Thursday, May 30, 2013

Parenting failure #1

Every year, our elementary school sends the second graders to the high school natatorium to have swim lessons. Pathetically, while I could swim and dive by age six, my children cannot. Of course, I grew up in Arizona and California and had pools in each backyard. I learned to swim by being dropped in the deep end. My kids have to be driven somewhere to learn how to swim. A task that seems Herculean, especially in a part of the country where winter = temperatures below freezing. And Things #1-3 take karate two or three times a week. I realize being able to swim is important. But so is being able to kick ass.

Random aside - who uses the word natatorium? Pretentious people, that's who. It's an indoor pool in York County. Stop trying to dress it up with Latin.

Anyway, so today was the Big Day for Thing #2. She can kinda-sorta swim, but I was glad she'd get instruction from a kinda-sorta professional. I'd packed a bathing suit and a towel in a bag and placed it near her backpack in the hopes she'd remember it. Towels are provided, but according to Thing #1, they are "nasty." Thing #2 asked me this morning where her swim stuff was. I pointed to the bag. And said it was right next to her backpack. Which it was.

This afternoon, Thing #4 had a phone check for her pacemaker. I picked her up from daycare and took her home so my husband could show me how to do it. How many lawyers does it take to perform a pacemaker phone check? Apparently only two, but only because Thing #4 is still nursing and she was more interested in eating than squirming and trying to get away from the donut/magnet that sends... something to the pacer clinic where they determine whether she's good to go for another three months.

As I left to go back to work - Thing #4 got to spend the afternoon with daddy and the Backyardigans - I noticed the gym bag by the table. Yep - Thing #2 left it at home. And my husband went home for it. But he didn't bother to check the contents of the bag he grabbed from the pantry and dropped off at school. Imagine my daughter's surprise when she dug into the bag and found, not the tie-dyed one-piece she thought would be there, but her sister's Jack Skellington hoodie. Awesome. I drove back to the office imagining her sobbing by the side of the pool as everyone else got to swim.

To my surprise, she wasn't upset at all. It turns out they had spare swimsuits. If the towels were nasty, I can only imagine what the suits are like. But she didn't care. Her only comment as we left the school was, "It's not like I have lice, mommy." Well, that's something.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Tampon Quarter

My husband’s family is Greek. Weirdly, that fact is an essential part of this blog post.

Recently, the Greek church in our area turned seventy-five and a celebratory dinner was held at the Harrisburg Hilton. We were on the guest list, along with our four children. My husband thought we should arrange for a baby sitter. After pointing out that the evening would include, at a minimum, several speeches in Greek about the founding of the church, prayers from the local priests as well as the bishop from Pittsburgh, and half-an-hour of Greek dancing by sullen children forced into it by their parents, he saw the wisdom of bringing our kids, including the baby, a/k/a Mommy’s little exit strategy.

About an hour in, long after the appetizer tables had emptied but before we’d been handed the ubiquitous Greek salads, we saw a film. It reminded me of those slideshows we’d watched in elementary school. Back in the dark ages, before the rise and fall of the Betamax machine. The need to change slides was heralded by a loud beep. Particularly memorable was a slideshow of Lord of the Flies. I was in fifth grade when I watched it.

Piggy is chased across the sand, while the narrator states in a flat voice, “Kill the pig! Cut his throat!”

Time and wine has blurred what I learned about the Greek immigrants who came to the Central Pennsylvania area. I do know my husband’s grandfather was responsible for bringing a large percentage of them here. He gave them a place to live and a job until they could stand on their own. He drank twenty cups of coffee a day until his doctor told him to quit. After that, he drank twenty cups of hot water. He died when my husband was seven. I wish I’d met him.

At some point, I got up to use the restroom, dragging Thing #2 with me. She’s eight and still pathologically reluctant to use the bathroom until she is no longer capable of physical movement.

While washing my hands, I noticed her messing with something attached to the wall. The tampon machine.  “T, wash your hands.”

“I did.”

“Leave that alone, you don’t need anything from it.”

She continued to screw with the tampon machine. Oblivious to the black clad seniors walking in and out and clucking to themselves in Greek. No doubt speculating that the obsession with the tampon machine is related to her being not one-hundred-percent Greek.

“Seriously, T. Let’s go.”

“Look mommy!” She triumphantly displayed the quarter, once wedged in the money slot, now freed by her efforts.

I made her wash the quarter, and her hands, and we returned to the table. Seconds later, Thing #1 announced she had to use the bathroom. She and her sister proceeded to check every tampon machine within a fifty-yard radius. At one point, the tampon quarter was dropped in a toilet. It had become Thing  #2’s precious. Something so wondrous, she could not put it down to pee. Although, in drafting this, it occurred to me she’d peed right before she found the damn thing in the first place. It’s best not to think too hard about how it got in the toilet.

The tampon quarter took several baths that night.

On the way to my mom’s house (the girls were staying the night with her), Thing #2 asked me what a tampon was. I promptly told her to, “ask Nammer.”

“Do you think she has one at the house? So she can show her what one looks like?” my husband asked.

I thought that unlikely, since my mom hasn’t had a uterus in about two decades.

The next day, I was informed by Thing #2 that tampons were disgusting. As someone who’s experienced the joy of menstruation for thirty-odd-years now, I could only agree.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

Things that should never be

Small coffins.
A nursery decorated for a baby who didn't come home.

When Thing #4 was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, I immediately started googling. Looking for any sort of support group that could help me. My daughter had a host of people just waiting to help her. Seven of them were in the OR when she was born. I needed to find other moms and dads who understood how I felt. Who could tell me what to expect - good and bad.

I found them. And they are the most amazing group of people I could ever know. I've only met four of them in real life. But, funny thing, in so many ways I know them better than people I see every day.

When something tragic happens, like the murders in Newtown, I hug my kids a little tighter and pray for the families of those lost. While I might have some fear for "what if," I don't send my kids to school with any expectation that the same thing will happen there.

But when a heart baby dies? I cry. Because my heart is breaking for the pain her family must feel. Because they have realized my worst fear. And because there is no guarantee it won't be my child next. If I could give my heart to my daughter, I would. How I wish I could do that.

So screech away, little girl. Spit up on my sweaters. Blow through a diaper. Or a hundred. I'll take it all. I am so blessed to have you. To take any of it for granted is a disservice to those who would give the world for that two a.m. wake up which came an hour after the last one.

Fly high Ollie and Ali, and all the ones who didn't make it. You will never be forgotten.