Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spider-Man is Dead

"Spider-Man is dead.  What should I do?" That was the exact text to my husband.

My four-year-old's fish, Spider-Man, had laid on his side on the bottom of the tank gasping (or whatever things that don't breathe air do).  Since I work from home, I could step out of my office every so often to check in on Spidey.  Tap the tank.  Speak words of encouragement.  I'm pretty sure I even said "breathe, damn you!" out loud.  Maybe he was just resting.

We had given our son the heads up (for a few days really) that Spider-Man's days were numbered.  And finally his number came up and I panicked.  Over a fish.  That we'd had for six months, if even.  My need to protect my son from the pain of loss was filling me with a peculiar dread.  It was his first death.

My heart actually ached as I paced in the kitchen around the sunk Spider-Man (weren't they supposed to float?).  And my overactive imagination immediately went to all of the losses and pain that my kids will endure over their lifetimes.  The loss of actual human family members.  The death of furry pets that they've known their whole lives. The heartbreak of being dumped by their 8th grade soul-mate.  The overwhelming disappointment of not making the 2023 Olympic Gymnastics team. Dreams that don't pan out.  People who let them down.  It's all going to happen.  And isn't it my job to protect their little hearts from breaking?

No.  I suppose it's not.  My youthful heart broke.  I experienced loss and grief as a kid and managed my way to adulthood without crumbling.  And looking back on it all now...the heartbreaks, the losses, the deaths...how we get through them shapes how we receive joy and the big wins.  At least a little bit.  When my father died, I learned to welcome the grief and sit with it.  Allowing myself to grieve and really feel the loss opened me up to let more life in as I moved forward.  This is all to say that I suppose my job is not to protect my kids from the difficulties that their lives deal out.  My job is to let it happen, allow them to sit with it, comfort as needed and remind them that joy is waiting.

Now back to Spider-Man.  On the drive home from daycare, I told my son that his fish had died.
(Insert sweet, slow music here to set the scene...)

He asked if he could hold the fish.  So I dipped my hand down into the fish tank and pinch up the lifeless body of Spider-Man, dried him on a paper towel and placed it in the palm of my little boy's hand.  He stared at it for a long bunch of seconds, then looked up at me and whispered....."can I touch its eye?"  (Stop the music.)  Oh...um, yes you may touch its eye.  And with that, my son poked his finger in his dead fish's eye, and said (ever so quietly) "ew." And we walked down the hallway, tossed Spidey into toilet and gave him a flush.

So some losses, perhaps down the road, will be harder than others.  At least, I got through this one with a lesson learned.  Loss happens.  We sit with it.  Then poke it in the eye and flush it. Thank you, Spider-Man.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Kid Commitment

It's only taken me about 12 years, but I think I'm finally ready to commit to my kids.   All three of them, even.

I always wanted kids.  Always knew it'd be a mom.  It was no problem for me to get pregnant and I had three "easy" and wonderful birth experiences.  Then all of sudden I had three kids.  And I fought it.  Most parents I admire have a real understanding of surrendering to parenthood.   And at times I felt fully engaged and happy to jump feet first into my mother role.  I kicked ass at throwing birthday parties and making Halloween costumes and any sort of event that required my creativity.  But for the last 10+ years,  I can say that I fought fully committing to parenting.

Of course, I kept my kids safe and healthy.  Would I throw myself in front of train to save one of my kids?  Without question.  Would I catch the flu because they cough all over me while I'm tending to them?  Always.  Will I skip the newly-released Oscar-contending movie because we don't have a sitter?  Um....yes, but I will feel annoyed.  Will I miss out on dozens of party invitations?  Yes and I will feel resentful.  Will I go years without vacations because we have to afford daycare and school? You bet I will, and it will be a constant source of irritation.  Will I wake up on Sunday mornings and lament the fact that I have to entertain my own kids all day?  Yes...and my anger will probably ruin everyone else's Sunday.  And has.

I'm not sure why I started fighting committing to parenting.  My kids are pretty great and definitely fill my world with more life than I could have imagined.  But I started to agonize over all of the demands and sacrifices that come with choosing to have children.  I want to go to happy hour on a sunny afternoon with friends and not worry about picking anyone up.  I want to take a weekend trip with my husband without a thought about who we could even call to watch the kids overnight.  I want excess money in my bank account so we can take some vacations or buy a new car.   I want to check Facebook on my iPhone and not read Spiderman vs Dr Octopus for the 17th time.  I want a clean house with a guest bedroom that's not filled with Elmo and stickers on the ceiling.  I want...I want...I want....  This was becoming exhausting.

Finally, and mercifully, my heart adjusted to what I really want (I can't define exactly what happened other than the universe tapped me on the shoulder - or maybe hit me with a frying pan - and I realized my job and responsibilities were way beyond my selfishness).  I want a happy home with a ton of laughter (I know everyone says this, but most things are clich├ęs for a reason).  I want these people I chose to have and raise to feel confident and that they always matter.  I want them to know what
Way cooler than any happy hour.
unconditional love feels like so that they know how to give it.  I want my youngest son to know how to blow bubbles.  I want my middle son to feel awesome because he can spell his name.  I want my daughter to feel especially cool because she won the spelling B.  I want them to always feel that we are listening.  I want my kids to be raised by a mother who 100% wants to be their mom.  So...I commit to these three kids (and to their dad), and I surrender to the responsibility I signed up for over these last several years.  And I accept, with great love & pride, my role in these lives.  Without fighting it.  I'm exactly where I need to be and the payoff will be a thousand times greater than sleeping in on a Sunday. 

I still want a vacation and will get one soon enough when these kids grow into their  lives and away from us.  Until then...I am committed to loading them up in the old mini-van and taking them wherever we go on this crazy ride.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Mildly Mental, pt 1

I feel like I should start off by apologizing.  To my husband, my kids, my friends, my neighbors.  For the screaming, the intolerance, the ignoring, the lack of eye contact, the desire to disappear (just under a rock.  Don't get nervous).  I'm going through what I typically would refer to as a funk.  Over the years different things triggered the funk.  Work, childbirth, the weather, finances, my weight, parenting, a stranger's rudeness.  But a few years ago I nipped the funk in the bud with medication. 

A year or so ago I was put on Cymbalta for pain management due to fibromyalgia.  I was, along with probably everyone around me, delighted to see that it not only did ease the pain, but it also "lightened" my mood quite a bit.  Less ups & downs, fewer screaming episodes etc.  Funny what an anti-depressant can do for you.  Yes, my hands were no longer ham-hocks, I could get up from the floor without feeling like my body would crack and I could fall asleep with the pain in my kicking legs keeping me awake.  That was the entire point of the anti-depressant; pain management.  And it helped.  A lot. What seemed like a side-effect was that my edge was gone.  The funks were gone (or at least limited) and this was good for pretty much everyone around me.  I was "evened out."

And then I did what I think many people on "mood altering" drugs do; I felt better so I stopped taking them.  My body felt better.  My personality was much more calm and easy-going.  And to make the decision simple, my insurance stopped paying for the Cymbalta so I was going to need to contact my doctor to get on another brand of anti-depressant to manage pain (and personality).  So off I went.  At first, it was a rough week physically but then I was excited to see that the pain hadn't really come back and I was still plugging along really well with plenty of energy and good nature.   Then a month went by.

You know when you take a nap in the middle of the day, but sleep a little too long and you can't really fully wake back up.  So groggy that you might as well go back to bed.  That's a good way to understand what I feel like most of the time right now.  But mix in anger, frustration and physical pain. 

Please don't get distressed by this.  I tend to refer to myself as a sad clown.  I'm pretty good out in the world (still nailing the jokes, smiling at the check-out ladies, volunteering for too much and making plans for the summer).  My mild mental irritation (if you will) is directed more toward those who have to be around me every day.  Luckies.  Really,  I just don't want to be around anyone and for those unfortunate to live in my house, the price is paid by enduring my anger, frustration, disinterest, blame and general blahs.  Hence, starting this post with apologies to all these guys.

The point!  I actually have one.  The point for writing all of this down is to a.) express how completely disappointing and depressing it is to confirm for myself that I need to be on medication.  That it adjusts my personality to a place that makes me so much happier and removes the eggshells for everyone around me.  And b.) this is "part 1" of my little story as I thought I would follow up on my well-being once I get back on an anti-depressant that clearly manages quite a bit for me.  It's all okay.  It's going to be even more okay in a few weeks when the physical pain is under control and my severe edge is smoothed out a bit.   And now that I have accepted the fact that I need a little "support" in pill form to keep the rockiness at bay, I can continue to make summer plans and anticipate that they might actually be fun.  For everyone.  I will keep you posted.