22 January, 2009

What Happens Behind Closed Doors

Hold it together.  Talk about something; anything, just hold it together

These were my thoughts as we left the endodontist, as we drove back to Virginia, as I entered my office building.  These were my thoughts until I began to break down in the stair well… as I walked through the hall and locked my office door…

Then I burst into tears.  Not the delicate tears rolling down the cheeks tears, but the real tears.  “The put your head on the desk, running nose, really crying kind of tears.” As the Diva so accurately defined them a few days ago as she told me about dedicating her poetry book to her first cat.

“The Diva has to have a root canal on Monday,” I told my mom trying to regain composure.  Composure was not going to happen for a while though as the tears flooded my heart, spilling out my eyes.

There is just so much happening of late – so much that is difficult for any parent in that we all know what it is to want to protect our kids and how horrible that helpless feeling is when we can’t.  I don’t know a parent or family member or even a friend who doesn’t understand that feeling – the feeling of not being able to help.  The feeling of wanting so much to do something and yet… there is nothing that can be done.

In my case, the issue is magnified because I have a little visual challenge to contend with; a challenge that is not going to disappear any time soon.  A challenge that most often seems irrelevant and yet, now that I have a child, I am reminded that much more often how imperfect and challenged I am.

(And no, this isn’t a pity party)

I never let my vision slow me down when it was jus me.  I traveled to different countries, lived on my own within the economy, and enjoyed the company of people from different cultures and who did not speak my language.  I obtained my Master’s degree, aspired to do great things professionally, and even took a chance on love.  I knew my limits, but I also knew I could do pretty much anything if I put my mind to it.  My not being able to see didn’t slow me down.

And then I became a mom.

And my vision still doesn’t really slow me down, until it does.

With my lack of vision comes amazing gifts that I can give and do give my daughter.  She is growing up with adversity and diversity in her own home meaning that she will learn compassion and empathy and an appreciation for the differences.  She has a perspective that other kids don’t have because we do things differently.  She might also gain a sense of confidence in doing her own thing because, we, as a team, do it our way rather than the same way others do.

She has an appreciation for the world around her because we walk.  A car ride is a luxury.  Her feet and her wheels (bicycle that is) take her where she needs to go.  She has learned to look for the signs of the changing seasons, watch for different birds, note the cycle of life, and appreciate clean air.  For her, a better world is one where people drive less.  In fact, she says if she is ever president, she will encourage people to get out of their cars and walk!  (It will be easier for her to become president than it will be for her to get Americans out of their cars… but that is a different post)

She has countless gifts with me as a mom and my vision challenges as a part of her life.  But, there are challenges too.  There are challenges that leave my heart aching with sadness and wondering if so many years ago I made the right (best) decisions.  (But only in my weakest moments mind you)

When she was learning words, she would point to things… things I couldn’t see… things I couldn’t label.  She loves bookstores, but I couldn’t pick up the book and read it to her.  I had to memorize books when she was little in order to share them with her (then we found audio books to share).  The child taught herself how to read – her love of books is not based on time we shared reading them but based on her love of them.  I have yet to figure out how she learned the names of different things, but she did.  There are more challenges for us along these lines as her homework advances and my lack of vision prevents me from helping… but those are expected challenges.

It is the unexpected challenge that gets to me.  The unexpected events that leave any parent feeling helpless and me doubly so because I am lost in a world that I can’t see and therefore can’t always fully grasp.

So The Diva has to have a root canal.  This doesn’t surprise anyone actually given that the discoloration was noted two weeks ago.  Emotionally, we will be fine.  This won’t be a big deal.

The big deal – I can’t see what they are talking about.  I can’t read the fine print or even the normal size print of the forms I am signing.  There is every possibility that we are going to have to metro over and metro back (and I am sorry, but I can only make things an adventure X many times before it looses its appeal).  I have to then figure out how to get her prescription filled.  Oh, and the work that won’t be done that day… and mostly, I feel completely unable to make it all okay.

And all that is usually not a huge deal, but right now… it is.  I just feel worn out and out of my league and lost and totally helpless.

“Do you want me to fly out?” my mom, bless her heart, asks from Arizona.  She is willing to fly 2500 miles to help out with a root canal that I, in my every day life, can handle no worries.  That I, were it about me and not my daughter, could do with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back.

Something happened when I had a child that changed me from this completely confident, self sufficient, independent woman to this… parent who is in a puddle of tears in her office feeling completely helpless to take care of her daughter.  Something happened to turn me from independent and loving it to a person that really would just rather not, even though she can, do it alone.  These factors, those that are beyond my control, that leave me feeling helpless.  How easy it would be if I could be like everyone else… just like everyone I know… for just a day.  How nice it would be to work a half day, get in the car, pick up the Diva, drive the 20 minutes to the office, drive the 20 minutes back… no worries about missing trains, bacteria, the 1.5 hour commute via metro both ways, the where and how do I get to the pharmacy…

The grass is always greener, right?

While the Diva works through her anxiety through thought and bursts of energy and snaps of attitude, I am working through my feelings by writing this, by locking my office door, and letting go.  Strong, I am strong, I am responsible, I am a great single parent… and yet, sometimes, behind closed doors, I think about the grass on the other side of the fence.  Behind closed doors, I don’t have to be strong and responsible – I can be… human.

And then a friend from Canada calls and tells me that I have had my minute… she makes me laugh… and reminds me that what I am and what I give is far more than the challenge I am feeling at the moment.  My minute is over… it is time to open the door and laugh and live!


Which I promptly did!


Scotty said...

what I am and what I give is far more than the challenge I am feeling at the moment

Very true..

dadshouse said...

Wow, how nice of your mom! Did you accept her offer?

I fall apart when my kids need serious medical help. I've been asked to leave the hospital more than a few times by nurses who feared me fainting.

mama llama said...

Our children certainly have the ability to undo the calmest, strongest exterior. It is hard to have to deal with anything that can have a potentially negative effect on our offspring. I am dealing with that now with a close friend in denial about an addiction and I fear abuse toward the eldest son from little things he has said. Yet she has this doubt, this little voice that says that holding the family together is the most important for the family. I will continue to be on her to leave, but she will only when she will. Nobody but her can make up her mind.

(sigh) Sorry--it's been a heavy couple of days. I know you understand.

Be well, TE.

TAG said...

Your concern is understandable. And it is your concern that demonstrates how lucky your daughter is to have you as her mother.

Are there limitations to you as a single mother. Of course. There are limitations with every parent. But if you step back and take a good look at what you and your daughter have, I'd say you both are pretty lucky.

You care. That caring makes up for any physical impairments.

If there were such a thing as a person who was in a position to be a perfect parent, they couldn't do even half as well as you do if they didn't care.

The future is scary not just for you; but, for anyone who cares about their children. Have faith that between the two of you, you and the Diva will be fine. I've no doubt the future is bright for both of you.


justrun said...

Wow, I so admire that attitude. I have to remember that... we get our minute, and then we move forward.
Your daughter is a very lucky girl.

T said...

Wow. Your reaction sounds very similar to mine when I was told that my little Grace was going to need crowns on four of her teeth. I was a mess!

You are an exceptional mother, Ms. Exception. With a daughter who is right there with you.

I'm glad you shared your "minute" with us. Now smile and have faith that everything will be fine.


Laura said...

It is hard :( Very hard!

Becoming a mother does change you - the world is no longer about you - it is seen thro the eyes of your child!