redirecting his attention not to remembering the good time, but forgetting the bad times he’s grappling through right now.  My mother has truly shown me what marriage is.  So has my husband as I reconcile all of this information.

They don’t tell you that in addition to balancing your own life, work, house, chores, children; that now you’ll have to keep tabs on keeping the caregiver in balance as well.  Because if they go, this whole house of cards goes with them.

They don’t tell you that you have to discipline your parents for hiding stuff from you.

They don’t tell you that you get angry.  That some days, you resent your entire life being put up in the air ad infinitum.  They don’t tell you the horrible weight of guilt for ever feeling angry about any of this.  They don’t tell you that to feel this way is human and very, very forgivable.

So my husband has stood by me through all of this.  This post is truly a love letter to the man who doesn’t like facing his wife falling apart.  I yelled at him that he wouldn’t even hug me because he was such a caveman and that women cry and it wasn’t tears of sulfuric acid that would dissolve all of his chest hair and what the hell was wrong with him that common sense couldn’t dictate in his world that perhaps I need comfort.  What kind of a monster???

SO WHAT DO YOU WANT SHANNON?

ME WANT HUG CAVEMAN.

So he held me as I choked and sobbed.  My father is gone.  He’s still here but he’s gone.  And I faced that fact down yesterday as I calmly tried to reassure my mom that we’d all be okay through a series of phone calls to gauge the status of what needed to be done.  I cried until I semi dry heaved.  I cried for my Daddy.  I cried for the fear I heard in his voice.  I cried for my Mom.  I cried for my husband who is forever helping me pick up the pieces.  I cried for my dog who was upset that I was crying.  I cried for my daughter who is trying to juggle her own Titanic sized list of responsibilities.   I cried because I needed a pedicure.  I cried because I can rarely make plans anymore.  I cried because the only comfort I can give my father is to shelter him and feed him and read to him just like he did for me as a child.  I cried for things I can’t control and even a few that I could.  I cried for the frustration that I, the one who always comes out on top, couldn’t win this one.  There’s no winning.

So Magilla, God bless his dear heart, tried to comfort me with sweet words.  He said softly, “One day at a time babe.”  I snarled back that this wasn’t AA.  He lamented that there was so much weight being put on me, “Babe, Mei Mei went back to school and you’re watching Wee Baby Child 4 nights a week, and he just started school and your Mom is leaning on you a lot”.  Queue my mouth railing and ranting that my mother was a strong woman and he just didn’t get it and Mei Mei needed to further her education because what if I got hit by a bus (pretty sure this sounded like an excellent alternative at the moment in his world since I’d made it clear he couldn’t even breathe correctly on this fine evening BUT HOLD ME).

He finally shook his head and informed me that I wasn’t the only one.  “We’re all in this”.

That’s it.

We’re all in this.  Whether our loved ones are fighting a large battle or a small, we’re all in this.  Whether we are fighting a large battle or small, we’re all in this.

There is no level of sympathy required.  I do what I do out of love for my family.  I was raised to believe that family is the only thing that matters.  It is the end all be all of our existence.  That being said, we do what we do for those we love and who love us.

We’re all in this.  None of us are immune to aging.  None of us are immune to watching our loved ones die.  None of us are immune to our peculiar reactions to these events.

I don’t write this for pity or for any other purpose than that of stating simply for anyone going through something….

Therefore the grace of God go I.

I lean on the strength of others in my life that I know love me and don’t judge me for my humanity so that one day they may lean on me while I do the same.  If this isn’t the bare essence of what our lives are meant to be, then I don’t know what is.

We’re all in this.