Sunday, August 22, 2010

No Injured/Reserve List

My husband hurts himself a lot. And that's kind of an understatement. It really is like I have a third child, who stubs his toe and cries about it on a weekly basis. My husband doesn't actually cry, but everything comes to a halt when he has a blister, or a splinter, or he stubs his toe. We are all made very aware that he has hurt himself and the world must come to a stop and focus on him. Can you imagine? I mean, can you imagine as a mom having anyone actually care that you stubbed your toe or have a splinter?

Four summers ago I had a wide-excision surgical biopsy on my right heel. If you do the math, four summers ago I also had an 8 week old infant. This surgery was by no means elective or planned and it came about rather suddenly. And just to be clear, an excision of any kind, wide or not, done on the heel of a foot is extremely painful. After the surgeon removed what she needed to, she recreated my heel by pulling the skin so tight across the sole of my foot it felt like I was trying to give birth through the bottom of my foot. It was by far the most excruciating pain I've ever felt, and I'm including in my frame of reference actually giving birth, twice.

And in all this pain, I found that the world did not stop for me; the world barely even noticed. My husband still went to work. The newborn still cried and still needed to be fed. And the potty-training 2 year old still peed all over the living-room floor. No one really noticed until my husband saw me trying to crawl up the stairs after a day of hopping around on one foot, crying like I was the baby. I was actually crying. I finally convinced him that this was debilitating pain and I needed my world to at least notice so I could heal. That night he got up for the 2am and 5am feedings and brought the baby to me so I didn't have to crawl down the hallway to the nursery. That was helpful, I guess, but I would have really liked to just sit that night out. Don't get me wrong, I was thankful for that bit of help and for anyone who stopped in during the day, but the world never paused during that time. The world just doesn't acknowledge that moms get hurt too. We just aren't allowed; its not in our contract. There's no Injured/Reserve List for moms. I'm always on the roster and expected to play when needed. Clearly my husband negotiated better terms for himself. Its much easier for him to just take himself out of the game.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Badge of Honor

Something very scary happened to a close friend of mine this week. She is probably the first good friend I made when I moved here and over the years I've come to really admire her. She is a pretty petite mom of a litter of boys and she is strong, despite her stature. She has amazing strength in managing her boys. But as I was standing next to her in the ER holding her hand, I couldn't help but notice how small she is. Her little frame was drowning in the baggy hospital gown and she looked weak and scared. As a non-working nurse, I felt helpless; she is my friend, not my patient. I had to keep making excuses to go "check on the boys", so she wouldn't see how weak I felt looking at her. And there were the boys.

In the next curtain over, there were her boys and mine camped out on a hospital bed together watching cartoons. It was a room full of boys and a room full of strength; not their actual testosterone filled strength, but rather the strength that they bring to us as their mothers. I don't like to define a mother by her children, but I'll make an exception. My friend is so much stronger than she looks because she is a mom to these big strong boys. Just the fact that she has boys, and multiple boys, is like having merit badges. When people see these boys around her, its like they see her merit badges and know what she has been through and will go through to be their mother. They see proof of her inner strength. I at least see that when I look at her. And the nurses at the hospital saw it too. As I was leaving to take the whole gang of boys out of the ER for a break, the nurse commented on how brave I was to take them all. I didn't feel brave, but I did feel strong. Being a mother is an honor, but it is something of merit as well. Even when I am feeling weak, I know that I am strong because I have my own boys, my badges, to remind me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not Your Mother's Swim Meet

For anyone who did not grow up on the Main Line, I need to point out a discovery I made this summer: swim meets on the Main Line are different. This summer was my older son's first summer swimming for our Country Club's team, and my first experience with this particular league. I did not grow up on the Main Line, so to say the least, its a little different from what I remember as a kid swimming.

My husband and I both swam for summer swim teams and although we did not swim for the same swim club, we swam against each other and have very similar memories of those summers. For me, summer swim meets were a giant mass of kids running around a large field in the dark waiting for their heat to be called. It was parents lined up poolside in folding chairs from home, thermoses of iced-tea or lemonade at their flip-flop clad feet. It was Ellios pizza and Swedish fish from the snack bar, and a rice crispy treat or brownie for a quarter at the parent run bake sale table. There were soggy hot dogs and orange drink; and somewhere in that mass of kids there were always Pixy Sticks, Fun Dip, or packets of Jello for sugar highs. It was casual and there was no dress code. And it was fun, but I think more fun for me than for my mother sitting there waiting for my events.

So, last year when I took my son to watch a home meet against our rival club and we were told in advance that the dress code for that meet was "Madras Plaid", I had an inkling that this kind of summer swimming might be different. But I also assumed that the sea of people in resort attire and the big dinner buffet was because it was a special rivalry meet. I never expected the meet to look like this, and I never expected as a parent to have so much fun. My son found his friends and I found a neighbor to enjoy a glass of wine with while we cheered on her kids. My husband joined us for dinner and we stayed much later than I ever would have expected since I didn't even have a swimmer on the team then. I had no idea then that this is what every meet would be like.

At my son's first home meet this year, when a well dressed staffed member politely asked me to move my bag so they could set up the bar, I knew that my son's swim meets were never going to be like his mother's. I'm not complaining, but I am marveling at the difference. I like that we are now greeted by a table of complimentary iced-tea, lemonade, and Arnold Palmers at every meet. Chairs have been set up along the deck of the pool for parents and spectators. And, I will gladly move my bag to another chair so they can set up a poolside bar. I've yet to see any kids with Jello packets, but my son is excited to get a ticket for a soggy hot dog and an ice cream after he swims. While I am glad the hot dogs still make an appearance, I'm equally glad that the full course outdoor dinner buffet shows up for every home meet. For an outsider looking in seeing nicely dressed adults milling around linen covered tables, our swim meets don't look much different than a poolside dinner or cocktail party. And for anyone inside, it pretty much is a party. But why shouldn't it be a party? It is a summer evening and we are standing around a pool after all. My kids look forward to the swim meets, and to be honest, so do I. Who knew swim meets could be so much fun?

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Demise and Rise of Adventure

I'm planning our family's first camping trip. I got a crazy idea earlier this summer that this would be the summer to initiate my kids into the world of hiking and camping. It seemed like a good idea; they are 6 and 4, out of diapers and on their way to being independent little people. They've shown some interest and I've been waiting for years to finally get back out there. My husband and I used to hike and camp quite a bit. We were pretty adventurous at times; hiking or snow-shoeing as many national parks as we could get to, driving our old Discovery on caravan trails in Hollister, and rafting the Gauley and Snake rivers. We spent most of our honeymoon hiking or off-roading our way around the islands of Hawaii. We were never crazy cliffhangers, but we had a good sense of adventure. And then we had kids.

One of our best and most amazing hikes was the Paintbrush/Cascade Canyon in the Tetons, almost exactly 8 years ago. It was a completely unplanned day of adventure. Sitting around breakfast that morning, my brother, my husband, and I made a last minute decision to day-hike a trail that some split into two days. By mid-morning we were on our way for an 8 hour, 18 mile hike crossing the Paintbrush Divide at an elevation of 10,700 feet. Looking back, that still remains one of the best experiences I've ever had and it was completely spur of the moment. Two years later we were hiking Olympic National Park, this time with a 9 month old in a back-pack. But something was definitely different; the feeding and sleeping schedule of a baby was killing our sense of adventure. We found ourselves saying, "Wouldn't it just be easier to take the shorter trail". Our sense of adventure was dying as our reality of parenthood was coming to life.

I packed away the camping gear, not being able to fathom a pack-n-play in a tent, but we continued to get out for day hikes here and there with our first son. Eventually he outgrew the backpack and we had another baby. We tried a little local hike when our kids were 3 and 1, and about 100 yards into the trail, my 3 year old announced that his legs "could not move another step". He refused to go on even with the promise of treats and we ended up carrying him back to the car. That's when the hiking boots got packed away with any last bit of adventure we might have had.

But realizing some of the things we gave up to raise our babies, has renewed some interest in adventure. I'm trying to resuscitate our sense of adventure. Maybe it didn't die, but just went dormant. Endangered, but not extinct. I hope so because I'm ready to dust off the gear and try again. I know it won't be the same as before kids; it can't be the same. My more mature parent-self now shudders at the thought that my younger-self took off on an 18 mile hike late in the morning with no plan for getting stuck on the trail past dark. Now my adventures require much more thought and planning, as evidenced by the large pile of equipment sitting in my garage waiting to be crammed into the car. I'm still not exactly sure how this camping trip is going to go, but its a start. And good or bad, it will be an adventure.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Four Quarters

Four quarters. That's it. That's the going rate for teeth in our house. And that value is up from the quarter per tooth I received as a child. My son lost two teeth this week in two days, keeping the Tooth Fairy very busy. My son seems happy enough with the dollar in change he keeps getting in exchange for his teeth, but he told me last night that someone in his class got $20 for their first tooth.

Parents, why would you do this? Why would you sabotage the rest of us by inflating the value of teeth? I mean, $20, really? What is a 6 year old going to do with $20? And that's just for the first tooth. There are 20 primary teeth that kids loose. I'm already going to be paying out $20 for teeth. I hope this other family is not actually paying $20 per tooth for all 20 teeth. Fortunately, my 6 year old is a true 6 year old and easily enamored by shiny coins. In his mind he got four shiny coins instead of just one dull piece of paper. And he has something he can actually do with his coins; put them in his piggy bank.