Letter To My Son: Bad Dreams

Hello my little man,

It’s been some time since I last wrote you a letter. A year and some months, to be more precise. I wish I was better at writing down these little thoughts for you to read when you are older, as you are now while reading this one.

You were 10 1/2 and growing like a weed when you finally flew by yourself for the first time. It was a tough decision and one we didn’t make lightly. But the trips to your dad and stepmom’s for the holiday visit twice a year were becoming tough on all of us. 8 or so hours of driving in one day were putting more than just miles on our cars.

After years of putting it off, we finally booked you your own tickets and flew you to your dad. He greeted you with warm hugs and lots of love. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to hear that you touched down safely.

Even though you were in good hands and probably having the best time ever, I always worried. Every hour of every day that you were apart from me.

It didn’t matter that we would speak on the phone or send messages to each other while you were gone. The moment you left my side, the worry set in.

And when I started to settled down to sleep each night after worrying about you all day long, my brain would wander and I would begin to have bad thoughts. Much like dreams but without the being asleep bit.

I am the reason you had (and probably still have) an overactive imagination. In those brief moments of quiet awake-dreaming, my mind would drift to dark corners where you were no longer with us and I had to find a way to live without you.

In those moments, I would lose control of my thoughts and fear the worst, as silly as it could be. And I would hurt from my head to my toes. Tears would trickle down my cheeks quietly. Life without you would not be worth living because YOU, my son, give me purpose.

Those nights without you still haunt me. The realization that someone on this planet could mean so much to me that a life without them would be meaningless, was devastating. My world felt like it was being torn apart just at the thought of something bad happening to you. Thankfully, it never did.

As always, you’d come home, chattering away about how great things were and how much you loved sleeping in and staying up late, watching movies and playing video games while you grew closer to your dad and stepmom. Together you all made memories that would never fade.

While it was great to hear you so excited, my one thought each time I took you back into my arms after a long trip away was that I could start living again. My bad dreams had been nothing but just that: dreams.

And my purpose had returned to me and, it was you.

With all my heart,
Mama

 

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Letter To My Son: Our First Summer Together

Jake,

Ten years ago, I was pregnant with you. Barely showing but feeling pretty strange dealing with the early stages of being newly pregnant. That could be counted as our first summer together. The first warm months living with the knowledge of your existence and my new role as a mom.

Then you were born in February, a rainy cold month and for the next few months I would bundle you and cuddle you as much as I could. Soon the rain dried up and the summer humidity hit and we spent your first summer keeping cool as much as possible. You wore very little those days, sometimes simply gurgling and rolling around in just diapers.

This was our first summer but in reality it was not truly spent together. I worked through it, keeping us afloat. We spent some time together when I wasn’t teaching or tutoring but for the most part, you were in the care of your grandmother.

In your 9th summer, my job had changed and I was home with you for the first time. After years of spending summer with your grandmother or in a day care or day camp, I was finally getting to be your stay at home mom.

I saw this as an opportunity to share with you new adventures and for us to bond again.

Little did I know this would be the summer I’d let you go. This would be the first summer I’d get to see you and all your abilities, independence, and confidence. I’d see your strengths and know you wouldn’t need me much longer.

We went to the beach together one day to spend some time with our toes in ocean and building castles in the sand like we had when you were little. I had these big ideas for us, that we’d chat and share and build together, never foreseeing that instead I would watch you walk into the bigger waves and play without fear.

Without needing me.

I’m not sad to say this nor am I sad to have seen it happen. All mothers know they will have to let go and let their little ones fly at some point but knowing when is the big secret. Try as we might to hold on as long as we can, there is no fighting the feeling when the time comes to release you.

When you weren’t battling the onslaught of waves, you played in the sand and chatted with others around you, never once reaching into the bag of beach toys you so lovingly played with as a child. I saw those bright plastic toys and battered miniature trucks sitting forgotten next to me.

Together we watched you blossom in front of our eyes. You no longer need either of us. Your toys were now memories tucked into a bag, covered in dust and sand from trips to beach all the times before.

It was then that I felt a little sadness creep up on me, sitting next to your forgotten toys. I felt my breath catch and my heart stutter a step as you ran headlong into the waves, abandoning the hole you were digging, and smiled back at me with joy. You were free and in charge. You were growing up so fast.

You stood up in the water, jumped through waves and ducked under others. You sensed when a wave was too big and you would judge each appropriately, all the while smiling and laughing.

Like life, the waves came at you from many different angles and at so many different speeds. Some were big, some were small. Yet you faced each wave with determination and confidence. As I watched you jump and play and swim, a part of me wanted to keep you back on the shore, hold you close and keep you safe from the unknown lurking beneath the surface.

And yet, as you turned to wave at me before you ducked beneath another wave, I realized you are doing alright on your own. You knew you could swim back to me if you needed something, your anchor on the shore. For the most part, you just swam and gave in to that joyous feeling of weighing nothing in the big, blue expanse that is the ocean. You went into each wave with confidence.

As the water washed in and erased your digging spot, covering it up with new sand and burying your past works, my sadness washed away with it, replacing it with pride and peace.

You will always be mine. From your smile to your stubbornness and your over active imagination, you will always be my son.

I can only hope from here on out that you’ll continue to want me around. The anchor on your shore. The smile that glances back at you as you take on each wave of life.

Your anchor always,

Mama

Unending Cycle

It’s Sunday. A day of football and relaxing. Time to reset for the week and enjoy your time off before starting over again on Monday.

It’s Sunday and here I sit in an apron, smelling strongly of bleach and cleaning supplies, sipping a mild tea meant to help boost my ability to conceive this month.

This month marks a year and a half of trying to have a baby. That’s 19 months or about 82 weeks. Roughly about 575 days of the same thing each cycle: hoping, wishing, trying, logging, monitoring, and then nothing.

My job changed recently. I left the high stress job sitting at a desk Monday through Friday, 7:30-4:30 to a little less pay but a much larger reward. I’m stressing less and I’m home more. Plus I’m doing what I love and have passion for. I’m in the classroom teaching and touching lives.

Even with this change, each month is the same. We try and hope, crossing our fingers for a positive. Then nothing but the silence of one single pink line and another month gone.

We’ve done a lot on our own. We’ve changed our lifestyles, we’re keeping healthy (as we can) and we’re adding natural supplements to help boost our chances. But I’ve got to be real and accept that we may need the help of a doctor.

It feels silly to need help. Jake came into my life so easily and without even trying. But this struggle after having had a healthy pregnancy years ago is real and painful. I feel I’m failing and that something is wrong with me. And in some dark corner of my mind I also feel that I’ve done something wrong and this is my punishment.

Thanks Catholic upbringing.

We’ve been open when people ask about our goal to have more kids and we’ve been even more open about the fact that we’ve been trying for some time. This tends to be met with incredulous stares and confusion. They look at me and ask “But you’ve been pregnant already” like I don’t remember or that the thought hasn’t crossed my own mind, too. I know they don’t mean harm but it sucks to hear.

Oddly, as open as we can be, we don’t share much without being prompted first. I doubt more than a handful of people close to us know we’re trying and have been for over a year now. It’s kept close to our vest and if asked, we’ll chat. Otherwise, it’s a battle we fight alone.

Here we start another year, 2015. Another year, another month, another day to try again.

Letter To My Son: Your Girls

Dear Jacob,

I’m writing this letter to you in the middle of the summer. You are almost 8 1/2 and growing like a weed. Last night, even with a healthy snack or two and a full dinner including some of my soup followed by dessert after, you were still hungry. I swear I can’t feed you fast enough and I get the feeling that this is how things will be from here on out.

This is also the summer you got your first pets. After months of reading and prepping for it, we brought home two baby girl rats. And, you were beside yourself with glee.

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We named them Twinkletoes and Mia. Twinkletoes was white with a grey face and Mia was the same but with a brown face. The girls were terrified the moment we put them in their cage. They huddled together in the corner just shivering with fear. Poor babies…20140721-130148-46908747.jpg

But that didn’t stop you from loving them. The day after they came home you were up before the dawn to spend time reading to them. I could hear you quietly sharing your book and lovingly reading the story of some helpful penguins. But that wasn’t enough, you had to hold them. And try you did! You reached in without fear and held onto Twinkletoes with so much patience and grace. She wasn’t having any of it and not long after you can into my room in a panic to tell me she had gotten loose.

It didn’t matter. Your dad and I got her back in her cage and we calmed you down. You were so concerned and afraid for her but you wanted so badly to just hold her tight, to cuddle with her and to let her know she was loved. We planned to let them settle for a bit and not to force them out of their corner. You had other ideas…

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That little moment of panic didn’t stop you because you were determined to gain the girls’ trust. We spent time at the library pulling up books and you’d show me that we did, in fact, need to spend time holding the girls each day, even if they were scared. We needed to show them we could be trusted and that we didn’t mean them any harm. So I went with it. You presented such a strong case backed up with information you had researched that I couldn’t say no. Together we carefully reached in a pulled the girls out. Then, you cuddled and held your girls when they would let you and whispered sweet words of comfort to them and they listened. With you, they seemed at peace.

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And when they weren’t in your arms or hearing a story read to them, I found your nose deep in a book about rats and the best ways to care for them. You were like a sponge, soaking up everything bit of information to make you the best rat caretaker ever. It had become your mission in life to care for your girls as best as you could.

It’ll be interesting to hear you relive these days when you are grown. To hear what you thought and what your memories of these first pets were like. How you perceived yourself in this time, if you saw what we did. If you saw yourself as a dedicated friend to these four legged sweethearts. If you saw yourself grow both in spirit and heart as you learned to care for something smaller than you.

Son, I saw this happening before my eyes. In those first few days with the girls you aged and matured so quickly. I saw you go from the boy who had to have the last word in EVERY argument to the boy who thought of his pets first. They were the first things you checked on when we got home, they were your first thoughts in the morning, and you were always thinking of new ways to engage them and play with them.

It felt like overnight you went from a boy to a young man. You had a purpose and it was to love and care for your girls.

I hope when you look back on these times that it is with love and positive memories of a time when you were very happy.

Love,

Your Mama

The Hat

This is a story about a hat. A hat that was just a simple baseball cap but ended up becoming a symbol of hate. My hate.

It all started when our son told us he wanted to play baseball instead of soccer in spring. Being that neither my husband nor I are baseball fans, we asked our son a number of times whether he truly wanted to play. After answering yes each time we asked, we gave in and signed him up. Spring was looking to be rather interesting.

As the holiday season ended and the new year rolled around, emails came slowly started trickling in from coaches and managers and officials of the league informing us of events to warm up the players and try-outs for the teams. Knowing as little as I did about this sport, I went into it thinking this should be fun! And new! And exciting. I was still thinking this until try-outs arrived and I realized the kids would not only try-out but would be marked down and drafted by the coached sitting quietly on the first base line. They were judging each player based on the skills they showed instead of a blind numbering system that I had known in soccer. Oh man… This mama was not ready to watch her son get judged, even though I understand why. Then realization of how different baseball was from soccer hit me and I had a sinking feeling.

But I brushed it off and went along, encouraging my child to believe that this will be fun and that he only had to stick out the season if he didn’t like it because we didn’t believe in quitting. We worked through things we were afraid of or things that we were uncertain of. While I was speaking to him, I know my words were meant more for me. I was telling myself not to quit and pull him from the possibly HUGE mistake we were making and stick him back into soccer, a sport we all know and like.

Then the final nail in the coffin came, sealing my doubt in with my fears. It came in the form of a parent meeting for all rookie players. At this meeting we were given our practice schedule and our practice location. They also explained our game schedule for the season and all the little tidbits of information needed: expectations, volunteers, events, the usual. My husband attended this and sent me back text messages that made the pit at the bottom of my stomach grow larger. We’d have two practice a week, throwing off our whole routine. There would also be a weekday game (WHY?!) and a weekend game.

So we sucked it up and shook off the initial shock of how much was involved and the scramble that would become our lives from now until the end of the season. And I realized that our son was hearing our doubts and voiced his concern that he’d made a mistake in choosing baseball. That shut us up fast. If he wanted to play, we’d make it work. From here on out, I’d have to silence my concerns and just fake it through.

It wasn’t until the first practice that made me realize how big a of a mistake we’d made. After practice, our son was lamenting how he missed soccer and didn’t like baseball. Oh boy… this was not what we needed to hear. Knowing now that he was only lukewarm to the idea of baseball made us feel even more hesitant. Was this a bad idea? Could we still get out of it? Instead we told him to give it a little bit longer to get used to it. That we didn’t quit things we started but if after this season it didn’t work, then it didn’t work. But, together as a family, we’d make it through this first season come hell or high water.

I only half believed what I was telling him.

By the second practice we were receiving both emails and text messages about all the goings on of this overly involved sport that neither of us liked. And each mention of the team made me grumpier and more frustrated. How could we have been so mislead to think that a family of two working parents could make this work? Who can make 4:30 pm practices twice a week when both parents have jobs?! This was becoming a perfect pitch for multiple wives. More hands, more help. But I digress.

At the second practice, it was asked that all players brought their hats and $25 for some embroidery to be done on them. Well, we never made it due to issues with homework not being finished so his hat was still with us. On Sunday we were reminded about uniform pickup and to bring the hat, too. That way the team moms could take it all in to get stitched and ready for our first games. Come Sunday, we were ready, cap and money in hand. We got our uniforms all picked out and sized up and then we left… with the damn hat. Somehow I had missed the memo that we were to leave the hat. I didn’t know who to give it to or what we were to do it with and somehow my husband didn’t know that I didn’t know so he didn’t do anything either.

So we left. With the hat.

Suddenly I get a message. The team mom realized they didn’t have our hat and wanted us to come back to drop it off. We were already out of the area and on our way to our delayed beach day with my sister, a day that was supposed to be a brunch date but got moved to late lunch when we found out our uniform pickup time conflicted with our plans. So no, we weren’t going to turn around and come back. Instead we made plans to drop it off the next day.

It was that moment that I started to hate that hat. The hat was nothing more than a piece of clothing but it became a symbol of something more. Of our frustration, of our lives slowly being whittled away by a sport that none of us, even our son, was really all that interested in. A sport that he wanted to just try for a season that was now consuming us. My running schedule was being disrupted and my husbands work schedule and gym sessions were being moved around. Everything was changing. Our happy little life was slowly being rearranged for baseball, a sport none of us loved.

As we all woke this morning, the moods were light and fun as we gave each other hugs and kisses goodbye. Everyone seemed to be in good moods. That was until I realized I hadn’t sent the address of our team mom to my husband for the hat drop off. It had slipped my mind. As I pulled up to drop off our son at his grandmother’s house, I sent a quick message containing the contact information to him when I saw out of the corner of my eye the lurking black bill of our son’s baseball hat.

The damn thing was with me. Sigh….

Dropping him off with a quick word and a kiss from my mother, I jumped back in the car fuming. I had to retrace my route and go back home to give my husband the hat so that he could drop it off for us. And this made me 30 minutes late to work. I was not a happy mama.

In a joking manner, I took a picture of me giving the hat the Bird and sent it to my husband for a good laugh. And we did chuckle at it. It was funny and stupid to flip off a hat because you are angry but it also had a deeper meaning to us. This hat, this season, this sport, was slowly becoming everything that was making us mad. It symbolized all of our frustrations and anxieties over how we would pull this off. It was the visible reminder of our big mistake.
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The hat is now in the possession of the embroidery shop that is stitching our son’s name to the back of it along with his name on his jersey. And to add insult to our already tender wounds that this damn hat inflicted over the past two days, we received the schedule for our games. From Monday-Thursday and then Saturday, our lives are now all baseball, the sport we are slowly hating more and more each day. The messages between my husband and I are littered with colorful words and a deep sense of frustration and anger. Anger at the loss of control over our schedules, the inability to foresee how this sport was going to affect us and change everything. And, personally, I think this has opened our eyes to how much we love our lives and how much we love the schedule we had built carefully and meticulously.

For now we’ll have to decide if this is something we can make happen without putting too much strain on our family. We’re also going to have to pool our resources in the form of babysitters, grandmothers, and family members that can be there if we can’t. And if we can’t make it happen, then we’ll at least have the ability to say we tried but it just wasn’t for us.

Press Pause!

Stop! Everything just stop for one god damn minute!!!

I know this is a ridiculous request but I feel like my world is spinning out of control and I have no way of slowing things down so I can just make a quick list of what the hell is going on then put things into motion again.

Kinda like playing a game. When things get too much or you lose sight of your objective, you can press pause and make a note, check your positioning, then you hit play and the game goes on.

But this is life, it’s not a game. And I’m completely lost. There is so much going on I feel like I’m in the middle of a storm that has no end in sight.

First there is the loan process. We’re applying for a home loan and the steps taken just to get that started has been migraine inducing. Then there is the timing. We have a lease till June and we’d like to buy a house to move into so we can’t look too soon or too late. Too soon and we’ll be stuck with double payments or breaking a lease. Too late and we’ll have to find temporary living quarters. So when it the right time to look? I feel the strain of being stuck in limbo and the pressure is making the migraine in progress get worse.

Now for the kidlet. He’s been struggling and fighting against school work. So we’re changing things up. A sitter is going to come to our house and take care of him and help him with homework instead of him going to daycare. This will give him someone to work with in the comfort of his own home. We hope to see some positive outcomes from this. Although it’s a great move, it makes me nervous. We’re saying goodbye to a center that is always open and always there and relying just on one person to make sure she arrives on time to take care of him. I don’t feel that she wouldn’t, we’ve interviewed her and feel good with our choice, but I feel like my safety net has been removed beneath this tightrope I’ve been walking.

On top of that, the kidlet asked to be in baseball this season. A sport neither his dad nor I play. Well, we were very unprepared when we heard that we are committed to two practices a week and two games, one weekday and one weekend. Huh?! How in the hell are we supposed to fit this in?! So now we’re scrambling (at least it feels like we are) to figure this new twist into our already busy week.

I could cry… And I have. My emotions seem to be sitting on the surface and I get teary without much provocation. Watching a show, I cry. Reading a book, I tear up. Playing a video game, I choke back my sobs. The stress and swirling madness that is our life right now seems to be weighing on me heavily and I can’t find a calm place to rest my mind and detach from all the changes and the big life questions we have in front of us to just breathe and recenter myself.

And the worst part is that I don’t feel I have time or the availability to really get everything out. I don’t have an outlet. Even my running isn’t defusing the issue. I run and put all my hurt and sadness and frustrations and anger on the pavement. I’ll feel a little relief but it lasts a few hours then I’m back to square one feeling shitty and overwhelmed.

Deep breaths. Loud music. Quiet reading time. Lots of water and less junk food. I’m taking all these steps to alleviate my frustrations and sometimes it works. Most times it doesn’t.

I’d just like a break…

The Teacher vs. The Mother

My son is blessed with a curse, I am his mother but I’m also a teacher. Fully credentialed, passionate. I fall into teacher mode often with him, working through his homework and discussing classroom behavior modifications options to help him succeed in class.

Recently we were told that Jake would have an SST (student success/support team meeting) to give him a boost in school. An SST, at least as I remember them in the past, were meant to create a plan for that individual child that would be recorded and kept with his file. Areas that needed improvement (reading, math, study skills, testing, behavior) would be brought up and then a plan would be created to help him improve.

Since he started elementary school last year I could tell that Jake would need extra help. He struggled to focus in class and found writing to be exceptionally difficult both in mechanics (a slight delay in fine motor skills) but also in finding motivation to get it done. Last year was difficult and a lot of tears were shed over homework and many meetings with his teacher were had. But the change from last year to this year has been extraordinary. He’s received more support and so far we’ve seen him adapt in areas and improve.

Even so, his teacher and school staff have seen a need for more and so in we go to the depths of the public school support system to get him what he needs to keep up this momentum.

I’m pleased, thrilled even. But the bigger concern of mine is, do I go in with teacher mode on in the background or am I there to just be his mother?

Any teacher who is also a parent must know how this feels. To have the knowledge and educational background to teach in the system and run meetings like this but understanding you are there for your own child and not a student. To be his advocate and to bridge the gap between home and school but nothing more.

How do I turn it off? How do I stop teacher mode and instead go in as mom? Is it possible? It must be and I think the next couple of weeks until the meeting takes place I’ll be talking and working out a way to have both sides of me be there without one stepping on the other. To blend the two.

My son is my son first, and not my student. So I must be his mother first. His mother always.