Tag Archives: It’s not all rainbows and unicorns

Before and Now

If you are a parent, do you even remember what life was like before children?

Well of course, we all remember! But it’s hard to imagine going back there – to have no knowledge of how it feels to live several lives simultaneously. Primarily, we’re living our own life. But at the same time we are experiencing the world through at least one other set of smaller, yet much wider eyes.

I have always loved decorating for Christmas. And the post-children Christmas tree is a source of much angst that I’ll discuss later. But while outside looking at our house today, I was struck by how much it reflects the integration of family.

This is what you would see before we had kids:

And this is most definitely after:

Together, it makes for a slightly confusing blend of just right and just a little too much. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Everyone who has children thinks about “before and after.” But some parents have a terrible before and after: before, when the family was together, and after, when one is missing.

On Friday, a new set of parents was initiated into the nightmare of before and after a child was lost. They are just a few among many, but they represent the reality of our uncertain future.

My heart breaks for EVERY parent who has ever lost a child. But instead of indulging in despair for all that is terrible in this world, I am reminded to appreciate the present. To revel in the ordinary. To delight in the day-to-day tedium and frustration of raising children. Today was okay. It was fine. And in that I see extraordinary joy.

This afternoon, I hung my simple wreaths with the pale blue satin ribbons. Then I stepped back to see the juxtaposition of restrained elegance next to garish holiday ornaments and a brown extension cord dangling from our newly exposed front light bulb.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the fact that my house looks a little crazy. I’m ecstatic that my perfectly decorated tree seems to be sprouting new ornaments made of paper cut by tiny, inexperienced hands. The screaming match going on in the basement playroom is music to my ears.

This is life as I know it now. For now, everything is fine.

It’s hard to not feel sad in the face of such terrible grief. Especially knowing that in a split second, I could be one of the grieving.

But I try to remind myself that everything is fine until it’s not. And when everything in your own life is fine, you just have to go with it. Because when it’s not, you never really get fine back.

My heart goes out to everyone missing a much-loved child today – both friends and strangers. And in honor of their treasured before, I’m going to appreciate every second of my now.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by life or mired down in petty concerns, I will try to remember what is truly important. To appreciate the exquisite pleasure of a mostly good day with the people I love.

In the face of an uncertain future, I am putting all of my energy into cherishing my own children who are so very HERE right now. I’ll feel sad on my time – not theirs. And I’ll decorate my heart with their chaos and garish enthusiasm for everything that is good.

Good Omens

The other day, I burst into tears while apologizing to another mother at the pool.

This was as much of a surprise for me as it was for her. While I do cry on occasion, it’s generally the result of frustration or hurt feelings – and almost exclusively reserved for my husband in the privacy of our own home. And I’ve never been one to wear my heart on my sleeve, let alone bleed all over the floor of the ladies changing room.

But in that one moment, every shred of anger, sadness and anxiety that I’ve ever stuffed into my bursting closet of repressed feelings poured directly out of my eyes. It seems the act of summoning words and speaking them aloud redirected just enough attention away from my tightly guarded heart. This breach in security didn’t incite an actual riot of emotions, but a few of the sly ones slipped through the cracks and joined forces. They must have been watching – waiting patiently for an opportunity to break out. And it took only seconds to assemble their weapons of destruction – heat seeing missiles aimed at the frontal lobe of my brain.

Or at least that’s how it felt. Like a sneak attack. And a traitorous one at that.

I don’t cry in front of strangers. I just wanted to tell her that she didn’t do anything wrong. Because at the end of the day, she really didn’t.

No – she shouldn’t have gone out of her way to tell the lifeguard Oliver was swimming in front of the diving board. And yes – she should have talked to me about it since I was right there, actively instructing him to move over, make room for the other kids waiting to jump. Especially since the lifeguard was watching it all from a nearby chair, letting me handle it.

She overstepped. She called my parenting into question. She insinuated that my child was a problem. But none of that was her intention. She was concerned about safety. They were only there for a half hour and she wanted her own kids to have more time jumping off the diving board than waiting in line. And the minute I said, “excuse me, I’m talking to him about that and the lifeguard is watching – my son has special needs – it’s complicated – we’re doing the best we can,” she realized that regardless of her not-bad intentions, she was out of line.

It was the typical non-confrontational confrontation. She did what she did, I said what I said, and then we both tried to make nice by talking to each other through our children. I told Oliver that another mother asked if he could swim away from the diving board – we had to give her kids a turn – and if he couldn’t listen to the grownups, then he would have to take a break from the pool. She told her kids that the pool was crowded today – they couldn’t take over the diving area – they could all have one more jump, but it was just about time to go. We both informed our children that in a few minutes it would be “break” and that we would be going home.

I hadn’t thought to apologize at first. Our indirect communication was enough to let each other know there were no hard feelings. But I just had to say that thing about special needs… Way to make someone feel a bad person – implying that they were picking on your special needs child! How was she supposed to know? She may have felt terrible about what happened. And I would hate for that to be the case since I am queen of obsessing over my own bad behavior dating back to preschool. It’s not fun feeling like shit over transgressions long since forgotten by the other party.

So as we packed up our pool bag and made our way to the changing rooms, I decided to look for that family. To tell that woman I was sorry for snapping and that she didn’t do anything wrong. Technically, she did – but what did that matter in the face of intentions. Just like Oliver and I are doing the best we can at the pool – in life – she’s doing the best she can as a parent. We all are. And I thought she should know I understand that.

I caught up with her at the entrance of the changing area and before she could say anything to me, I cut her off with my own olive branch.

If only I could have stopped talking right after that. I could have swallowed back the lump rising in my throat. I could have taken a deep breath, squared my shoulders and moved forward…made it through that moment of vulnerability unscathed. I could have made it out the door without crying.

But she felt the need to apologize too. This is when she explained herself to me – how she was thinking about her own family’s tight schedule and regretted her complaint the minute she made it. She was sincere. Embarrassed. Sorry.

So I had to respond. I said I understood – that I overreacted, but sometimes it was just really hard. And while this statement explained nothing at all to her, to anyone in my position, those few words actually do say it all. Sometimes it’s really hard. It’s hard to have the “different child.” The son who looks “normal” and is even big for his age, but acts like he’s much younger. To have to explain him to others so they don’t judge him so harshly. To be so proud of how much he has accomplished but so frustrated by how far he has to go. To not know what the future holds.

It’s hard. Really hard. And like a key in a lock, that last word opened the floodgates.

So much for not making her feel bad.

But I did blubber through a new rendition of “you didn’t do anything wrong,” that better described this unusual and unexpected turn of events. “I really never cry about this kind of thing…it’s just been a long day…I’m fine…seriously, it’s not a big deal…nothing to do with you.” At least I pulled it together at the end and was able to clearly restate that I just wanted to apologize and make sure she understood that I didn’t think she did anything wrong. Because that was all I wanted to say. Hopefully she believed me.

And to be completely honest, this wasn’t the first time my words were swallowed by a sneak attack sob that day. Several hours earlier, I had a follow up call with Oliver’s auditory processing therapist. He had just finished one of his bi-annual two-week “loops,” so we were discussing how it went and what I was now observing at home. As usual, the conversation was very positive. Progress had been made and the time he spent with them was productive.

I asked my standard questions about what we should be doing at home – what we should be working on when school starts. Then we lapsed into telling “Oliver stories.” Because he really is a character, and his delays, emerging language and exposure to television make for some pretty fantastic ESL moments.

My recent favorite is an exchange we had regarding the movie, Cars 2. He was telling me an involved story about bad guy, Professor Z and his evil doings. But he lost me at one unintelligible word:

Oliver: …and then Professor Z told his fugs…

Me: Fugs?

Oliver: Yeah – fugs.

Me: What are fugs?

Oliver: [perplexed by my ignorance] They’re trouble making villains.

Thugs. I love that.

And it would have been so easy to just end our phone call right there. But I never can.

I have to ask the unanswerable question. I can’t help myself. The inconvenient lack of mass produced crystal balls can’t stop me from asking. It’s pathological. Or maybe just a little desperate.

After a perfunctory disclaimer about the impossibility of predicting the future when so much can change…I always ask what right now, this very minute, she sees as a possibility for my son. What does the future hold for him? Even if it’s just a guess. Have we hit any hard limits? Have once-distant maybe-somedays receded further into improbability? Or have they moved closer within reach – come into sharper focus? When can I actually touch them or should I just stop trying?

And of course, there aren’t any real answers. This is the curse of having a special needs child who doesn’t fit into an existing box. No trail has been blazed for him. So his potential is unknowable, and therefore unlimited until proven otherwise. Of course this is a good thing, but it leaves the parents in a constant state of anticipation. Waiting for something to happen. The best case scenario or the worst – and every day you get a little bit of both. Just to keep you on your toes.

I always default to hope. Even before becoming a mother, I’ve survived life on planet earth by assuming everything will work out. That it will all be okay. And I’m usually right.

So I do the same thing when it comes to my babies. I love who they are now, and I expect only good things for their future. I know the dark flip side of the coin but I’ll always go for two out of three…three out of five. Until you tell me the worst, I’ll hope for the best.

During each pregnancy, I would lie in bed dreaming of everything I wanted for these children. They would be artistic, interesting, charismatic…the list was far too long for me to remember. But later, as they grew and their personalities and challenges began to surface, I turned to the practical.

Of course I want EVERYTHING for all three of my children, but if I’m going to play the Magical Thinking game, I have to keep it simple. Be specific.

I want Oliver to be intelligent, kind and funny. I want people to like being around him, not just because they like him, but because they like how they feel about themselves when they’re with him.

I want George to be successful, but also compassionate. I have no worries about his ability to make people laugh – but I also want him to take the feelings of others into consideration. I hope that he can hold onto his lighthearted side and not take himself too seriously.

I want Eleanor to be strong and confident – to embrace her talents and believe in herself. I don’t want her to feel intimidated by the accomplishments of others, but to instead be happy for them as she focuses on her own goals and achievements.

There’s more. Of course. But these particular qualities are in the current rotation of my hopes and dreams because they’re based on what I see in each child today. And they seem realistic – attainable.

So as I discussed Oliver’s possible – unknowable – future with his therapist, I drifted to this line of thinking. And I wanted to be perfectly clear – explain that I’m asking for very little, here. I’m starting with the basics – things that every parent wants for their child. “In my hopes and dreams for his future? I want him to have friends…” And that’s as far as I got.

Apparently, this audacious act of speaking the words aloud put too much pressure on my egg shell composure. Magical Thinking is one thing, but verbal incantations will break me.

Then the tears came. Just as they would later in the ladies changing room. Two uncharacteristic moments of weakness in one day.

But this time I had invisibility on my side. I could squeeze my eyes shut and clasp a hand over my mouth…physically pull myself together in semi-privacy. And the irrational shame I felt was lessened by the knowledge that this was nothing new for the person waiting patiently on the other side of the phone line. I’ve seen the tissue box in her office.

A few seconds later, the power of speech returned and calendars were consulted for future appointments. The soothing act of scheduling conjured up a necessary illusion of control. I could manage my emotions as I decided when and where I would find help for my son. This is the one element of the future that is completely under my control.

Going to the pool seemed like a good idea after that episode. Get outside – let the kids entertain themselves for a while without any electronic aids. Little did I know…

But I’m still glad we went. Because you can’t live in a bubble. And nine times out of ten (two out of three…three out of five…) we have a fabulous time without any unpleasant incidents. The pool is our happy place. It’s never crowded – only residents of our neighborhood can use it. We always see friendly faces and most of the regulars know enough about us to cut us some slack.

We can walk there too. And when the kids were younger this was actually a highlight of the outing. My toddlers would sit up in their stroller and point chubby fingers, tree! bird! car! But their favorite stop (oh yes, we had to make stops) was the house with garden gnomes. Every neighborhood has one of those.

Four year old Oliver could walk over and pat them on the head, trace their smiling faces. Not much of a conversationalist at that age, he would speak to them in his own language of DVD dialogue and gibberish. The twins would ask, “whaddat?” And day after day I would tell them. But George could never get it right. He insisted on calling them “omens.”

This still makes us laugh – even though the kids don’t really remember those walks. And as we pass that house carrying our pool gear – eight feet on the pavement now that strollers are a thing of the past – I’ll point and say, “look omens!” I like to think of them that way too. Their impish grins hint at the fun to be had – happy times on the horizon.

I have good memories from those walks and summers at the pool. Even our last afternoon there with its tense moments and tearful exit has a place and a purpose. I’m pretty sure that the woman who didn’t do anything wrong will now be a smiling face to greet us. She’ll be another neighbor who understands and doesn’t judge too harshly.

This is the kind of thing that validates my hope that everything will be okay. That people mean well. That the odds will continue to be in our favor. That Oliver will always have friends.

I can’t predict the future, but I don’t think I need a crystal ball. I’ll always fight tears, but they have no power over my hopes and dreams. I know this now and I’ll hold that truth close to my heart when things get hard.

A hard day came and went, and I’m still here believing in possibility. That must count for something. In fact, I think I’ll take it as a sign. An omen.

And a good omen at that.


Linking up to Just Right today! I should really do this more often…

You Still Have Me

The other day, my friend confirmed a recent suspicion of mine: the fireflies I remember so vividly from my childhood are gone.

I close my eyes and think back to summer nights that started after 8:00 p.m. The flashes would begin at dusk – just intermittent winks of light. I’d catch the tail end of one in my peripheral vision and then begin to search in earnest. By full dark, trees and bushes would glow with the seemingly never-ending sparks.

At what time of night did the light displays end? Do you remember? I was always tucked into bed long before that discovery was possible. But not too early to miss catching several in my own cupped hands. They would tickle my palms as I peeked through finger cracks, eagerly waiting for the glow.

Some kids liked to imprison their prey in jars. Glass cells where the poor things inevitably perished if not set free after bedtime by thoughtful parents. But I preferred to slowly unclasp fingers and then track the progress of my firefly’s escape back into the night – counting flashes until they blended with the rest.

For me, it was better than wishing on stars. More tangible. Of this earth – this world that was mine to roam until called inside.

But at some point between then and now, I stopped looking for the fireflies. And in my absence, they disappeared.

Apparently pesticides have slowly killed them off over the years. Where there were once hundreds – maybe thousands – there are now just a handful. The few pin pricks of light in the dark are a mere echo of their once brilliant past. And this makes me sad.

I loved fireflies.

It was my children who instigated this realization. I wanted them to see fireflies and catch them on summer evenings with me. Years passed, and I assumed that we just went inside too early or that I got busy and forgot to look. I guess not.

Happy childhood memories have always evoked feelings of security for me. I assume for all of us, really. And I think that this is what I find most disturbing about the loss of firefly nights. It’s such a clear reflection of how insecure I feel in the world right now.

I’m not saying that life was perfect when I was little. In fact, there were some very dark and scary times that I’m lucky enough to not quite remember. But the world can be as beautiful as it is terrible, and children are adept at finding light in the darkness. For them, the future is full of potential and hope is a given.

Then we leave childhood behind. And the arduous process of growing up is all consuming. Moments of wonder are lost in the shuffle of expected achievement and increasing responsibility. At least, this is what happened to me.

But now I’m old enough to slow down a bit. And here I am, remembering childhood through my own children. Looking for lost fireflies.

What I’ve discovered is that the future doesn’t stretch are far as it used to. And beauty is more easily made than found. And when you’re surrounded by soul crushing sadness and disappointment, it’s hard to find the motivation for beauty-making.

The truth is, as fortunate as I am to have wonderful people in my life – people I can call both friends and family – so many of them are suffering. Horrible, unthinkable things are happening to these people I love. Addiction, mental illness, unemployment, infirmity, financial ruin, death… And there is nothing I can do to help them.

I don’t have money or connections. I don’t have power or influence. I’m not even that much of a hugger. My heart bleeds for all that I cannot give.

And I’m not exempt. Who is? We all harbor our share of worries and heartbreak.  I have of yet to meet anyone who leads a life untouched by shadows. Dusk comes earlier for some than others, but it’s impossible to live an entire life without some very dark nights.

Someone I love is suffering more than I can possibly imagine. I’ve known her my whole life and shared terrible secrets with her. We considered ourselves to be survivors, and at one time thought acknowledging the ugly past would earn us a better future.

This has not proved true for her. She has to face several of the awful problems listed above. And she deserves none of it. I’ve never known anyone work harder to make life better – to do the right thing. And I am reeling from the injustice of her current reality.

The worst of it for me is the helplessness I feel. I literally cannot help. I can’t cure addiction or mental illness. I can’t heal people. I have no money to pay for…anything. I have nothing to offer.

Except maybe one thing. I have an unparalleled talent for dissociation. I can actually ignore the worst that this terrible-beautiful world throws at me. I look through it. Past it. I don’t accept it.

I have hope.

I know. That sounds like complete crap in the face of an impossible situation. But I also know that this irrational assumption that things will get better – that things have to get better – is what has carried me through some of the worst times of my life.

I was born in late April, and I am true to my birth sign. I am a child of the earth. I may not burn bright; but I am sure and steadfast. I don’t fly free; but I dig in my heels and I hold my ground. I don’t flow effortlessly into emotional relationships; but once planted, I am not easily uprooted.

You can count on me. I stay put. And if necessary, I can will good things to happen. At the very least, I’ll try.

I still believe in that. Call it faith, call it the power of positive thinking or call it magic – but I will do it. I will make this world better for the people I love, even if all I can give them is myself.

And maybe that can be enough. Maybe it just has to be.

I brought children into this life, and I’d be damned if I let it fail them. They deserve better than hard work for no pay. They deserve delusions of invincibility and gentle reality checks. They deserve frivolity and irreverence. They deserve long summer nights full of twinkling insect magic. And I will do everything in my power to give this to them.

I will give them firefly nights.

And tonight I did. We walked home from a friend’s house and found a stretch of grass where several sparks lit the darkening shadows. It may not have been the hundreds or thousands of fairy lights from my own childhood, but three new, shiny souls exclaimed in wonder and giggled and capered. They chased and captured and marveled. They held a glow between their palms and set it free.

It was nothing like what I remember, but it was enough. And where I might lament the diminished brilliance, they will only remember the intoxicating magic.

I miss the innocence of youth. The expectation of better things to come in the future. The belief that anything is possible. I miss summer nights when sparkling constellations of firefly lights challenged the stars in the sky.

But I understand that this happens to everyone. It’s part of growing up – growing old. We have to let go of the past and embrace the future. We have to accept that life isn’t fair. We have to be there for the people we love and offer whatever we have to give, no matter how meager.

All we can do is remember the brilliant past and let it inspire us to hope.

Each one of us has our share of demons to battle. And we all have loved ones to champion. We fight the good fight, and we fight to win. There is beauty in that. And I, for one am honored to do my part for the people I love. For my own children. For myself.

So that is what I have to offer. It can never be enough, but it will have to be enough – simply because it is all I have to give.

The fireflies may be harder to find these days, but I’m still here.

I will always be right here.

No matter what you have lost. You still have me.

And Then I Started Watching The Walking Dead

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here…

I was busy with family in town over Christmas, and assumed that I’d be back to wish you a Happy New Year on January 1. Or at least by January 7.

What’s that? February is right around the corner? I noticed that too. And for the life of me, I don’t know why I’ve been so resistant to the idea of just writing something already.

Or actually – I do know why. I have been experiencing an unusually high level of anxiety lately. I say “unusually high” because while I admittedly always have one toe on the ledge, OHMYGOD who AM I and WHERE did my talent for dissociation go? Every morning I wake up feeling paralyzed – only propelling myself into motion because three small people require it of me. Luckily, it gets better as the day goes on and the beds get made and small tasks are accomplished. And exercise helps. And Prozac.

But it’s not normal. I haven’t had this deer caught in headlights perspective since my brush with PPD after Oliver was born. I remember that well. I also remember coming back to reality and thinking, “what the hell was that?” Unfortunately, knowing that I’m on the wrong side of the looking glass doesn’t make it feel any less dark.

This has been going on for well over a month. Or at least it was. Because a few days ago, I started watching a TV show about zombies.

If you know me well, you will think this is incredibly out of character. Because I LOATHE everything about the horror genre. Especially anything having to do with The Undead. I have never understood the appeal. Why is “scary” fun? What is it about grisly scenes of fictional carnage that make people shiver in delight?

You’re gathering a group of friends to order pizza and watch The Amityville Horror on Halloween night? Me? I’d rather give your grandpa a pedicure while watching back to back episodes of the Power Rangers.

So The Walking Dead isn’t a show that I would have expected to watch. Like – ever. I mean, post-apocalyptic terror CAN’T be good for my psyche on the best of days…

But the other night, when Chris and I sat down for some necessary escapism via Netflix streaming, the options were limited. Chris didn’t want to watch anything BBC or Sci-Fi (or Sci-Fi BBC) and I wasn’t up for action hero movies. Then we happened upon The Walking Dead, and in some weird combination of Chris’ friends telling him how good it is and my recollection that Tom and Lorenzo always write about it (I love their TV recaps), I lost my mind entirely and watched the first two episodes.

I’m surprised I survived.

But here’s the weird thing – as much as it kind of makes me want to light the television on fire and throw it out the window (don’t worry, this will never happen – I’m not crazy…and we only have one TV), this horror story that comes straight out of my worst nightmares has done wonders for my anxiety.

I mean HOW can you possibly see the current world as a bleak and depressing place when you hold it up alongside one where dead people roam the earth sniffing around for living flesh to devour? My life may have its challenges, but it’s not that bad.

So is that all I needed to snap out of my funk? A zombie intervention? Probably not. These things ebb and flow on their own. And as with anything else, there are other factors at play. I have a new project that has been incredibly motivating…I’m feeling so hopeful about the progress that Oliver has made this year in school and what that might mean for his future… More and more, I find myself spending less time worrying about what might happen and more time looking forward to all that is possible.

So I’m not giving The Walking Dead full credit. But I’m also not undermining the power of a reality check via bloodthirsty corpses. Either way – it makes me feela lot less anxious about the bad economy.

Happy New Year!

 

Hope Hurts

A while ago, a friend of mine wrote about how mothers of autistic children cry all the time. She explained that the tears of happiness are just as plentiful as those of sadness. And to be honest, I had never really thought about it before.

After considering this idea, I decided that I almost never cry about my own “Spectrum” son, Oliver, unless I’m happy. And I wondered why. Why would I be more likely to burst into tears over one of Oliver’s triumphs? I’m not exactly known for being particularly emotional or effusive. I never cry at weddings. Expressions of love from family and friends make me smile, not tear up. I don’t really cry that much in general.

I’m definitely one for the frustrated tears though. It’s the reason why my children refer to my recent attempt to travel solo with them to Florida as “Remember that time you cried in Key West?” So wouldn’t it make far more sense for me to fall to pieces when faced with adversity?

And maybe that is the case most of the time…but not when it comes to Oliver.

I literally can’t think about scary “what ifs” when it comes to my son. If I allowed myself to actually go there…to imagine the worst…I wouldn’t be able to function.

We all have different reasons for our emotional reactions. We’re different people—our special needs kids have different challenges and levels of potential. We adapt to all of that and don’t look back. Or at least we try to focus on today. We don’t make plans for a future if it seems uncertain.

Certainty plays a significant role in the emotional life of a mom with a special needs child.

Some know exactly what the road ahead holds for them. I recently read a heartbreaking accountof one mother’s sorrow over her severely bipolar son’s life as “Pinocchio.” She only gets to see him as “a real boy” a few times a year, when his true personality randomly—miraculously—emerges to initiate meaningful conversation. To hear him talk about his hopes and dreams is a gift that comes with the terrible price of knowing the truth. She knows that he will always be dependent on her. She knows that he will never get married or have children. She knows that she will have to live for mere moments in her relationship with him. This certainty hurts.

But others—like me—don’t really know what the far future holds. We are allowed to dream a little. Or a lot…

Oliver’s processing disorders make him very delayed, but slow progress is better than none. I see how different he is from the other kids his age—and that’s hard—but I also see how different he is from the boy he was last year. He speaks in full sentences now. He doesn’t roll around on the floor while the teacher is reading a book (or at least that’s what she tells me). He’s more interested in other people. He wants friends. He participates in the world at large.

So I focus on that. I compare him only to himself. And as I marvel at how far he’s come, I assume that he will continue to achieve. That he’ll eventually catch up. I fervently hope that this will happen when he’s young and won’t remember being so different. As a six year old, he views others through his own eyes. He doesn’t view himself through theirs.

I rarely imagine what life will be like if this doesn’t happen. It hurts too much. Uncertainty has it’s own price.

Instead, I conjure clear images of the near future; of him learning to read and being able to have real conversations with friends. I throw money at therapies that seem to work for him. I look him in the eye and tell him he’s totally weird, and that I like that about him. I’m fairly certain that he won’t eventually grow out of his quirkiness. So I want him to embrace it, see it as something that makes him, “him.” I imagine him a little older and a lot more confident, possibly befriending other kids who seem a bit lost.

I hope a lot. And I believe that it’s all possible. That anything is possible.

And that hurts. Because if anything is possible, then it might not work out the way that I’d like it. He might not catch up. He might not be confident or embrace his otherness. Or he might never see the difference and just feel like an outsider

Every day, I encounter lovely people who are just a little strange. They seem to be off tempo with the rush of humanity swirling around them. They miss beats, they smile too wide. They seem somewhat odd and make others feel slightly uncomfortable. And I do what we all do. I smile back. I respond positively to their a-bit-too-muchness. I’m kind. I set a good example for my children.

I don’t like to think about the fact that an uncertain future may hold something similar for my own son. The image of him being someone who inspires people to be kind in spite of their discomfort shouldn’t make me sad…but as long as there are other possibilities, it will. If this is what the future holds for him, we’ll all be fine, and we’ll be happy. But for now I just hope for something else.

My heart clenches when I think about those “what ifs.” And I do feel some guilt over this because I am SO LUCKY to have been given the option of hoping and dreaming for my child—a very basic element of parenting that’s not afforded to all. And as much as I may have more worry and heartbreak than some parents of typical kids, there are just as many who would take offense to my attitude. How dare I feel anything but grateful for a sweet, loving boy with all of this potential? He smiles at me. He talks to me. He can run and play. He’s healthy.  He’s alive.

But in the darkest corners of our hearts, we allow ourselves to be selfish, to want more, to push aside gratitude and make way for secret fears.

This hurts more than anything—to hope so much, knowing that it may be for nothing. To feel the shame of not fully appreciating the gift of a precious child—my son who has made me a better person for knowing him.

So I don’t give the scary “what ifs” very much of my attention. I acknowledge those feelings from afar. Then I stuff them in a box and place them out of sight. I focus on my hope.

I don’t cry when I see Oliver struggling with words that come so easily to his younger brother and sister. I don’t cry when I see work coming home from school that is so obviously behind what he should be able to do at his age. And I absolutely DO NOT cry when he does. I smile and help and tell him he can do it. That it’s O.K. It will all be O.K.

All the while, that box or fear and worry and sorrow and anger fills up. And it gets harder to swallow the lump in my throat, to draw air into my lungs when it feels like all of the oxygen has been sucked out of the room. To move when I feel paralyzed at the sight of demons lurking in our uncertain future.

And then something wonderful happens. I see him playing a game with other kids, maybe even leading them for brief moments. Or I hear him singing a recognizable song. I witness him correcting his father’s misstep in complicated Lego construction, actually saying “No Daddy, that’s backwards.” To be given a view into the future reflecting all of my hope brings tears to my eyes.

I can cry tears of happiness when my hope is validated. It’s safe to open the box and air out my fears. I can let myself cry when I’m happy, when I know that I’ll be able to stop crying.

And that is why. For me, there is no option of angry or defeated tears. I simply can’t go there. If I did, I don’t know if I’d be able to come back.

And I’m needed here. My hope is important. I believe in the power of it. I will make good things happen through sheer willpower alone. At the very least, I’m going to try.

So if you ever see me crying over my son, yes, there are a lot of emotions involved and I’d be lying to say that they didn’t include the dark and scary ones. But I’ll be smiling. And I’ll be hoping.

Originally posted on Health News, HERE.

For Anna (From "Me – Kate Hood")

It’s time for me to write something too.

Oh – I wrote about “loss” last week…and I wrote about “support” a few days ago… But I haven’t really written anything to my friend. And that’s mainly because I don’t even know where to start.

Or where to stop.

I can’t possibly tell her everything that is in my heart. It’s too much – a never ending, stream of conscious-mess:

SadAngryHopefulSorryIncredulousHorrifiedDisbelievingTerrified…

So I’ll just have to just pick one thing. And the one I keep coming back to is simply, Love.

I love Anna.

I’m serious – that’s it. That’s where the buck stops. Just Love.

And I’m not talking about some weepy, emotional, hyperbole-induced kind of love. I mean the mundane, regular jane, “my friend is so cool” kind of love. You know…like when you think about someone who has made you laugh more times than you can count and you say, “I just love ______.”

That’s it. That’s where it started and that’s where it ends.

Because as deep as friendship can be – it’s also so very simple. And that’s the lovely thing about having a friend like Anna. It’s easy.

And it’s fun. She’s really fun, you know.

I always wonder how I first found her blog because from what she tells me, she wasn’t really commenting on that many others at the time.

But one day, I did stumble across An Inch of Gray and the most recent post was about her mother. I loved it so much, I added her to my list daily reads (which at that time I could count on two hands).

This was sometime before I started my own blog in June 2008. And one of the first things I did as a new blogger was to leave a comment on Anna’s site.

I just went back to her archives to see when I did leave that first comment and I am DYING – it’s so funny:

Hello, my name is Kate. We have much in common and I would be greatly pleased if you would consider becoming my new blogging friend…” The formality is killing me. And I have NO idea how I managed to say “block” instead of “blog” since you know I read that letter of introduction at least three times before hitting publish.

And her reply comment (you know – IN comments) makes me laugh too. “Hello weird, stalkerish commenter. You seem like you might NOT get your hair cut like exactly like mine, start wearing my clothes and then try to steal my husband… Perhaps I will read your blog for a little while, and if I feel it’s unlikely that you will try to hold me hostage or ‘disappear’ me into a furnace…then I might add you to my blog roll. Thanks for the encouragement!” [Please tell me you caught the Single White Female reference in that.]

So that is how we “met.” Later we discovered that we actually live near each other, and have had the opportunity to see each other “offline” as well.

But Anna’s blog is such a big part of my friendship with her, that I always refer to her as a “blogging friend.” There is so little time in the day and we have so many responsibilities…it’s inevitable that we would only get together once every two or three months. Time literally flies. But I always know what Anna’s been up to. All I have to do is visit her blog.

And that’s how I’ve gotten to know her family. That’s why I can say that I “know” a little boy I’ve only met in person a couple of times.

Blog friendships are real. And this one means the world to me.

And she’s so damn funny. Even when she doesn’t mean to be. Two examples of this can be found on her blog, right this very minute.

Anna may be one of the only bloggers I know who has had her site for several years, but never learned how to update her sidebar. That pretty design she has? Is not new. She did that a looooong time ago, yet you will still find this on her sidebar:

That cracks me up every time I see it. But it’s also so indicative of who Anna is as a blogger. She wanted a pretty design, but she spends more time writing than updating her sidebar. She never went to the trouble to come up with a “best of” list.

She’s never cared much about branding herself or monetizing her site. Not that there is anything wrong with either of those priorities – they’re just not hers. She loves writing. She loves telling stories about her family. And she loves making connections with other people and hearing their stories.

And she has always prioritized her readers, even when there were just a few of them (including her sister and some college friends). I remember her telling me that she was concerned that people had a hard time figuring out how to subscribe since the button was all the way at the bottom of her web page. So for a while, she included this helpful note at the end of each post:

I spotted that when I was looking for my first comment and it made me L.O.L.
I love that Anna makes me laugh even when she’s not trying.

She laughs at herself too – and at me. And she encourages me to take myself a little less seriously. This is an area where I need as much help as I can get.

A couple of days ago, I sent her a text asking when I could call her – since I didn’t want to intrude on her time with her family – and I ended with “Love you!

Now, I should mention that I’m not much of a texter and I had to add her number to my iphone contacts before I could send the text. And shortly after I did, I worried that she might not have my number in her contacts either. And if that was the case – she would have this random text from an unknown phone number asking for a good time to call and declaring “LOVE YOU!

That could be awkward.

So I thought I’d better clarify things and texted “Oh! And it’s me – Kate Hood.

I guess I was in her contacts because she responded “I know who you are!

I don’t know if I actually made her laugh. But I’m pretty sure that she was laughing at me in spirit.

It makes me sad to think that Anna isn’t laughing very much right now. If at all.

I wish I could make her laugh and forget for a little while. But that would be impossible.

I wish I could have written something beautiful about the service I attended – like her friend Glennon did. But I couldn’t even begin to capture it.

I wish I had some expertise in grief management. But I’m at a loss – I have no idea what would constitute a “right thing to say.”

I wish I could make it not have happened. But we’ve already been over that…

I wish I could make any kind of difference at all. But all I have are words. And meager jokes at that.

I have so little to offer my friend – when I want to give her everything…

So I’ll just have to come back to the same place I always do. I love Anna. It could never be enough. But guess it’s something. Something I do have to give.

Loss

All week I’ve meant to post something here. I’ve got pictures and anecdotes and any number of frivolous items to relate…but I can only think about one thing today.

A good friend just lost her beautiful 12 year old son.

It’s awful.

When you read about loss, it makes you sad. But when it’s someone you know – a child you know – it’s beyond heartbreaking. It’s unreal. Could that really have happened? Can’t we just go back 24 hours and make it NOT have happened?

It’s not just sad. It’s ugly and cruel and it shouldn’t have happened.

But it did.

To someone who has made my corner of the world a better place. I love her. She is always in my heart – but today she’ll also be in my prayers.

I don’t pray a lot…but she does. And I know that this is all that she would want from me. Prayers.

Please add yours.

For my friend. And her husband and daughter. And that beautiful boy they love so much.

Critical Mass (Alternatively Titled: Having a Nice Day, Wish I Was Here)

Okay – several things…

First? I’ve been getting some questions, so I thought I’d post an update on my “suspicious mass” situation. Since writing about it last week, I’ve made an appointment with a general surgeon for February 8. I also called my doctor to see what she thought of the MRI results and what I should expect going forward. She said that the MRI ruled out things like hernias, etc. but didn’t actually provide any answers as to exactly what the nasty little thing is.

She said that it could either be a growth resulting from scar tissue/sutures (it’s less than an inch above my c-section scar) or it could be a small tumor. Oh yeah, and it’s “a little bit larger than a grape” – a comparison that has made my aversion to fruit even stronger, I might add. Basically she said that, “it doesn’t look scary, but it definitely shouldn’t be there.” They want to figure out exactly what it is – so it has to come out. I’m not really feeling married to it right now…so that’s fine with me.

The surgery will most likely be out patient and I’ll have a very small scar (which is the last thing I care about at the moment). All in all – it’s probably nothing and that’s what we’re all assuming. But waiting isn’t easy and I DO have an imagination. I also have some serious fears involving surgery. This surprised my husband, who was supporting me on the “it’s nothing,” theory. But even if I can block out any other possible outcomes – I STILL don’t like the idea of being cut open. I asked him if he had any recollection of my previous feelings about surgery and hospitals. Because this phobia really isn’t anything new.

When I had my wisdom teeth removed in my twenties, I (still very doped up) thanked everyone on my way out because “I didn’t feel a thing – it really wasn’t that bad!” Not to mention the fact that I planned a rather unpleasant gynecological procedure for the same afternoon so that I would be in too much pain/too drugged up from my earlier dental surgery to be scared.

Then there was that time I was a week overdue with Oliver, and we were getting ready to leave for the hospital so I could be induced. I burst into tears because I didn’t want to go. I just wanted “the whole thing to be over!

And who could forget my foray into acupuncture to try to “turn” breach baby George seven months into my twin pregnancy. I would try anything to avoid the dreaded c-section. I even made my doctor check when I was being prepped for the OR, “just in case” we had a last minute miracle. Ridiculous – but my fear had no shame.

I have never been keen on the idea of medical procedures. In fact years ago, I once said to a friend that “I NEVER want to have to have surgery. It’s a goal.” Since then I’ve had a couple of hits to my no surgery ever streak, but none of the suspicious mass variety.

I may not be planning my funeral, but I still have a lot on my mind.

And to be honest, I’ve been feeling kind of down lately. For a long time really. Off and on, I mean. Every once in a while when I write about something serious or semi-serious, various online friends comment about my “honesty.” This is a little ironic because I’ve never had the reputation for being particularly open about fears and sadness. I have a tendency to tune out anything negative, just so I can get through the day. Focus on the good things. Aim for happy.

That’s really a big priority at this point in my life. I used to want to live in a certain kind of house in a certain kind of city and attain a certain lifestyle with a certain amount of material wealth. Nothing big and flashy – just some minor luxuries to augment what I already had and appreciated as a fairly charmed life. And of course that involved clothes, furniture…things… Now? I just want to have a nice day.

And it’s not that I’m not having a nice day, most days – I’m just struggling with some personal failure issues, and it’s wearing on me. In short – I think I’m kind of depressed. Since I’ve been called honest, I’m just going to say it.

Or no – I’m just going to write it. It seems that I’m more honest when I’m writing. Maybe it’s cowardly…or maybe it’s just that saying things makes it all sound far more dramatic than I want. Or than it is.

I’m really not a very dramatic person. I used to think this made me a little boring. Now that I’m older with children and worries that stretch beyond not being able to afford a new pair of shoes, I view my lack of drama as a good thing. I’m more practical. A realist. I know how to get through the day with as little stress as possible. I value happiness.

So having admitted to myself these feelings of inadequacy and their current snowball effect (seriously – just now), I believed I’m tasked with actually doing something about it.

That means that I need to streamline things a bit. Try to focus a little more on all of these areas where I’m falling short. Where I’m ultimately failing the people I love – including myself.

I started this blog as a creative outlet. Previously, I had never written anything but e-mails to friends and business documents. I wanted to try something else – see if there was anything to this idea that I could write something more significant. What better way than to send a message out into the void. No pressure and no chance of failure. A safe, elegant solution. And it was great. I found out a lot about myself – both good and bad. I now have new ideas and some confidence to back them up. I have a better sense of self.

But I’m also stretched rather thin, and the amount of time and energy that I expend on “writing” is taking away from the rest of my real life responsibilities. Which contributes to personal and family stress, screws up priorities and generally makes me feel like an all around failure – none of which makes for a nice day.

At the risk of sounding dramatic – you know how I try not to do that – I think I’ve reached critical point in my life where some decisions need to be made. Fun hobbies may need to be put on hold for a while. And until it actually earns a paycheck that will help support my family, blogging is a hobby.

So I’m taking a few steps back from what I started here almost three years ago. From spending hours sending messages into the void. If I want to write every week, then I need to find a way to make it pay for the time spent.

But I can’t go away altogether. I’ll post a picture here and there. An anecdote or two. A link to something great that someone else wrote. Post something a friend who doesn’t have a blog would like to say – their own message into the void.

And I’ll tell myself that this is temporary. And maybe it will be. And maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll be back next week with a “forget what I said and let us never speak of this again” request. Or maybe I’ll just hit delete and be done with it.

I don’t know…

But right now I’m thinking I’ll hang out on the fringes. I’ll post bits and pieces here (and yes – an update on my surgery) and more pretty stuff will show up on Wishing True. I’ll devote more time to Style Key West (because I do get paid for that you know – thanks Mom and Dad!). I’ll still show up in your comments section now and again, and you’ll stay in my Google Reader.

We’re not breaking up, we’re just taking a break. And hey – maybe we’ll be stronger for it.

I’m hoping I will.

Comments closed on this one. Instead, I’ll wish you love and luck and more nice days than you can count.

The Worst Fear (Alternatively Titled: Oliver’s Grandmothers Probably Shouldn’t Read This)

Since I’m fairly certain said grandmothers have not heeded my advice, I’d just like to put it out there that everyone is OKAY.

With the exception of maybe me… Though my robotic ability to shut down emotions when they threaten to render me unable to cease crying for the rest of my life did kick in about five minutes into my nervous breakdown. So that’s good.

This talent of mine serves me well because at the core, I’m a very fearful person. I worry about everything. When I was little I would worry about tidal waves and twisters. I worried about nuclear war and my parents dying. I had night terrors and no matter how irrational, I couldn’t stand next to my bed after dark without imagining a hand reaching out from under to grab my ankle. The world was fraught with danger and I was keenly aware of every awful thing that could possibly happen to me. I saw shark infested waters – both literally and figuratively.

So now, I disconnect. I just don’t think about it anymore. I simply don’t have time. I have too much to juggle and it’s made me very practical. I’m a good person to have around in a crisis. I’m calm and analytical. I wait to hear all the facts before forming an opinion. And I don’t consider the worst until the truth grabs me by the neck and slams me against the wall. Even then I’ll hold it together. For me, it’s a matter of survival.

But we all have our breaking point. And I hit mine yesterday when for about five to ten minutes in the late morning, I lost Oliver. Meaning, I searched my immediate neighborhood and I couldn’t find him anywhere.

One minute I was walking in my front door to get Eleanor a cup of water and the next I was racing around our block, frantically calling his name.

When I left him, he was sitting about ten feet away from our house in (of course) a patch of dirt. He was drinking the first cup of water I brought out for Eleanor since he drained his own so quickly that I just gave him hers and ran back in to get more.

When I stepped back outside, I found George engrossed in turning on the water for the garden hose and the absence of Oliver. A yellow plastic cup lay on its side on the patch of dirt. No spills – no mud. He drank all of it.

Ignoring Eleanor’s constant chatter behind me, I asked George to turn OFF the water – he knows that he’s not allowed to play with the hose – and WHERE did Oliver go.

My younger son pointed vaguely down the block and said, “down the hill.” It was obvious that George had no idea where his brother went, but I started walking in that direction. It was as good as any other.

Oliver tends to wander off. Never far, and typically to predictable locations, but I always have that brief pang of “what if?” The one that we barely register since it borders on unnecessary drama and fully crosses the line of unlikely. And by the time it could possibly gather momentum, the child appears – blissfully ignorant of the big bad world and its predators lurking behind every theoretical corner. Then we yell or hug or get distracted by another child. But the resonance of that pang stays with us long enough for a glimpse of perspective. What truly matters in our lives. Those lost earrings become a welcome price to pay – the trade off for this moment of relief. So lucky…a charmed life I’m living, really.

But when I reached the end of our townhouse row and turned the corner, my child wasn’t there.

And when I turned the next corner, he still wasn’t there. Or the next corner. Or the next. And suddenly, I was back where I started.

I looked at the strange men doing landscaping and noticed for the first time that they all drive vans. Then I asked George again, “WHERE did Oliver go? Is he inside?” Before even hearing his answer, I crossed the street to look in the good climbing tree. Then I doubled back to try the path to the bridge where we throw rocks in the water. Our neighbor was walking his dog there and said he hadn’t seen Oliver. So I went up another set of steps that would lead me back to the area behind our house.

Then I quickly returned to the front and ran into the house, still calling for him. Eleanor said he wasn’t there but I kept calling. At the door to the basement, I heard how hoarse my voice sounded. I didn’t notice that I was still holding Eleanor’s second cup of water until I hurled it down the stairs.

Back outside. More searching.

Too much walking and running and calling “Oliver…Oliver…OLIVER…OLIVER…OLIVEROLIVEROLIVER!” The twins echoed my calls and I realized that they were now both on the front lawn, trying to aid me in my search. Within minutes they would be lost in the neighborhood too, so I pushed-dragged them to my friend’s house two doors down, and barked, “stay there I don’t know where Oliver is stay THERE!”

We had all been at this house earlier for a casual brunch, and several other mothers were still there. My friend asked if she should call the police and I think I said yes – but I may have just showed her the yellow cup in the patch of dirt. Because he was JUST there a minute ago.

But more than a minute had now passed. Many minutes. Too many. And with each one, the vapor of “unlikely” continued to gain substance. I ran back across the street and through another cul de sac, distantly aware of other voices calling my son’s name.

It was only when I was looking down a hill at the nearby creek that I heard my name. Someone (or everyone) was calling for me. And that meant they found him. It never occurred to me that it could have been anything else. Anything else would be unbearable.

As I rushed back up the street and my house came into view, I saw another neighbor helping Oliver step out of my car. MY CAR. He was in my car.

Me – the city girl who once never left her car unlocked for a single minute. Not even to run into the house for forgotten sunglasses. Because leaving a car unlocked meant that strangers could get in. Maybe steal it. At the very least, pilfer the meter change hidden away in the glove compartment. That city girl, now lulled by her quiet suburban neighborhood and distracted by multiple children let locked car doors fall off the radar. Constant vigilance was reserved for boiling pots of water on the stove and cleaning fluids locked under the sink. Not the car.

And my five year old son climbed into a black Ford Expedition with tinted windows and child safety locks in 90 degree weather.

If one of my friends hadn’t seen a flicker of movement, who knows how long it would have taken for me to find him there. And what that could have meant.

Let’s play hide and seek mommy! Where’s Oliver…

That is real fear. The vampires and sharks of my childhood look like Smurfs and Care Bears when pitted against the fear of losing my child.

I barely said thank you to the people who helped me search for Oliver as I silently led him into the house. And the minute the door closed, I burst into tears. I was SO scared. I couldn’t find you. You were LOST.

I could have yelled or spanked him. I could have sent him to his room for the rest of the day. I could have held him tight and asked if he was okay, told him everything would be alright. I’m here now. Mommy’s here.

Instead I sat and cried and said I was scared. So scared.

At first he laughed. The nervous laughter we’ve all experienced when faced by something impossible. It wasn’t just a crack in his mother’s composure. I dissolved before his eyes. I fell to pieces and I couldn’t help myself.

But I think this probably made more of an impact. If he was scared while locked in the car, he didn’t show it. He has his own walls – his own habits of disconnecting with reality. But he too has a breaking point, and apparently, it’s me. We both cried and said we were scared. And said we were sorry.

Then joined by the twins, we fell into a teary, sweaty heap in front of the TV and decided not to leave the house until it was time for Oliver’s therapy appointment.

I sat with all three of my children and basked the luxury of knowing that they were safe. Nothing bad could happen to them in that moment – I could protect them with four walls, air conditioning and the tedium of passive parenting. With my physical presence. As long as we could see each other, nothing could touch us.

Hours passed, therapy was received, and commuter traffic was endured. And when we returned to the slower speed limit of our neighborhood, the last traces of our anxiety dropped away. I opened the windows and turned up the radio. Warm air rushed in to remove the chill of fear.

In my side mirror I saw Oliver putting his hand out the window to feel the breeze. Part of me thought, “keep arms and legs in the vehicle at all times…” but I remember pushing my own palm against the wind when I was his age. No tree limbs or other cars ever came close enough to hurt me. I never worried about that. Earthquakes maybe…but not losing my hand to swerving motorcyclist.

So I decided not to worry about it now. I put my own hand out the window and felt the pressure of wind. My own flesh and bone, solid and invincible against the blast. With a little tension and concentration, I couldn’t be moved. I could even push back.

The what ifs will never go away. They linger on the edges of our every movement, decision, omission… And sometimes they catch up with us. There is always a terrible story to hear. To simultaneously feel sorrow for others and immense gratitude for our own luck, grace, karma.

I once read a brilliant line about what it means to become a parent. While the source left my memory long ago, the sentiment stayed with me – that someone’s child was born and “fate took a hostage.”

Every day I feel the truth of this. And it humbles me. I have to take responsibility for my power and accept my powerlessness and ultimately just hope that my luck will hold.

And I do that every day. I guess we all do.

It’s a charmed life I’m living. Really.

Coach Kate’s Play Book – the Good News and the Bad News…

My week’s experience in the world of sports has certainly lived up to “the agony and the ecstasy,” as described by some famous person I would know if I wasn’t completely clueless. There have been some very promising days and some disheartening ones…

So I’ll start with the good. Last we left off, Oliver’s first Blast Ball practice was “okay” and he only hated it about 90% of the time. So I was feeling positive about the future.

I thought it would be a good idea to get him used to the field by having some of our own practices each day. I was only able to fit in two before the first game last Saturday, but that seemed to be adequate.

Our first practice was Wednesday morning and after a brief hesitation, Oliver saw the empty field and was thrilled to play with his new batting equipment. The twins were too since they are three years old and get excited about everything from lady bugs to Target runs. Everyone was happy.

I set up our tee and used an old magna doodle for the base (there is only one base in Blast Ball). First I tried to get the twins to stand in the “outfield” while Oliver was at bat. But they were having none of that. Everyone wanted to hit the ball, so I gave up and just had them focus on that. I could teach fielding another day.

Getting them to run to the base and back was easy once I established some terminology they could understand. Hit the ball! Now drop the bat! Run to the base! Now stomp on it! Now come back come back come back! No this way! Over here! Run over here! Good – you’ve got it! Now stop! Stop! Stop! N0 – seriously, come back! I yelled the entire time we were there. To anyone passing by, I must have sounded like one of those hard core sports moms. I’m not kidding – I was hoarse by the end.

They improved very quickly, but once the novelty wore off, some new distractions complicated things. Oliver discovered that he could climb a tree about ten feet away from where we were playing, and insisted on doing that whenever it wasn’t his turn. Then Eleanor kept wanting to play with the base and George was terrorized by the cloud of gnats that descended upon our shady spot.

Things degenerated after about 20 minutes, but then I did some ball chasing with them like Coach Keys’ drill and figured that we had a great first practice. It was time to quit while we were ahead.

The next practice a couple of days later was less successful – but it was all George’s fault. He had a melt down because I didn’t bring the bat he preferred and during this hysteria, his gnat phobia took on epic proportions. He screamed and swatted at the air as if he were in submerged in piranha infested waters. I had to pick him up to calm him down and this interfered with my ability to help the other two with their batting form. So after a few runs to the base, Oliver played in the tree, Eleanor had a snack and I talked George off the ledge.

At this point, I was a little anxious about Saturday’s game. While Oliver enjoyed playing with his small family, I knew that he would be intimidated by the bigger group of strangers and all of the cheering noise. Pushing him up to the tee would be much like sitting him on Santa’s knee at the mall – depending on his mood and the crowd, it could go either way.

And here is where the bad news comes in. The game was a complete disaster. Instead of taking place on the patch of grass that was now so familiar, we were on a different, more official playing field. And it was ten times more loud and crowded than I had expected. Oliver was terrified.

He didn’t mind sitting and watching – but the suggestion that he join his team sent him into a panic. He wanted nothing to do with it and refused to wear his new shirt and hat. There was crying and even a little screaming when I tried to bring him over to bat. Even Coach Keys’ adorable older son wasn’t able to get Oliver to come out of his shell. He had pretty much shut down.

All parents know their child’s limits and this went far beyond what I knew he could handle. Between his sensory issues that amplified the din of the crowd, to his inability to make sense of the rapid fire directions from the coaches, the entire situation was a recipe for failure.

And while I want to encourage Oliver to try, I’ll never set him up to fail.

So a decision now needs to be made. Do we push through and hope that he warms up to it? Or do we remember that we embarked on this adventure with the attitude that if he wasn’t ready, we’d just drop it? If we quit Blast Ball, does that make us quitters? Or people who do what is best for their kids regardless of personal feelings? And what is the “best” thing for him?

Coach Keys offered to let Oliver just come to practices since that seemed a bit more doable for him. But when I tried to get him to wear his Rattlers shirt yesterday, he ran in fear – like I was trying to drape an actual rattle snake around his shoulders. I have little hope of getting him to put it on for practice today.

Then of course, there is the more practical complication of who will watch the twins while I take Oliver to practice at 5:30. Chris’ injury makes it impossible for him to do public transportation and his driving commute is twice as long. Even if he left early, he’d never be here in time. While I had originally thought I’d be able to bring them with me at this point and just sit with them on the sidelines, that’s not looking possible.

So maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. Maybe it was a good idea, but ultimately not going to work out right now. Maybe our very limited experience was enough. It gave me some incentive to put aside my own distaste for games and put on my coach’s hat. It’s provided me with inspiration for games I should be playing with my kids this summer – ones that will help get them ready for the sports that will be part of their school experience.

As much as I hate the idea of quitting just when I was feeling so committed, I have to remember why I was doing it. This was for Oliver, not me. And it’s looking like he may not be ready. He’s come so far, and I know that he could do this if we went out with his team every day and really worked at it. But practice only takes place once a week – and even with our family practices, that’s not enough.

So unless I can find someone to watch George and Eleanor this evening, I think that we may be leaving this Blast Ball season before it really even started. And for what it’s worth, I’m proud of everything we achieved. Both Oliver and me. We faced some demons, we had some fun and we learned a new game.

Personally, I realized that coaching my child in sports is no different from every day parenting. You provide them with rules and guidelines. You encourage them and praise them. You teach them what you know and learn from them in the process. And you put your own fears and hang ups aside to help them succeed.

And at the end of the day, you throw away the play book. Every child, every family and every day is different. And the old sayings don’t always apply. You often hear that quitters never win, and winners never quit. This is usually a good motto, but I don’t think that’s true for us today. Because I know my team better than anyone else. And a good coach always knows when it’s time to take a player out of the game.

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ELSEWHERE:

On Wishing True

Thank You Notes to the universe

Elva Fields glamour

A Little Bee and a Giveaway

On Style Key West

Seaside Inspiration