Thursday, April 21, 2011
Sometimes, sitting next to my daughter, she will lean into me and I swear, if she could figure out how, she would inch closer and closer to me until we meld together, one of us absorbed into the other. I’m not sure which one of us would remain. I’m fairly certain that if she could tuck me in her pocket and carry me around everywhere with her this would be a perfectly fine arrangement for her.
I love my daughter more than anything in the world. Sometimes when I look at her rosy, freckled cheeks it makes my heart stop for a second. I cannot believe I lived 34 years of my life without her and actually was okay with that since I had never met anyone like her before. But now she is here and I would do anything for her. Anything but allow her to tuck me into a pocket so she could haul me off to second grade with her, of course.
I know enough about child development to know that healthy attachment between a parent and child means that a child learns to feel safe and confident enough to go out into the world without her parents because she carries an internal picture of them, tucked inside a little pocket in her brain. This connection to the mental image of mom and dad is enough to reassure her in times of minor trouble. While Martha separates from me without incident every day as she boards bus #22 to ride off to school, I’m not certain it’s because she really senses that I am there with her in spirit. She is so literal-minded that the image of me in her head might underscore my absence rather than bring her comfort. Obviously, I can’t see inside her head so I can’t say for sure. I have exhausted more than my fair share of energy obsessing over the question of whether or not she and I share a healthy attachment to each other. I need not spend more time on that. We each have our personalities and they fit together in a unique way.
For a year or two now, Martha has been fixated on the idea of death and dying, trying to figure out exactly what that means. The worst part about it to her seems to be the fact that if either one of us dies, we must say goodbye to each other forever and just the thought of that is unbearable. It’s unbearable to me, too, as it would be for pretty much any parent, but because the thought causes such intense discomfort my brain instantly backs away from the thought. I know not to dwell on it and in fact, am almost incapable of following it through to the end. It is too painful. Martha, on the other hand, seems incapable of not following the thought through to its conclusion. As she imagines it, when we say goodbye, it is so distressing to her she can’t function. How do you reassure a child in this state? How do you tell her to push the thought away and do not, under any circumstance, let your mind think that thought? How do you teach repression?
A few nights ago she was thinking about heaven and what you can and can’t do in heaven. I’m not a particularly faithful person myself so the concept of heaven is my last resort. It is really my only “resort” for providing her comfort on this issue. When I said yes, you can walk and talk and live in our house and read books and see your friends in heaven, I felt a little like I was telling her, don’t worry, honey, you get a whole new life after death and it’s pretty much so great up there in heaven that it’s like you never died. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, death doesn’t mean anything. I guess I did enough to bring her some solace, as she was able to finish the bath without continued weeping and eventually went to sleep. Later, in the wee hours of the morning, maybe around 3:00am, I heard her voice in the darkness, whispering, “Mama! I have some more questions!” Powerless to respond in any other way, I asked, “what?” It was three more questions about what you can do in heaven, to which I replied whatever seemed like the answer she would most want to hear. Then came one more question. And then my response. And one more question, and finally I had to tell her enough, please go back to sleep.
When I was Martha’s age I remember one day being completely obsessed with the knowledge that my own mother would die someday and I, too, would be broken-hearted knowing that I would never see her again. I tried to erase the thought but it just kept coming back and I did not know how to ask her about it, how to seek reassurance. Finally, that night as she tucked me in, I had a total break-down, sobbing and crying and when she asked what was wrong, all I could do was blurt out, “You’re going to die…” and continue my wailing. It is for this reason that when Martha asked me, “Can we die together?” I simply said yes, okay. I absolutely cannot live with the idea that she is carrying around such sorrow in her head over the possibility that she will someday have to leave me. I know too well what that feels like. So rather than trying to give her rational information about why she doesn’t need to worry about that now, I just accept responsibility for blatantly lying and promising things I’m not sure I can deliver, and I tell her yes, we will always be together, even after we’re dead. Mama will always be with you.
The truth is, it drives me crazy that she is so attached to me that she never wants to let me go. Occasionally she’ll have these moments where she is possessed by the need to touch me, to play with my hair, pat my head, hold my hand, kiss my cheek, my nose, my eyes, my arm. It gets to be too much for me and I have this image in my head of me trying to extract myself from the cloying tentacles of an octopus dragging me under water. As soon as she turns those big blue eyes my way and tells me it’s too sad to imagine saying goodbye forever, though, I would crumble and submit to all the pawing. Such is my chosen road, I guess.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
I vowed then to really try hard to withhold judgment about other people’s decisions because honestly, who am I to judge anyone about anything? It is with this in my mind that I preface this post by saying that I don’t think all consumers of the Oscar Mayer Lunchables™ are evil or bad people in any way. You have your reasons for buying them and that is none of my business. I just think that the Oscar Mayer Lunchables themselves are evil and here’s why:
Last week at the grocery store, my poor child pitches one more time for the Lunchables, this time for the Extra Cheesy Pizza variety. In a weakened state, I conceded. Fine, I thought, get the Lunchable, generate excess trash, eat cold pizza sauce and cold grated cheese on a dry, doughy circle of “pizza crust.” Just eat something please (uh, not that my child is exactly suffering from malnourishment; she’s quite hearty in spite of her fussy lunch-eating habits). Well, yesterday, the Extra Cheesy Pizza Lunchable went off to school in her pink lunchbox and what do you suppose she ate? One dry, doughy circle with cold sauce and cheese and the rest was essentially tossed back into her lunchbox except without the convenient cellophane cover so that all the remaining sauce and cheese could jumble around and coat the entire inside of said lunchbox with a slick mix of chunky, cheesy faux marinara. Mmm, delish. In search of something fun to do, I scrubbed it all out. I loved it.
And this Sunday when we schlep back to the grocery store? No Lunchables. None. Not Extra Cheesy Pizza, not Cracker Stackers, not Nachos or Wrapz or any of it. I’m thinking of making my own version of the lunchable. In one section I’ll put potato chips; in another section, corn chips; in another section, cheese puffs; and in the last section, Reese’s peanut butter cups. That way, everything gets eaten, there’s no waste and I don’t have to clean anything up when she comes home. Brilliant! Oh Motherhood… you and I, we are so perfect together.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
|Please pay for my health care|
I used to be really good about making phone calls and looking into problems of this sort. That’s because I had a job where I was happy to make personal phone calls and I could count on not being interrupted when I was on the phone. Now, however, I have to make these calls from my home, in the middle of the day, when I would much rather be doing something else that feels more important. Therefore, I avoid it all cost until someone confronts me about an unpaid bill, which makes me feel shady and irresponsible.
Today, however, I was feeling pretty spunky and I thought I would attack that heap of paper on my desk, as well as the one on the floor and I guess that one on the counter, too, and maybe even that other one on the other counter. Martha did ask me the other day, “When are you going to clean up these piles of paper?” That’s rich. So, ok, true confession here, there is this woman who I talk to on a fairly regular basis who just happens to be a psychologist. I go to her office and I stay for approximately 50 minutes and I pay her employer from time to time for these sessions. Some people might call her a therapist. But not me. I just call her by her name. She knows me very well, has known me since 1995 and is very good at sorting out the jumbled thoughts in my head, which no one else in my life has been able to do thus far, including me. So… you know, I’m not proud, I don’t have a problem just admitting I’m a nut job. At least I’m trying to do something about it though, right? That’s a lot more than I can say for most people.
Miraculously, my husband’s health insurance through his employer has been covering this service for the last few years, minus my $35 co-payment. For that reason, my husband’s employer decided to switch health insurance providers as of January 1, 2011. No one likes consistency. No one likes predictability. That would be too boring. And of course, you guessed it, the new insurer is not paying for my helpful chat sessions with the psychologist-lady. Damn… Guess I have to make the phone call. The “issue” remains, as of yet, unresolved, but I called the health insurance company and I called the mental health provider and I called the behavioral health department of the health insurance company to ask about the possibility of getting the obscure and ambiguous “prior authorization.” I’m still waiting for a call back about that. And don’t get me wrong, I know my situation could be a lot worse and in reality I’m probably one of the lucky people. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I hate the phone calls, I hate groveling for my sanity, I hate continually explaining what seems very obvious to me, I hate jumping through other people’s hoops, I hate that I have to justify what I already know to be a really sound, intelligent decision on my part.
So there is folks, that’s my input for the day. When my husband comes home tonight and asks what I did today, I think I’ll just answer with a noncommittal “eh, you know, took care of shit.” Because that’s really all I did today. Because I’m a grown-up (yes, yes, fragmented, consider revising…).
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
|Also, not me|
Remember in high school when you got various written assignments back and your teacher wrote things like “unclear” or “too wordy.” I do. I would think to myself, “Unclear? Unclear?? Are you kidding me? It’s totally obvious who or what I am talking about in this fine piece of literary effort.” And as for wordiness, well, I happen to like words. I like them a lot. In fact, I like them so much that I often like to find at least two or possibly three ways of phrasing the same thought yet employ subtle differences in meaning, which, as an aggregate, perfectly convey the tiny ray of brilliance that I am trying to express. Better too much than not enough is my philosophy.
Well, I suppose the blog is my chance to eschew all those restrictive little customs that high school English teachers think are so gosh-darn important. Unfortunately however, Mrs. Griggs and that Carol Channing-esque blonde hair-do of hers are firmly lodged in my head so that when I re-read anything I’ve just written I go through it with a fine-toothed comb looking for possible words that are not exactly what I mean to say or sentences that may be awkward or, god forbid, too wordy. I mean, I like efficiency as much as I like words, I can see the virtue in economy.
As a result of all this gut-wrenching preoccupation with the written word (or the written-by-me word, I should say), the blog is a bit lacking these days. I’m considering a brief experiment in which I force myself to post something every day for a week. It could produce some interesting results. No, not actual interesting writing, but maybe I can desensitize myself a bit. You know, like throwing the kid who is terrified of water into the deep end of the pool. Because that always works well as a fear-conquering technique.
On a final note, I would just like to acknowledge my ninth grade English teacher, Mrs. Griggs, who passed away a few years ago. I made fun of her and her hair-fluffing and I stubbornly refused to read “A Tale of Two Cities” despite the fact that I knew I was trashing a perfectly good grade and also despite the potentially imagined disappointment I could see in her eyes every day I slunk into class during the teaching of that work. Dear Mrs. Griggs, I would just like you to know that at age 32 I did indeed read the Dickens classic and thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope that you and Chuck are up there sharing some punch and smiling down on me in approval. And thank you.