One thing in my life that it is never hard for me to be grateful for- even on the very worst days- are my daughters. Man, I hit the jackpot when it comes to kids! My girls couldn’t be more different…not only are they 13 years apart in age, they are just completely different personalities, and yet I relate to them both so much, in separate ways.
Yesterday, my eldest, Aisley, who is beautiful and complicated, came down off the mountain she now lives on for a short visit. She misses me so much now that we aren’t seeing each other every single day, and it’s been hard on her. So when she does get to come into town, she’s so excited to see me- she wants me to write down recipes for her, and she has so many things to show me and share with me. This daughter has always been my uber-affectionate little bear, and she still wants a million hugs and all my attention when she sees me. Yesterday, she planted a little vegetable garden out in front of my house for me. She put in little stakes with labels so that I would know what was what, and she made me promise to remember to water it. She has my dirty sense of humor, and we always make each other laugh, and I am so glad she belongs to me- that I get to be her mom. I’m so happy to call her mine.
And Cammy, my little one…oh, man. She is so smart and independent, with her giant vocabulary and the biggest heart. One of the great joys of my life is waking her up every morning. I always take a minute to watch her sleeping; mouth open wide, hair in a big old knot on top of her head. She still lets me haul her into my lap for a quick cuddle most days, even though she hangs over both sides of me by quite a bit, and I can barely pick her up. I smiled this morning as I watched her lurch, half asleep, to her waiting bath, like a little drunk person. I know these particular days aren’t going to be around for too much longer…I am acutely aware of the passage of time, having been through this once already.
That’s all, really. I just wanted to take a minute to speak my gratitude for my children out loud to the Universe. I don’t know how I got so lucky- I definitely got so much more from this life than I probably deserved. But I am so in love with those girls, and feel so blessed to be their mom, still the most important woman in their lives. Every day I pray to be worthy of the task, to be the person they need me to be. Some days I fall short of the mark, but miraculously, they love me anyway. I don’t understand how that works, or why it’s true, but I’m sure glad it is.
Hi! It’s me, your mom- you know, the weird lady who lives down the hall, who yells a lot (so that you can hear me, because apparently, our “inside voices” don’t work around here). Anyway, I figured I would write to you this morning, since you girls are the center of my universe, basically blocking out everything else, and I have no other material. Not that I am complaining. I feel pretty lucky, I happen to have created not one, but TWO, offspring that I actually like.
I mean, yes, you have your less awesome moments. Like Camryn, when you want me to pretend to be a vampire or some other scary, imaginary creature, and I do, and then you get too scared, and punch me in the mouth with your tiny little fist. It’s hard to believe how much your bony little knuckles can smart, but you always seem to catch me in the exact wrong spot. I know you feel bad about it, and I am likewise ashamed of my (clearly too) believable portrayal of a blood sucking demon of the night. I don’t think I want to play that game anymore. And Aisley, thanks to our much lengthier history, I have a wide assortment of complaints I could lodge against you, anything from vomiting in my shoes, to taking my thong underwear to school for show and tell, all the way up to sneaking boys in the house (which I actually found more amusing than anything, because any guy who still likes you after being covered in your dirty laundry deserves whatever he gets). Despite all of that, however, you are both my favorite people in the whole entire world.
There is probably something wrong with me. But, I am not alone. Most moms feel pretty much the way that I do, just loving the shit out of our disgusting, embarrassing children- lucky for you. I am sure it is just some built in safety feature that keeps us from eating our young, or leaving them out on the side of the road when they become too screamy. Nope, most moms still don’t do that, even now, in these crazy times. Not that it doesn’t cross our minds occasionally. There was actually a full year, Aisley, when you were about thirteen or fourteen, when my dearest fantasy was to…well, it wasn’t kind, lets just say that. But in my defense, you were barely a human being at that age. I think it speaks volumes of both of us that no one was jailed. For long.
I can assure you, before you were born, I had never been peed on. Not even for fun. I had never been vomited on, at least not by the same person more than once, ever. I had certainly never been able to continue to tolerate anyone who wet MY bed on a regular basis. I am pretty sure that before you guys came along, no one had ever used me as a Kleenex, although that is one of those things you can never be totally sure of. I had never been expected to comfort and soothe someone who obviously hated me, I had never had so many doors slammed on me, so much change stolen from me, and so much of my stuff haphazardly destroyed. Before you were born, my main job was keeping myself alive, and I was not very good at it- mediocre, at best. After you were born, I was suddenly promoted to keeping alive small humans who couldn’t even hold their own heads up. Do you know how fucking terrifying this is? You both had mushy spots on your HEADS where the effing SKULL hadn’t finished growing. I just wanted to point that out, for the next time (or in Camryn’s case, the first time) you want to tell me what a terrible mother I have been. I managed to not let your giant heads snap off at the neck, and I kept things out of your soft spot. Cut me some slack.
In spite of all of that, I find that I can still look at both of you, at times, and feel the kind of love I have never felt for anyone else. The kind you read about in overly dramatic romance novels, only without the creepy parts. You both make me weak and stupid with love, like, my heart pounds and I get all choked up, and ALL of that. It’s embarrassing. But you are both SO lovely, and so funny, and so full of life and outrageous personality. In a MILLION years, if I had been able to hand pick every single aspect of you, to make a perfect child for me…I never, ever could have gotten it right. No one could ever be better, more perfect, in my eyes, than you are. You beautiful girls make me laugh every single day. I keep going because of you. I try harder because of you. I may not always get it right, but please believe, I never, ever stop thinking about you. And I love you both more than I could ever have imagined loving anyone, and that will never, ever change.
If the world ends tomorrow, there are a few things I’d like to say.
First of all, I have had a fabulous run. If the world really does end tomorrow, I will leave it clean and sober. I have somehow, out of the rubble of a life I had destroyed, managed to rise up out of the ashes like a Phoenix, weaving something beautiful out of the mess. If the end is near, my head will be clear, my regrets will be few. I am so grateful to God for giving me the gift of relative speed, when extricating myself from the destruction I have visited upon myself, again and again- if relief had not been swift in coming, I don’t know that I would have hung in there. I am glad and proud to be where I am today, even with as much work as there still is to do. I know so many people who struggle on and on, and have to fight so hard for every little step forward, and I don’t know how they keep on…I don’t think I have that kind of strength. So, if this is it, I am happy with who I have been.
I know I joke around a lot about my mom, and, while I won’t pretend that we don’t irritate the shit out of each other, I will say this- she has been a good, good mother. My biggest fan, my mental twin, she taught me everything I know about pushing forward, striving harder, no matter what. Not only that, but she did it all with a clean house and great clothes, something I fall way short of. The best thing of all about my mom, though, were the holidays- no matter how broke we were, how awful things got, the holidays were magical thanks to my mom. I will never, ever forget those perfect Christmas mornings when, no matter how early I woke up, the tree would be ablaze with lights, music from the Nutcracker would be playing, presents were piled in heaps around the tree, and always, the cookies and milk were eaten, Santa long gone. Without my mom, I don’t know if I would have made it out of the lifestyle I allowed myself to be swept into- I measured myself so much by her approval ( a habit that is no longer very helpful, thanks) that at least I could see how far I had fallen. She never gave up on me. She always saw the real me, under all of it. I love you, mom.
I have the most amazing children under the sun. Aisley, so unlike me and then so similar- she is full of surprises, at such a weird, awkward part of life- fifteen. I wouldn’t go back if you paid me. Yet she handles all of the traitorous goings-on of high school with so much more grace and nonchalance than I ever could have. She is so beautiful and calm, most of the time, haughty and witty, private and contained. I think she will surprise us all, if we make it past Friday. And Camryn, my God! What a blessing and a joy she is. So smart, it freaks me out, so happy and sweet nature’d, charming and funny. I was so afraid of having another baby so late in life, but it was the best idea I’ve ever had.
If the world ends tomorrow, I can tell you that my life has been breathtaking, full of abundance and blessings, a million last minute rescues, countless good people who have reached out their hands to me, pulling me back when I got too close to the edge. The beauty has been constant, even in the dark times, even when I couldn’t see it. The heartaches have all been worth it. The goodness far outweighs the bad.
If the world doesn’t end tomorrow, I will be glad. I will continue on, as I have been, trying to get better, to be better than I am right now. But if it does, it’s been a wonderful trip. It’s been a marvelous time. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I would like to dedicate this post to all the moms I know, but especially to Amanda Davis, and her one month old baby girl, Maxine. I love you with all my heart.
The day that each of us got the news, either from a doctor, or, more commonly, from the stick we just peed on that had the nerve to turn pink, our lives began to change. I cannot speak for everyone, but I know for me, the first few months were a mixture of fear (is everything alright in there? What the hell will I do with a baby!?), excitement, and that weird, buoyant radiance that feels different from any other thing apart from pregnancy. We become so in tune with our bodies, and every day we wake up with a new sense of purpose- to carry this life within us carefully, safely, to it’s fruition. Not everyone of us gets to do this perfectly- I have friends who have lost babies, friends whose babies were born so, so early that they spent months in the hospital keeping vigil at their tiny infants bedside. For many of us, as mothers, this is the first time our lives are every truly hard or scary- it’s like everything before this pain is NOTHING in comparison.
From the time we feel their movement inside of us for the very first time, like a butterfly’s wings fluttering or a flurry of tiny bubbles brushing against us, to the alien rolls and elbow jabs of late pregnancy, we begin to develop a relationship with this little person. Then the moment arrives when they are ready to come out into the world, and time stands still the first time you see this marvelous, beautiful human being for the first time, or hear their tiny, gorgeous voice. There is nothing in the world like this.
You have expectations. What you think they will look like, what you think they will be like. Then, here they are, so different than you imagined- and yet perfect, better in every way than you could ever dream up on your own. A lot of times, we are so busy and caught up in them, these little miracles we get to claim as our own, that we don’t see what is becoming of us. The biggest miracle of all, for me, was what happened to my heart the day that I began to love my first daughter.
Before she came along, I was very, very self- possessed ( I”m not saying I’m so damned perfect now, I’m just saying you should have seen me before!) and it was incredibly hard for me to be empathetic for others. But the love that came to me with her was so profound, so incredibly pure and perfect, there was no way I could accept that love and not be fundamentally changed. My heart was just laid open, and it changed who I was. It was really the best day of my life.
I was very, very young, and messed up countless times with that child. I will go so far as to admit that she got a bad deal with me. I wish I could go back and change it all, I really do, but you know how useless that is. But I will tell you this- because of my love for her, I had the good sense to feel guilty about the way I was living, and the desire to change grew from that. Because of my oldest girl, and my love for her, I found my way out of the mess I was living in, and became someone better.
My second daughter knocked out every barrier I had left, allowing light in all of the places I had hidden away for myself. There was no place left in me now that was safe from emotion. My second daughters birth obliterated me with that love, and I was so ready and receptive to it. My heart expanded, making room for both of my girls and so, so much more. You think you know about love before you have kids, and I hope I don’t offend you when I say, with all sincerity, you don’t. You can’t, it’s not possible, it’s different, it’s rare and perfect and amazing. I know you love your dog, you love your parents, you love your husband. But this love, while absolutely worthwhile and good and necessary, is not the wrecking ball love you get with your babies. It destroys you and resurrects you into someone so much better than you were before- softer and stronger, deeper and…just better.
As our children grow, and the time flies by, there comes a moment when you realize that there is a distance growing between you. Then you come to understand that this was always the purpose of all of these years- to raise them and to let them go. It happens so fast. So, so much faster than you would have believed fifteen or so years ago…it breaks your heart. No matter how rotten and selfish and foul mouthed they have become, they are the same big-eyed, sweet smelling, little miracles who latched onto your heart with their sticky hands and kissed you with their runny noses underneath all that teenage loathing, and it hurts to let them go. But that is all you can do.
My advice to you, just starting out, is to relish every minute of it. Every time you start to feel fussier than the baby making you climb the walls, look down into that tiny face, and memorize it, because in five minutes they will be someone else. It goes by in a heartbeat. You cannot love too much, listen too much, be too affectionate, be too present …when they are small. But you can do and be too little of all of these things, and you will carry that pain with you for the rest of your life-so do yourself a favor, and be the kind of parent you can be proud to be. You will not regret it. Welcome to the mommy club. May the force be with you.
Something I haven’t talked about in a while, and something I don’t know how far I should get into, is my older daughter. This has been a REALLY trying year for us. I always think of it in terms of how hard it is for me, dealing with her. What I am only now starting to really consider is how hard this past year has been for her.
I found this out, unfortunately, when she was placed on a 72 hour hold at the hospital after making threats of killing herself. No matter how much you want to call “Bullshit”, when it is your child telling you that she has been thinking about killing herself for a year, you do not take it lightly. As a matter of fact, it shatters your heart and fills you with fear. If you are like me, you look back at the last fifteen years of dysfunction and beat yourself up for every kindness you didn’t show, every error in judgement you have made. If you are REALLY like me, you can’t remember them all, there are so many, and you are pretty convinced that everything wrong with this kid is your fault.
Since she has been home, we have been doing so well…or so I thought, anyway. We went to the pumpkin patch, out for family dinners, sat down at home for family dinners. We went to Santa Cruz and to the beach, and we have spent a lot of time together. When she told me she didn’t want to take the medication they prescribed her, I told her I wouldn’t make her if she really didn’t think she needed it. She seemed happier than she had been in a long time. So happy, actually, that I forgot to make her that appointment with the psychiatrist that we were supposed to follow up with.
Last night, it was clear to me that I had made a huge mistake. She had been talking to her boyfriend, Josh, (who I love dearly), and then after he left, she talked to him on the phone again almost immediately. I asked her why, and she said they were talking about something important. Of course, I immediately assumed she was pregnant, and followed her through the house, harassing her, until she broke down.
It seems things are not as okay as I thought they were. She is feeling really, really bad. She doesn’t see the point to life. The world looks violent and hopeless to her. She does not feel smart enough, worthwhile enough, special enough. She feels like she has no friends and does not fit in. She is anxious all the time. She isn’t happy, at all.
Now, as a mother, this is by far one of the scariest conversations I have ever had with my beautiful, smart, funny, wonderful child. I mean, give me a good old fashioned talk about sex and birth control any day over this…Because what do you say? When your daughter tells you she is just unable to find any joy in life at all, how do you show her all the joy around her? How do you help them? If they cannot see it, how can you point it out to them? When you are in a dark place like she was last night, the answer is clearly-you cannot. Talk about feeling helpless. This is my baby we are discussing here…I just don’t know.
What I do know is this- I could not imagine one day on this planet without my child, for ANY reason. God forbid I ever have to face that day. And so today, after a long talk with my daughter, we went and picked up the medication that she was prescribed. She’ll start taking it tonight. And as soon as I finish this paragraph, I will pick up the phone and make that appointment. I will do my part and pray and pray and pray that she does hers.
I would like to start by saying “Hi!” to all of you. I miss you guys when I haven’t been writing, and I really haven’t been writing with much consistency lately, for many (lame) reasons (excuses). So, I am being honest when I say I think about the little blog community I am getting to know when I am nowhere near my computer, and I think that’s cool. I also want to say “Hi” because my next statement is going to be a little (lot) negative.
2) My computer is a f***i**g piece of S**T! I am losing my mind on a daily basis (at least) now due to whatever issue it is having. It appears to have caught some type of unknown virus, probably the computer version of AIDS back in 1983. No cure, no hope, prognosis terrifying and grim. Geez, I am so off track here.
3) I hate to waste more time talking about this, but # 2 is a total lie. I actually have a really great laptop, but I don’t know very much at all about maintaining a computer. I do what I know how to do, and I have some program that is scanning stuff every forty-five seconds (it seems like) and I guess I’ll have to get with it, because this is really slowing me down. It has totally hindered my writing, of all types.
Okay, FINALLY, that is done with- can I PLEASE tell you the main thing now? So, as many of you know from either knowing me in real life, reading my blogs, or both, I have been having a pretty tough time with my oldest girl for a while now…like, maybe since birth, but until this past six or seven months, there were still good times, too. A lot of good times, and despite all the bickering, we were always very, very close. Not anymore. She really, really hates me. She’s done some pretty despicable things to me recently, and out of pure maliciousness, stuff I would NEVER have dreamed of doing to my mom. Not in a million years.
Sometimes it hurts my feelings pretty bad- the other day when we were fighting on the way to her school and I was trying to tell her that had she missed the one hour class that is required of her that day, she would have to repeat 8th grade instead of moving on to HS. She said “I don’t care.” Which frustrates me, because if SHE doesn’t care, why the hell am I doing all this stuff for her?! But I said to her in reply “If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be crying right now.”
“I’m crying because I hate your guts, and there is nothing I can do about it! You are a mean bitch. I have ALWAYS hated you.” She said.Yikes. That one really hurt, somehow, and I don’t know why, because she has said much meaner things than that to me. Maybe it was because I kind of believed her, that that is the way she felt. That she HAD always hated me. I’m the first to admit, I am totally hateable sometimes, and the more I love you, the worse I can behave. Which puts her, my child, in the number one spot. The number two spot would be held by my mom. These are the two people I want to mainly talk about right now.
Lately, I just cannot think about my daughter and I without thinking about my mother and I. It’s just so strange to me that I am now, basically, standing in my moms shoes, looking at myself in my own daughter. It terrifies me, because I know I can put up speed bumps in her path, but I cannot stop this child. It shames me, also, because I remember being that….just AWFUL, the way girls can be at that age. I had it all figured out, I did not give a shit about how my mom felt (well, sometimes I didn’t) or how my insanity effected her life. You see, I would run away for days on end, never calling, nothing. I just don’t know how my mom made it through those days without losing her mind. I know how lost I feel these days, trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do to help this kid, scared to death I’ll make the wrong choice. There really aren’t too many people I can turn to, because it’s a touchy, touchy subject and I don’t know very many people who could give me any advice I could have faith in. Either their kids are awful, too, or they have never been awful so they have to be guessing. I can’t really talk to my mom about it because she gets too upset, and also because she always blames all of it on me. Which is pretty awful on a lot of levels- I mean, yes, I SUCKED as a mother when she was little. I was as bad as they get. Sometimes. But there were many, many times when I was great, too. I have friends who have known me since before I had Aisley, and were around all the way up until I moved away when she was six. When I came back, at least three of those friends has heard me beating myself up for being the way I was when she was little, and too my surprise, they absolutely disagreed with me. “You were a great mother! You always took good care of that kid. She was with you all the time, you never left her for one night, etc., etc.” So, I guess I wasn’t the monster I thought I was, and I let people make me think- again, my mom and Aisley. My mom was around way less than my friends, so I can’t totally discount what they recall. Also, I tended to act up on the phone with my mom throughout those crazy years, and for some reason, I would say terrible things to make her worry about Aisley. And me. I just tortured that woman. I was so ANGRY with her, and I have no idea why. Maybe because I just wanted someone to fix me, and she wished she could, but she couldn’t.
So, anyway, that’s kind of where I am headed with this whole thing. Aisley is tough, but the worst of it is that I MISS her, the her I held for so long…she is just lost to me, I hope only for now. And I remember my mom saying that to me, that she missed me so much, the me that she loved and knew. You think you have so much time to get it right, to fix things and work it out…when that baby is laying in your arms, eighteen years seems like forever. But it goes by before you even have a chance to figure out what you are doing, and that little brown eyed girl who slept curled up in your arms for way too many years won’t even let you touch her hand. She is only 14, but I know the rest of the time I have with her will be more on her terms than mine. That window was shutting and I didn’t even know. I should have known ,because I was the same exact way.
To my mom, I want you to know how sorry I am. I don’t know why I was so wild. I will never know if anything you did or didn’t do had anything to do with it, but I really don’t think so. I think I just was who I was, and I was drawn to that lifestyle no matter where I went. I really believe that you did the very best you could at least 85% of the time, which is a lot more than most people do. I KNOW you love me more than anyone else does. I can’t imagine…no, I CAN clearly imagine what you went through for ALL of those years.
You see, this evening, I finally had a chance to finish going through a box of miscellaneous notebooks and cards and letters and things that I have been lugging around since the early nineties. I have basically been going through box after box of paper, separating the cards and personal things of mine from Aisley’s, and from my drawings and poetry, and from old bills and garbage. It’s been taking forever, but it’s great to see all this stuff. Tonight, though I don’t usually look at the cards, I did. You know, my mom tried so hard, all of those years, to remind me of who I really was. Every single word she wrote was designed to tell me-“This is not you, Courtney. I KNOW YOU, and I will not let you forget.” I never saw that before, until tonight. Thank you, mom. I am so lucky to have someone love me in such a ferocious way, and to have learned to love that way myself.
And there were so many poems and drawings and letters from Aisley that tell me how much she loves me, and how glad she was that I was her mom. I really needed to see that tonight, because I was starting to believe that things had always been bad, and she had never had a mother she could love. I was questioning my own memories. I was really taking all of her issues as a direct assessment of my parenting. But Aisley is making her own choices now and I am not to blame for that. I have been a MUCH better mom to her since she was seven years old, and that is half of her life now. I have been in her life every minute since the day she was born, too, and you can’t say that about all of her parents. I understand clearly that my mom was just as unsure as I am now, and that she did her best to cope with her child who refused to be parented. It’s hard, it sucks and we are still people- busting our asses, keeping things together, and resentful as hell of this KID who gets everything handed to them and still makes sure we can’t have any happy, stress free time, because they have to act like idiots. My mom deserved a way better deal than she got with me. I love you mom, and I just want to thank you one more time, from the bottom of my heart, for never giving up on me. I know it must have been hard.
And Aisley, I promise you, I will never, ever give up on you. No matter what you think right now about me, no matter what you think about me EVER, my love for you cannot be altered. The years you and I had, just us two, are unique to us. You are the best thing that ever happened to me- if it weren’t for you, I never would have thought I needed to change. I never would have understood love. I never would have become anything. You saved my life, and you are so incredibly special to me. I will always be here for you- you can count on that.
Ugh! I am way bawling, by now. This was so long, I thank anyone who made it through this thing. I’m not even going to re-read it, I am going to leave it be. I said what I wanted to say. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go fetch a roll of paper towels. Goodnight.
My mom came to visit me a few weeks ago. It was not our best visit ever. It was certainly not our worst. I only cried like, twice, the whole time she was here. Unfortunately, it was in a very busy restaurant at lunch time, and my make-up was PERFECT-so I spent a lot of time doing that weird, wide eyed, blinky face that girls do when they don’t want to ruin their mascara. Head tilted back, blink, blink, blink, waving your hands like fans at your face in some bizarre effort to, what? Dry the water out of your eyeballs? Anyway…
Something very odd happens to me when my mom is coming for a visit. For about ten days before she arrives, I am very, VERY excited. I love my mom! Everybody loves my mom- she is fun and outgoing, full of energy and laughter and encouragement. She’s quite the little whirlwind, my mom, and I am really and truly a fan. But you know…we all have many facets to our personalities. And she’s MY MOM. So, about four days before she is due to show up, I start to get a little stressed. At three days ’til, I begin to see my home through the eyes of the woman who raised me, and wonder how in the hell I never realized what a pig pen in the back alley of a dump my house is. Two days prior, I start to clean in earnest and simultaneously begin to loathe every living creature that lives in this house with me. Filthy ingrates. Do they think their cereal bowls are going to walk themselves to the kitchen sink? A few more days, and they probably would sprout legs and mosey on out the front door. I mutter a lot of very uncharitable things about the people I am surrounded with, and/or created myself, only kind of under my breath, and they try to stay out of my way.
I wrote something funny about this a long time ago, about how my mom can see dirt that no one else can see- dirt on other planets, even. I still stand by it. I don’t know what happened to me, but I got some kind of recessive slob gene that prevents me from giving a shit about how things look for longer than a few days. I just don’t care. I mean, I care what other people think of me, obviously, or I wouldn’t pick up EVER, no matter who was coming over. But it only bothers me to the degree that I allow myself to even notice. I really, honestly, don’t pay a whole lot of attention-maybe it’s a self-protective, learned behavior that I built up over the years just to keep myself from going nuts in the midst of my rubble. Maybe I’m just gravely disgusting. I don’t know. I do know, however, that in those two days before my mom gets here, those blinders come OFF, and I clean until I am physically incapable of doing one more thing. My mother has a beautiful home now, the latest in a string of beautiful homes she has lived in. I’m not saying they were fancy homes, by any means. But my mom can really put a house together, make it look homey and cozy and comfortable, in like five minutes. We were very poor when I was a kid, but our homes were always the nicest of all my friends. Not overdone and anxiety provoking, as if putting your hand on the wall would be a fucking catastrophe, but attractive and inviting. When I was younger, even after I’d gone out on my own, I loved bringing people to my mom’s house-it sort of made me feel like they could see where I came from and think, “oh, this girl is not at all the lame-o she seems to be. Look at how NICE her mother’s house is. She must be a nice girl, coming from such a pretty home.” Of course, I am way too old for that, now. Now the only thing her decorating skills and aptitude for neatness do for me is make me hyperventilate. And clean, really, really well, for two solid days before every visit.
Which, I think, is part of the problem. You see, by the time she comes rolling down my street in her sleek, silver BMW and pulls up with a happy wave in front of my ramshackle little home, I have worked up a serious attitude problem. I am upset that I am so tired, upset that my house is still not perfect, upset that I am upset, again, and also mad that I had to make myself and children presentable on top of the stupid house. I am no longer ready for company, I’m ready for a stint in a psych ward. Why can’t my mom just love me as I am? Why do I have to work so hard to STILL fall short? Yeah, I go through this every single time.
I want to tell you- she has gotten SO much better in the last couple of years. She tries really hard to not criticize my place or me, because she knows I will completely freak out, I’m sure. See, I become hyper-vigilant and painfully sensitive to her every comment. I am ready to pounce at the slightest of slights. Last time she was here, after busting my ASS for days, do you know what she said to me that sent me over the edge? She said “Why don’t you wipe down your garbage can, Courtney? Gross.” Hmm…okay, not the nicest comment ever, and probably unnecessary, but worth remembering and rehashing and repeating to my coworkers and friends? Probably not. I believe my reply to her was “Well, it IS where I keep my GARBAGE, mom. Nobody eats out of it.” But I was thinking- ‘two days straight of busting my ass to clean, and she notices the fucking garbage can?’. The minute she left, I scrubbed that bastard, then yelled at Devon. I don’t know why I yelled at him, but it helped.
My mom loves me, I know, more than anyone else in the world. She thinks so much of me and has such confidence in me, she is so sure of my capabilities of world-domination, that I think it is really easy for me to disappoint her. I know for a fact that she does not set out to hurt me- as a matter of fact, I don’t even know if she knows that she does. I act like such an asshole when we are around each other, she probably just thinks that’s how I am now. Actually, she thinks it was all the drugs- she thinks I am stuck in a perpetual amphetamine headlock. I’m not saying there isn’t, maybe, some element of truth in that…I know I am a little high strung (a little?! Ha!). But, HELLO? Where does she think I got it? Ask anyone who knows my mom, and they will be able to tell you, for sure, it was not my dad who could be a little…intense.
Well, I better publish this before I chicken out. If she gets mad at me, I will totally flip out! Just kidding.
I know my topics bounce around a lot. I get a lot of ideas in my head throughout the day about what I want to write about, and the one that yells the loudest is the one that wins when I sit down here at my keyboard. Tonight, I want to take a few minutes to write about my littlest girl, Camryn.
I’m going to be really honest here (as if I am ever anything else) and tell you that, when I found out I was pregnant, I was not exactly thrilled. A year, almost to the day, prior to my last pregnancy, I had sat in the same bathroom, peed on the same (type of ) stick, and seen the same results. I was numb. I was definitely having the baby, but I wasn’t okay with it at all. It was a major blow, a big mistake, just not good. So when I went to the doctor due to some minor spotting just a few weeks in, and he told me that this baby inside me had no heartbeat, I was not at all prepared for the total, horrible grief that took a hold of me. I was devastated.
Fast forward a year. I wish I could put into words that odd, detached, yet somehow terrified feeling I got looking down at that little, all powerful, EPT. That’s “early pregnancy test” in case you somehow did not know that. The worst part was, it had looked like it was going to be negative. (I know, I know, they tell you to wait a certain amount of minutes before trying to read it. Show me ONE woman who does this.) It had done all the stuff it seemed like it was going to do, then slowly, sloooowly, that second line appeared.
I was scared. I was OLD. I mean, I know 35 is not really old, but in terms of having another baby, it kind of is. I had actually sort of convinced myself that I had “old eggs” and was in no danger of getting pregnant. I highly discourage this as a method of birth control. It has a few glitches. Anyway, so there it was.
Now I’m going to share with you something that will probably make you think I am totally nuts- if you don’t already. At no time during my entire pregnancy did I believe anything other than that this was the same baby. What I mean is, that baby that I had miscarried had come back, a year later, when it was a better, more feasible time for it to be born. I don’t know that I have ever shared that with anyone other than Devon, who is the other co-creator of this child. I really believed that, and I still do. I got a do-over. It was the right time.
I had a lot of the normal worries of pregnancy- will my baby be healthy, is everything alright in there, etc. I had some of the added worries of a later-in-life pregnancy- will my baby have Down’s Syndrome? Will my body be able to do this? And then I had some worries about things that women who have other children undoubtedly have- will my daughter (who was already 12 at the time) be okay with all of this? And the biggest question of all- How will I ever be able to love another kid the way I love this one?
The answer arrived in the form of Camryn Faith, on November 16th, 2010. It was a scary delivery. She had some problems with her umbilical cord, and every time I had a contraction, it became compressed, cutting off her oxygen. I listened as her heartbeat disappeared. So did the whole room full of doctors and nurses. I don’t know that I have ever felt so helpless before in my life. Finally, they wheeled me off to surgery (my very first one, ever) and not ten minutes later, I heard my little girls first cry in the world.
I’m pretty sure I had postpartum, this time around. Everything was harder for me than it had been the first time- of course, the first time, I had been 22, clueless, and the baby had come out via the normal and standard orifice rather than through a man-made one in my abdomen. It was hard. I think it was a good two weeks before I really started bonding with this perfect little girl. But once it started, look out.
I have had her for a while now, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep her. Sure, she likes her dad a little more than she likes me, but whatever. If I was a baby, I probably would, too. He’s more on her level (BURN! Ha!), not that I’m jealous or anything. I am such a better parent this time around than I was the first time. I have so much more sense, and so much more understanding of what it really means to be a mother. I am forming a human being here, that will someday go out into the world and be a grown up woman. I want to do this right.
Camryn is a blessing. Not just to us, here in this house, but to the people she meets. She is one of those happy, smiling, laughing kids that cheer people up. There are rarely times when she is fussy or unhappy- she wakes up with a smile on her face and goes to sleep the same way. She is above average smart, and I’m not just saying this because I am her mom- her doctor has verified this for me time and time again. She’s a toddler and she has an amazing sense of humor!
But Camryn is a blessing for even more important reasons than just being a ray of sunshine in a sometimes rotten world. She did something to my heart. I don’t know how to describe it other than this- because of her, my heart burst wide open, allowing me to love in a whole different way. Maybe I was just too young with Aisley, too selfish, still, but now I am so aware of how precious children really are. And every single one of us was a child at one time. See the implications, here? Every face on the planet is a face that has been loved by a mother, a father….every one of us have had a moment we don’t recall, where someone has watched us as we slept and loved us until their heart ached. Camryn has softened every hard part of me, and opened my eyes. She is my little wonder.
If you know me at all in real life, you may have heard me express out loud (one or two million times) my aggravation with people who compare their dogs with children. It is no coincidence that the people who do this generally do not have actual children-I understand, yes, there is a great bond between a dog with whom you have lived and loved for many years and yourself. However, I will say here what I have often said to these “dog-moms” when they say “I have no kids…but I have two chihuahuas that are JUST like my babies.”
If I left my daughter out in the yard all day with a bowl of water while I went to work, I would go to jail. If my daughter crapped on the floor and I rubbed her nose in it, that would be child abuse. And if I put my kid on a leash for a walk down the block…Wait. People actually DO that, don’t they? My GOD, that is creepy.
That being said, I have to tell you that. maybe I should have looked into dog ownership before I became a mom. Because this shit is hard. Last night, I had to take my oldest girl to the hospital because she had the WORST bloody nose I have EVER seen in my entire life. Why? Hmm…I am not sure whether to laugh or cry about this. The reason she had a bloody nose is because, in the midst of a heated argument about why I had decided not to buy her a new $250.00 smartphone, she got so upset and frustrated with me that words utterly failed her and she tried to blow a snot rocket at me.
I am not kidding you. I am trying to figure out how to explain to you what would have happened to me had I ever tried such a thing with my mother. All I can come up with is this- I probably would not be sitting here writing this right now as I would have suffered a horrible young death. If my mom hadn’t killed me, she certainly would have beat my ass. God, however, works in mysterious ways, and he must have known that this child needed a little shaking up, so he intervened on my behalf.
I have this new tactic that seems not to work very well, but having so few tools in my parenting arsenal, I do the best I can with what little I have. The tactic I am referring to here is what you might call “Calm and Detached.”. I figure it is better than getting down on her level and flipping completely out- except that, when I do this, it seems to make her even more insane. I’m not going to lie, there’s a small, awful part of me that enjoys seeing her buttons get pushed the way she ALWAYS pushes mine. So I was busy being calm and detached when the above mentioned snot-rocket was launched and all hell broke loose. I didn’t even look up from the magazine I was (pretending) reading.
“Mom! MOM! My nose is bleeding!”
“That’s what you get.” I told her.
“MOM! What’s HAPPENING!!??” Okay, so the level of panic in my usually not panicky kid did strike a chord in me as I glanced over. And HOLY SHIT.
I have never, ever in my life seen blood shoot out of someones nose like that. Trust me, should you ever see blood pumping out of your child’s face, leaving puddles on the floor, you pretty much forget about whatever stupid thing they did to cause it twelve seconds earlier. I tried to stay calm, I really did. It didn’t work, though. I sort of remember yelling at Devon to “CALL 911!”, being mad when he refused, throwing Aisley in the car and rushing off to the hospital. She had blood on her shoes, her pants and her sweatshirt. She had blood covering her hands, her neck and her face. On the way there, she said “Mom, maybe you should drive faster, because I am really scared.” So I did. She’s really not a kid who gets too worried about much-not like me, who will go into blind panic. She stays pretty level headed about these things. On the way there, she started crying. I drove a little faster, still.
It takes about ten minutes to get from my house to the hospital, and by the time we drove into the parking lot, the bleeding had slowed down a lot. We thought about going home, but she said “Maybe my brain is bleeding- we should probably just go in.” And though I doubted it very much, there was a teensey part of me that thought “Well, you never know.”, so we went in.
I’m glad we did. For one, I needed the peace of mind that she was really okay, and so did she. Secondly, it was pretty hilarious making my tearful and blood covered child admit to the doctor exactly how she came to be in this sorry state. (“can I put this in the dictation?” he asked. “Oh, absolutely”, I replied, delighted.) But most importantly of all, because, weird as it sounds, I think we BOTH needed a little fear to shake us out of this funk we have been in. We’ve been living together with this hostility between us for so long, I think we’ve just gotten used to it. Seeing her so frightened and upset reminded me that whatever else is going on, she is still my little girl. I would die, I mean, seriously, I could not go on, if anything were to happen to her.
We came home in much better spirits. She cleaned herself up and actually made her sister a bottle. I could count on no hands the number of time that has happened.Earlier that night, as we sat in the waiting room, I had put my arm around her and tried to pull her close. I tried to tell her that I wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her. I could feel her resistance, and see how afraid she was, and I understood that we have turned a corner somewhere along the way- one where I can’t fix everything, nor can I make her feel safer by pretending that it’s true.
But I can tell you this- I would certainly try. No matter what else is going on in this crazy busy life of mine, if one of my kids needed me, I would be there, period. If all I can do is sit beside them and hold their hands, you better believe I will be sitting there, holding on. I may have to look real hard to see that child I love so much in that fourteen year old, but she is there. And I love her beyond reason. No matter how many snot rockets she’s got up her, er,…sleeve.