WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

Things I Learned at the Playground April 18, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 5:35 pm
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Photo by Robin McPherson on Pexels.com

“It’s school vacation for Rylin next week,” I’d said while talking with a friend last weekend.

“Oh, nice!” she’d said. Then, “What do you two have planned?” It was a logical question. No school means we should take the opportunity to do something fun. A year ago, we were the type of family that was almost never home on weekends and most weeknights, too. But now? I’ve grown accustomed to staying home. Comfortable NOT doing stuff. Too comfortable maybe. So I gave my friend all the same excuses I’ve used for a year now. “Nothing planned. Don’t forget I’m not vaccinated yet. And things aren’t normal here still. We still have to socially distance and wear masks.” My friend offered a simple, “Mmm” in response, which I could’ve taken as a sign of agreement, that I’d made the right choice by not planning anything. But come Monday, day one of school vacation, I was still thinking about that friend’s “Mmm.” And the more I thought about it, the more it sounded like a gentle nudge. A kind reminder that life didn’t end when the pandemic started. And she was right.

“Let’s go to the library playground,” I suggested to my exuberant seven year old on Tuesday morning. It felt to me like a good compromise; something she’d be excited to do outside of our home or yard yet, still very low risk. When I said the words, Rylin’s eyes and spirit perked up. The library playground is THE place to play in town for the ages 3 to 12 crowd. And we hadn’t been in over a year, thanks to the pandemic. “Yesssss!” she whooped.

I reminded her that sandals aren’t the best for running so she put on socks and sneakers. I suggested we put her hair up so it’s out of her face when she’s playing. She asked to bring one of her babies, pretending she was a teacher and this was a field trip. And soon enough, we were loaded into the car, water bottles in tow, ready for a fun time.

We stopped for lunch on the way so our first order of business at the library was a little picnic under the pavilion. As we ate our sandwiches, I watched her glance around. She commented at how long it had been since we’d been there, how many kids were there playing, and how a couple people didn’t have on masks. And then lunch was over. I put my mask back on, disposed of our trash, and told her I’d be right there at our table, reading, while she plays. “Okay, mom!” And she was off, leaving me to chaperone MaryEllen, her one student on our field trip.

Within a few minutes, though, Rylin was back at the table beside me. She was unpacking MaryEllen’s backpack, which was full of hair accessories. As she spritzed her doll’s hair with its spray bottle and began brushing it, she admitted, “I’m feeling a little lonely.” I pointed out all the kids around her age and suggested she say hello to one of them. She lowered her gaze and said, “Everyone already has a friend to play with except for me.” I again suggested that she says hello to someone and asks them to play. I even offered to help her talk to someone. She shook her head, told me she could do it on her own, and ventured out again.

Her second attempt lasted about as long as her first. Only this time, I watched her rather than read. I saw her retreat to the least populated area of the playground, putting as much distance as possible between herself and the other kids. When she shuffled back to our table, I pointed out to her that talking to a new friend would be easier if she played in the same area as the other kids. She sat beside me, brushing MaryEllen’s hair again, and eked, “I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

It was as if I was listening to myself. I understood completely but asked her to say more anyway. “What’s making you feel overwhelmed?” She hesitated a moment, thinking. It wasn’t that some people weren’t wearing masks. It wasn’t even that there were too many people. It was that they were strangers. And in that moment, my year’s worth of gushing about how incredibly resilient she’d been throughout the pandemic came crumbling down. I realized that the pandemic HAD changed her. A year ago, she loved meeting new people. She’d say hello or just start playing with new friends without thinking twice. But since March 2020, she hasn’t even seen a stranger. And now, in April 2021, she doesn’t know how to meet someone new, even when they’re right in front of her.

I helped her brush and braid her doll’s hair, all the while reminding her of the kid she was a year ago. We talked about how the pandemic had changed the things we do, how we do them, and how we feel about all of it. We also talked about how life is slowly starting to get back to normal, and how we have to, too.

She made a short-lived third attempt at playing with the other kids but came back crying moments later, complaining about a twisted ankle following a jump down from the monkey bars. “Let’s head home,” I suggested for not my first time since we’d arrive. “Okay,” she finally agreed. She sounded defeated, and not just because of her ankle. On the car ride home, we talked more about feeling a little nervous to do some of the things that once came naturally to us. “It’s not that you CAN’T talk to new friends. You’re just out of practice,” I pointed out.

On Wednesday, Rylin was very eager to accompany me to my first vaccine appointment. As we got ready to leave, I pointed out what a beautiful day it was and asked if she might want to try visiting the playground again. To my surprise, she said yes. But our second day at the library went much like the first; me encouraging her to say hello to someone, her shying away from everyone, and the two of us styling her baby’s hair until it was time to go.

As we drove home that afternoon, she mused that she didn’t understand why she feels so overwhelmed about talking to new people. And I leveled with her. “Life has been very strange this past year and some of the things that used to be easy for us just feel different right now. But we have to keep trying.” Then I admitted to her that lots of normal things make me feel nervous now, too. I suggested to her that we both keep working on the things that make us feel overwhelmed.

We spent a rainy Thursday at home relaxing. Babying ourselves. Me, with a sore arm from my vaccine. Her, with a bruised ego from two trips to the playground without peer interaction. I took some time to reflect on how wrong I was to believe we’d made it through the pandemic unscathed. I silently acknowledged that many of my own anxieties about life returning to semi-normalcy are beginning to encroach on unhealthy. I also admitted to myself that she was drinking it all in. My emotions. How I respond to the world around us. I was poisoning her.

“Let’s go on a date,” I proposed on Friday morning. It was raining. We’d had two failed attempts at the playground already and really needed an emotional victory, a morale boost. “How about bowling?” I asked. On our way to the alley, I talked candidly about how I’ve been nervous about being around other people. “Ever notice that for the past year, Daddy has done most of our shopping and stuff outside the house?” I asked. She nodded. “I’ve been scared. But just because I haven’t gone out much doesn’t mean I CAN’T. So today we’re going to do it!”

We bowled two games, just the two of us, masks and all. And when we were done, we treated ourselves to ice cream. I worked hard, actively, to not let any of it bother me. Not the having to wear a mask, not the interacting with the bowling alley staff, not the ordering or paying for ice cream. I made a choice to not poison her with my anxiety. Instead, I fed her a steady diet of positivity and lightheartedness. And it worked. “That was a lot of fun and I wasn’t even that nervous. Thanks for being my date,” I smiled at her in the rear view mirror as we pulled back into our driveway. “You’re welcome,” she smiled back.

As life continues to inch closer to normalcy, my goal is to be more mindful of what I feed her soul, to remember that she’s drinking it all in and learning from me. I owe it to her to show her how to be responsible and cautious, sure. But also how to be happy, confident, comfortable in her skin. How to know her worth, take no shit, and not settle for less than she deserves. How to be brave. Fearless, even. How to not let anything stop her from accomplishing everything she wants in life.

It’s a tall order we have, us parents, navigating our kids back on track post-pandemic. But it’s time. And someday when she’s older, I’ll tell her the story of how it was her who taught me how to reenter normal life.

 

Surthrival and Socks March 8, 2021

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 4:56 pm
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Day 27: Write about something that’s kicking ass right now.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Leon C. Megginson

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

One year ago, I was packing up a few necessities from my desk at work; performance reports, letterhead, a flash drive with some commonly used forms, log-in information for my remote connections, shipping supplies, vehicle titles for on-lot assets. I was attending the last PTO meeting held in person at my daughter’s school; the dozen or so of us huddled around the library table, trying to plan for the unknown of what “two weeks” of remote learning would look like for our school community. I was trying to source face masks, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper while also shopping for enough staple grocery items to get us through the quarantine. I was trying, and failing, at managing my anxieties over our “new normal” which felt like anything but.

So here we are. A full year later. I’ve learned lots of new words and concepts, thanks to the pandemic. Social distancing. Cohorts. Pods. Contract tracing. PPE. I thought I’d learned all the new vocabulary that COVID was going to teach me but then I saw the word “surthrive.” It’s one of those words that feels self-explanatory to me, calling to mind lots of vibrant, powerful images. Pinterest moms converting play rooms into color coded “distance learning” centers. Artists channeling their feelings—fear, grief, hope—into something beautiful. People finding new and inventive ways to socialize in a world where it’s not recommended, even frowned upon. But what about me? Have I surthrived? Well, if a house that’s more disorganized thane ever or laundry baskets that lean heavily toward pajamas are signs of surthrival then my answer is a resoundingly emphatic YES.

All kidding aside, our one year Coronaversary seems like a good time to reflect on the good that’s come out of this wild time. And maybe ‘good’ is a bit of a lofty description. Perhaps ‘goodish’ is better. Positive little silver linings to an otherwise dumpster fire of a year. Ways that the pandemic has forced change for the better. Here are some of the worthwhile lessons that I’ve learned in 2020/2021:

  • Family is everything. This includes my chosen “framily,” too. They’re the people I rely on to pull me out when my brain is playing tricks on me, telling me that it’s going to rain forever. The ones I can reach out to in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep because too many thoughts are racing through my mind. The ones I choose to share my Thanksgiving table with when the local government restricts gatherings to ten people or fewer. The ones I avoid getting together with, despite missing them like crazy, purposely to protect them. The people whose laughter and tears and sometimes stern words have carried me through one of the toughest yet most transformative years of my life. Being separated physically by my family has been difficult emotionally. But that emotional discomfort has really been eye opening. They’re my crew. And no matter what, near or far, we need each other.
  • Just go with the flow. I never set out to be a stay at home mom, yet here we are. A big part of my identity has always been wrapped up in work and, before that, school. Success, the value of me, was measured by grades or commissions. Now? A productive day is one where I’ve managed to keep the house from being ripped apart and successfully overseen my daughter’s remote learning without completely losing my shit. And lemme tell you, they’re not all productive days. There have been several times this year when her school had to close unexpectedly due to too many teachers quarantining to open the building. There was even a week that her daycare closed for the same reason. Pre-covid, those unexpected speedbumps would’ve derailed me. I’d feel flustered as I scramble to make arrangements for someone else to care for my daughter so I could still go to work. But this year has taught me that my professional life is just one facet of who I am. And it’s not even in the top ten of most important things about me because it’s changeable. And even when it changes, I’m still me. And the me I am today, knowing this now, is a more relaxed me. I’m truly embracing the concept that some things are just out of our control. And worrying about those things is futile.
  • Don’t take life too seriously. I read early in the “two week” shutdown, which has spanned the past year, that kids need some extra slack to help them through these uncertain times. The recommendation was to loosen up on rules. Maybe not pay so much attention to screen time limits, especially since their iPads are their classrooms. Be fun and spontaneous. Show them a bit of whimsy. Make home feel relaxed and magical. Somedays that means an impromptu dance party in the living room. Other days, it’s a family movie night complete with copious amounts of junk food. It’s laughing a little louder at jokes that aren’t really that funny and slowing down enough to really enjoy snuggle time before bed. But you know what else it is? Fun socks. A year ago, I exclusively wore black socks with dress pants and white socks with jeans. And that’s only when I’m not wearing flip flops, which, let’s be real, is what’s on my feet about nine months out of every year. But this past winter, I opened my sock drawer and pushed aside the bland, predictable choices opting instead for the fun ones. Toe socks. Grippy socks. Fuzzy socks. The more wild or comfy, the better. Last night’s were crocheted from blue yarn and had Snoopy wearing santa hats dangling from a bow at the ankles. Right now, they’re leopard print and soft as clouds. Gosh, if there’s one thing from this pandemic that “sticks” moving forward in my life, I hope it’s the socks.
  • Life is hectic even when there’s nothing to do. I remember being in college, long long ago. I remember taking 18 credits, holding down two on-campus jobs, and rushing off to an unpaid internship while also maintaining a long distance relationship with my (now) husband, forging friendships with new friends, and taking the three hour drive home as often as I could. And throughout those years, I remember thinking how easy life would be when I “only” had to work. Transitioning into adult life after college felt just as hectic, though. Work, home ownership, marriage, parenting…it all started to pile up. And I remember musing that things would be so much easier if I just had time to do X, Y, and Z. Then BAM. Covid closed down the world and suddenly there was nothing but time. Now my multitasking includes all the same household stuff it always has but it’s amplified by the fact that we. never. leave. home. There are meals and endless snacks to prepare, laundry and dishes that seem to never dwindle, plus letting the dog out and in and out and in a dozen times an hour. There are also the same parenting stuff to do, again, amplified by ALWAYS being home. There’s “home schooling” and advocating for my daughter, reminding her to do basic things that no one should need to be reminded to do, reminding her to clean up after herself, diffusing the meltdowns that pop up almost daily, and finding ways to keep her emotionally happy. There’s still school-related obligations, including PTO meetings (on Zoom) and helping to moderate the school’s Facebook page by answering the same dozen or so parent-posed questions, ad infinitum. And then there’s my dad to think about. Does he have groceries? Has the snow been shoveled from his walkway? Can I get him registered for his vaccine? (Spoiler alert: Nope. No available appointments for my 71 year old father with comorbidities yet the state keeps opening eligibility to more and more age brackets.) And finally, there’s checking in with other family and friends. Being a support person for my support people. So many hours and yet I’m still breathless at the end of the day, wondering where they all went.
  • Self care is mandatory. I didn’t mention myself in that to-do list, did I? But this past year has helped me see that taking care of my own mental health is vital to me being able to care for the ones I love. For me, that includes locking myself in my bedroom sometimes for an hour of quiet time. Reading more. Writing more. Binging more trashy reality TV. Discovering new music. Journaling. Hopping in the car to take a drive. Allowing myself space to cry if I need to. Learning something new. It also means trying to recognize and give myself credit for the good I bring to my family, our household, and cutting myself some slack on the days that I’m not my best. I’ve let too many years of my life slip by feeling guilty for ever putting myself first. That chapter is done. Simple as that.

LOTS has changed in the past year. And, all things considered, we’ve managed reasonably well. Vaccines are here. Transmission rates are down. Capacity limits and other restrictions are starting to loosen up. And optimism is poking through the holes, shining light onto a bright future of actual normalcy. It’s closer than ever before and I’m ready for it. I’m not the person I was at this time last year but you know what? I’m so thankful for that.

 

Shrouded in Mom Guilt February 23, 2021

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 5:41 pm
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Day 26: Write about an area in your life that you’d like to improve.

Photo by Andrew Beatson on Pexels.com

There is a dark cloud that has followed me around since I found out I was pregnant with my now 7-year old. Sometimes I can brush it away or at the very least ignore it. But other times it swirls all around me, gusts of wind and pelting rain. An unrelenting storm. Mom Guilt.

I felt the cloud almost immediately after reading the positive pregnancy test and began calculating her conception date. Real nice. On Labor Day weekend, you were drinking. And pregnant, apparently. Some mother you are…. A talk with my nurse midwife at my first appointment allayed my fears, though, and allowed me to ignore the cloud. I kept going to Zumba and counting counting calories, business as usual with fitness and nutrition. And then my midwife said, “You need to eat more calories. You’re growing a human!” So I kept going to Zumba but stopped counting calories. And then my midwife told me I was gaining too fast. So I started skipped meals. And then my midwife told me to make sure I’m eating. And that was the first time I heard the wind whistling in my ears. How are you going to take care of a baby when you can’t even get pregnancy right?

But for the most part, I was able to control that niggling little cloud in the beginning. Shrug things off. Feel confident in my actions, my choices along the way. The first real storm didn’t come until sometime in the middle of my pregnancy while choosing furniture for the nursery. “We don’t need the matching dresser. Any regular white dresser from a furniture store would be fine,” my husband suggested, trying to talk me out of the overpriced piece that matched the style and finish of the crib we’d selected. The wind started to pick up then. And then the raindrops. And there I was, big belly, swollen feet, emotions all off kilter, crying in the furniture department at Babies R Us about how my little girl NEEDS the matching dresser. If she doesn’t deserve the matching set then you don’t deserve to raise her. Needless to say, I got the dresser.

Winds continued swirling after that, always there, always ready. Choosing a daycare provider; Really? You’re going to let a stranger raise your child for you? Creating a birth plan; Oh, an epidural? Sure, if you want to give birth to a drugged up baby. Planning for after her arrival; Unless you choose cloth diapers, you may as well just kill the planet now. And those were just the battles with my own mind. There were also guilt trips from family, friends, even perfect strangers. You’re going to deprive her of all sorts of health benefits unless you breast feed. And are you SURE you want to vaccinate?

She was born at 10:30 on a clear, sunny Tuesday morning. But the cloud was still there, and had grown in size. I laid in bed, exhausted from labor, and wept to my husband. I was too tired, too sore, too…spent. I watched as he changed her diapers and swaddled her. He was blossoming into the best dad before my very eyes. And then there was me. Physically and emotionally just used up, unable to help. I let the nurses wheel her bassinet out of the room so I could sleep at night, something we had said we didn’t want to rely on. I smiled and chatted with family and friends who came to visit as they held her, fed her. You’re not enough, the wind whispered to me. You don’t know how to take care of her.

That pesky dark cloud has continued to loom over me, sometimes huge and menacing, other times a bit less calamitous looking, but always threatening rain. All seasons. Each decision made, large or small. During the good times; milestones hit, new skills learned. You could be doing better as her mom, you know. During the not so good times; a minor injury, a temper tantrum. You’re failing her. Every time I raise my voice or lose my patience with her. This is damaging her psyche. Dropping her off at daycare. You’re missing out on so much. Good moms stay home and raise their own babies. Needing a break. What kind of mom ARE you?

In a blink of an eye, she was ready to start Kindergarten. This marked the start of a new era. Bigger, darker clouds. She’s bored at school. She needs more of a challenge. If you don’t do something, she’s going to hate school. A good mom would recognize that public school isn’t the place for her. She needs homeschooling. And then in March of her first grade year, COVID-19 hit. School went remote “for two weeks” which stretched into the rest of her academic year and beyond. Dance class switched to zoom meetings. Spring soccer didn’t happen. I was powerless to it all. But those clouds convinced me otherwise. She needs socialization. She’s had so much taken away from her. How will she ever bounce back from this? But, this was my chance! Unprecedented time to bond! Homeschooling (sort of)! And yet, I managed to fail at that, too. Tsk, tsk. Where’s your patience? Do you want her to fall behind? Get this right or she’s going to suffer.

Then, today happened. Thanks to a hybrid learning schedule that includes zoom classes three days per week, I was witness to a lockdown drill. “Don’t worry. It’s just a drill,” my second grader told me as she waited at her iPad for the teacher to return to the screen. I asked her what drills like that involve. She explained, “We all have to huddle together in one area away from the windows. And the teacher locks the doors. And we have to stay real quiet to convince anyone trying to break in that no one’s there. But the lights are still on, see? That’s how I know it’s a drill.” What if she weren’t remote today? What if she were there? What if the lights were off?

People who know me may read this and jump to my rescue by pointing out the things I’m doing well when it comes to raising our girl. This post isn’t for that, though. I see lots of good in the choices I’ve made for her. The places we’ve taken her. The things we’ve taught her. So much good. But even the really great things give me pause, make me second guess myself. I stumble through parenting, daily, with an overwhelming sense that everything I do or say to or about her is somehow fucking her up forever. I picture twenty year old her, lying on some therapist’s couch, pining over the horrible childhood she had. Realistic? I hope not. Logical? Not a chance, and I know that….but I don’t always believe it.

What I need is to be kinder to myself. Find a way to push those clouds away for good. Or at least find a way to shelter myself from the storm when the skies open up. So here are a few things I’ll remind myself when my hair is whipped around and matted to my face with fat raindrops coming at me sideways…. She was born healthy despite calories and epidurals and Labor Day weekend. She remains healthy despite baby formula and vaccines. Her dresser hasn’t matched anything in her room since the crib was dismantled around age 2. She’s thriving socially and academically–thanks largely to all she learned in daycare and preschool–despite covid and lockdown drills. So tonight, when I inevitably have to resort to a raised voice (after lots of calm talking) to get her to get to bed, I’m going to remind myself that tomorrow morning, she’s still going to wake up with a smile on her face and look forward to spending time with me.

 

Take Me Back… July 17, 2020

(Day 16: Write about something that you miss.)

Here we are. Mid-July. [When did THAT happen, anyway?!] The United States has been trying like hell to fight against Covid-19 since March. And my home state, Connecticut, which began as a hotbed of infections, has led the charge in flattening the curve and getting transmission rates under control. Our reward? We’re currently on “phase 2” of Governor Lamont’s reopening plan with an eye toward “phase 3.” Great news, right? Well, yes. But there’s still a long list of things that I miss. Things that aren’t back to normal yet. Today, I’d like to talk about the number one item on that list.

Bring it in because I’m only going to admit to this once. Are you ready? I miss working from my office. In mid-March, as I was packing up a box of necessities from my desk, I felt an excitement in my belly. The plan was to work remotely to adhere to local “stay at home” orders. There was no talk of how long the arrangement would last but I think most of us envisioned a few weeks, tops. And when I locked the office for the last time four months ago, I was ready to be remote. Ready to stop incessantly pumping hand sanitizer onto chapped hands in an effort to protect those around me. Ready to let some of my anxiety over the virus fall away finally. No more co-mingling with possible carriers. No more constant worry about whether or not I’ve touched my face.

The beginning of working remotely was an adjustment, but not necessarily in a bad way. I pulled my daughter from daycare, glad to have her home safe with me. I enjoyed a fluid work station, having traded my desktop computer at work for my laptop in bed or at the dining room table or on my couch or lounging in the backyard. It felt freeing. A little fun, even. A girl could get used to this, I thought. But as the weeks became months, I soon realized the folly of my initial excitement.

These past four months have reminded me why I’ve never chosen to be a WAHM (work at home mom). And the main reason is because it’s virtually. fucking. impossible. In the beginning, I told myself it would get easier when the school year ended so I wouldn’t have to play teacher for part of the day during “distance learning.” I was wrong. In the middle, I told myself it would get easier when my daughter was able to get back to the hobbies she loves, soccer and dance. I was wrong about that, too. Lately, I’ve been telling myself that it would get easier if I just re-enrolled her in daycare. But let’s face it. The mom guilt over even contemplating sending her to daycare when I’m “just at home” is rooted too deep to ever actually allow me to do such a thing. So I forge on. Constantly distracted.

My work day begins, as it always has, at 8am. Only instead of settling into my office, firing up my workstation with its two monitors, and focusing on my tasks in a distraction-free space, things are a bit more chaotic these days. The physical space in which I work varies based on whether my laptop needs to be plugged in or whether or not I’ll need to print anything imminently. It varies based on what my daughter is doing at the time; sometimes the TV is too loud for me to answer phone calls, other times I need to be within earshot of her to thwart arguments between her and the neighborhood kids. It varies based on the time of day and what non-work-related thing is in demand at the time; has she had lunch? How many snacks has that been today? She wants to take a bubble bath at 2pm?

Sometimes I have to apologize to clients for the sound of my dog barking in the background. Sometimes I have to barricade myself in the bedroom to get enough privacy to complete a Zoom meeting. Sometimes I need to pretend like I didn’t just step over and around three thousand and twelve toys on the living room floor to get a glass of water. Sometimes I need to be okay with my daughter running the hose all. day. long. because it keeps her happy and lets me work in peace. Sometimes I’ve got to walk away from work briefly to get ice for her scrape or to help her decipher a word she can’t figure out or to let the dog in for the millionth time.

By the time my husband comes home from his office—that lucky bastard!—I’m a ball of nerves. At the end of my patience. Often on the verge of tears. I’ve spent all day being pulled in a dozen directions, trying to please everyone by filling two roles—mom and worker. And feeling like a failure at both. I give all I can, leaving pieces of myself everywhere. And by the time hubby’s home, the task of gathering all those pieces to make myself whole again feels daunting. But wait. There’s more. I remind myself to show him patience. He’s worked all day, too, I remind myself. I feel guilty that his welcome home is so frazzled (emotionally) and messy (physically). I feel guilty at not having picked up all the toys she’s taken out and for not having started to cook dinner yet. I feel guilty about being grumpy. I feel guilty about not having any more grace left in me to help my daughter with the simplest of tasks without snapping at her. And all of this leaves me feeling like a failure at my third role: wife.

I’m confident that my story is not unique. There are millions of other people in my shoes right now. Trying to make the best of juggling working from home and parenthood. Trying to give more of themselves than even exists. Trying not to lose themselves completely in the melee. To them, I say, I see you. I’m with you. And it’ll get easier when we can get back to the office. [Famous last words.]

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

A Day in the [Quarantined] Life May 13, 2020

(Day 15: Bullet-point your whole day.)

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THE WORRY MONSTER – Just wait. We’ll get there.

7:15am – Wake up to the sound of my alarm, which is set to play a random song from a Spotify playlist called Wide Awake. Today’s selection? “You’re Too Weird” by the Fruit Bats. Feeling attacked, I turn off the music and lay in bed a bit longer, listening to the birds outside and feeling thankful to see sunshine through the curtains.

 

7:30am – Head to the bathroom to get ready for work, which entails:

  • Brushing my teeth
  • Using my fingers to comb my messy hair into less messy bun
  • Tying a robe around my mismatched pajamas

 

7:45am – Hunt for a shaker cup in the kitchen. Find it in the last cabinet I’d expect to. Silently curse my husband for putting it away someplace weird then silently thank my husband for having put the dishes away at all. Make a protein shake using unsweetened chocolate almond milk (because I bought the wrong kind…I prefer the unsweetened vanilla) and vanilla protein powder (because I bought the wrong kind…I prefer the chocolate).

 

7:58am – Begin my commute to work which entails walking ten steps from the kitchen to the dining room, firing up my laptop, and opening all the websites I need to access for work.

 

8:00am – Cram as much of a regular work day as possible into the three hours my company has authorized me per day. Today’s interruptions were minimal and included:

  • 8:35am – Kissing my girl good morning and supervising her breakfast selection.
  • 9:40am – Discussing with my girl the fact that I don’t want her to go outside to play with Neighbor Child 1 and 2** yet because I want her to do her school work first.
  • 9:55am – Bathroom break.
  • 10:00am – Discussing with my girl the fact that I didn’t like that she snuck out the front door to play with Neighbor Child 1 and 2 while I was in the bathroom. Subsequent to that, accepted her pinkie promise that once I was done working, she’d come in to do school work “straight away.”
  • 10:45am – Diffuse my girl’s emotional upset over an ongoing disagreement between her and Neighbor Child 1.
  • 10:55am – Agree to my girl grabbing a morning snack for her and Neighbor Child 2. She stated that Neighbor Child 1 is home doing school work. I remind her that she’ll be doing school work soon, too. She pretends not to hear and bounces out the front door with two packs of mini Oreos. She’s wearing a bike helmet. She’s always wearing a bike helmet.

 

11:15am – Call out the front door to tell my girl it’s time to get school work done. Endure a brief spurt of grumpiness from her about leaving Neighbor Child 2 to come inside. Begin watching the three required videos for the day and try my best to keep her engaged long enough to write 5 “snap words” and a list of 5 words each for -er, -ir, and -ur words.

 

12:00pm – Grant my girl a bathroom break. With her tablet. Which lasts 30 minutes.

 

12:30pm – Refuse my girl’s third request for lunch. Promise her said lunch when her last assignment is done. Continue to battle over her task of writing a realistic fiction story. Ignore huffing and pouting for as long as possible before snapping and shouting like a lunatic, “Fine! Let’s stop doing school work! You can just repeat the first grade!”

 

1:15pm – Rejoice over the fact that she finished her story AND tackled her art project: creating a “worry monster.” Tell her she’s done a great job when she proudly proclaims, “My worry monster is wearing blue and purple pajamas and he’s surprised because he has a brand new bed.” Serve lunch to my girl and breathe a sigh of relief that she’s chosen to eat at the table on the porch.

 

1:20pm – Make myself a sandwich, which I shovel into my mouth while standing up over the kitchen sink.

 

1:45pm – Sort laundry. Decide it’s time to put on actual [non-pajama] clothes and brush my hair with an actual hair brush.

 

2:00pm – Unload the dishwasher. Immediately reload it with all the dishes that have been piled up in the sink for the past 24 hours.

 

2:05pm – Hear the hose turn on. Run outside to tell my girl, who’s still wearing a bike helmet, to turn off the hose. Listen calmly as she explains that she and Neighbor Child 2 are “watering the flowers” [that we don’t have] out front. I concede and tell her to turn it on just long enough to fill her watering can then turn it immediately off. She complies. Repeatedly.

 

2:20pm – Venture out into the light of day for the sole purpose of telling my girl that the flowers are watered enough. Decide to make an outing of this trip outside by setting up a camp chair and reading a book in the sunshine while my girl and Neighbor Child 1 and 2 play outside. Encounter the following interruptions:

  • 12x – “Mom, watch me…”
  • 1x – “Mom, can I grab a snack for all of us?”
  • 1x – “Mooooom, I’m hurt!”

 

3:30pm – Let the wind get the better of me and finally relocate from the front yard to inside the porch. Continue reading until my girl follows me. Wearing a bike helmet. With her tablet. On full blast. Ask her to turn it down some, which she does. But it’s not enough. Give up. Close my book and resort to playing a game on my phone.

 

4:00pm – The husband returns from work. Breathe a sigh of relief while he takes over parenting. Escape inside to sit in solitude for the first time all day. Except for the dog. Who is whining to get outside again.

 

4:30pm – Heat up dinner for my girl, which she again chooses to eat on the porch. In her bike helmet.

 

5:00pm – Negotiate with my girl about dessert. She proposes she gets two scoops of ice cream tonight and promises to not have dessert for a week. I remind her about our weekly Family Movie Night coming up on Friday and point out that she’ll want dessert then. She insists she won’t. I know she’s lying. I counter her with one scoop of ice cream tonight, dessert on Friday, and no dessert otherwise until next Wednesday. The offer is accepted. She chooses to eat on the porch. Neighbor Child 1 and 2 bring over their dinner to dine with her.

 

5:15pm – Contemplate baking banana muffins, which would require me to get up off the couch and actually do something. But I’m enjoying doing nothing. And eating tortilla chips. In peace.

 

5:45pm – Finally bake the muffins.

 

7:00pm – Wrap up a half dozen muffins to send home with Neighbor Child 1 and 2. Shout the “one more hour” warning to hubby and our girl, who have started hockey practice in the driveway. She is not wearing a helmet. Curl up on the couch to read a little more.

 

7:58pm – Cart the musical instruments out the front door for “Bell Time.” (Every night from 8:00 to 8:02pm, residents in our town are encouraged to ring bells and/or otherwise make noise as a showing of “alone, together” during the pandemic. We participate nightly, as do Neighbor Child 1 and 2.)

 

8:00pm – Shake my tambourine while shooting a pleading look toward my husband that screams, “Is it 8:02 yet?!”

 

8:02pm – Shout good night across the street to Neighbor Child 1 and 2. Cart the instruments back inside and begin the nightly prodding that is getting our girl off to bed. This process includes:

  • Having her brush and floss her teeth, use the bathroom, and put on pajamas.
  • Snuggling with her until doomsday or until she falls asleep, whichever comes first. [Spoiler alert: It’s usually the former.] Thankfully, it was a dad night. WINNING!

 

9:15pm – Watch 3 episodes of Community on Netflix with hubby while eating dinner, which tonight is reheated cheese tortellini.

 

10:20pm – Contemplate baking cookies because why not? Decide against it and proceed to watch 3 episodes of Some Good News on YouTube with hubby while wishing I had cookies and reminding myself how much I effing love John Krasinski. Sob like a hot mess during Zac Brown’s new song.

 

11:30 – Lay on the couch and think about tomorrow. Realize it’ll look a lot like today only with 200% more Zoom calls, thanks to virtual dance class (for my girl) and virtual PTO meeting (for me). Chastise myself for not having made cookies earlier.

 

12:30am – Press “publish” and get ready for a shower and bed. Only to rinse and repeat tomorrow.

 

** Yes, we are supposed to be in quarantine. And we are. However, we do fraternize outdoors with Neighbor Child 1 and 2 (brothers, age 6 and 5 respectively) and their mom. My logic: If my [former] daycare is open and offering care to multiple families right now, surely I can let my girl play with the two boys across the street whose family has the same level of potential exposure as ours does. And that’s to say women and children stay home, dads report to work at staff-only establishments. So, yeah. Playdates for daaaaays.

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Opened Doors April 20, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 3:08 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
(Day 9: Post words of wisdom that speak to you.)
“When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open.” – Bob Marley 
Today is the one-month anniversary of the signing of Governor Lamont’s “stay at home” order in Connecticut so suffice it to say there are lots of closed doors lately.
Literally.
Movie theaters. Restaurants. Casinos. Amusement parks. Schools. All closed. There are no concerts, proms, beauty appointments. We can’t visit our family members, hug our friends, or step foot inside “non-essential” retail locations.
But today, rather than focusing on all the doors that are closed, I’m going to take a moment to appreciate the metaphorical doors that have opened for me, thanks to this pandemic.

people wearing face mask for protection

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I have a renewed appreciation for essential workers, especially those in healthcare.
This one’s important because while I’m worried about my work hours having been cut and whether or not I’ll have a job to go back to, so many others are putting on their uniforms and marching in to their jobs, where they face potential exposure daily. I couldn’t do what they do. But they’re there, doing what’s necessary to keep us moving forward. Taking tiny steps toward normalcy for us all again. And in the meantime, I’m going to focus on the blessing that is staying home and safe with my girl.
Never again will I have this opportunity to bond with my daughter on this level. 

My Two Kids

My two babies

Speaking of my girl, it’s not lost on me that this time with her is precious. And please don’t think that means this time has been all Pinterest-worthy craft projects and Montessori-inspired “distance learning.” There have been plenty of times when all I have the strength to do is slap some chicken nuggets and a Netflix cartoon in front of her so I can get a moment of solitude. Some days there are power struggles and, let’s be real, I don’t always win them. I yell more than I should. I often count the hours until her bedtime. But you know what else? We read together more now than ever. I get the chance to see first-hand (better than any report card could ever demonstrate to me) her strengths and weaknesses, academically. I’ve been able to teach her new things like navigating online apps to access school content and I’m in the beginning stages of a presentation to answer her repeated “Where do babies come from?” question. Not having to leave the house for her school or my work has afforded us more time to play games, laugh, talk, and just enjoy each other. At first, it was easy for me to not see past this “closed door.” I mourned the loss of her spring soccer and dance competition seasons. I was sad for her that she’d be “missing out” on having a birthday party or finishing the first grade IN school with her teacher and friends. But when I look past all that, I’ve realized that she is truly thriving through all this. Other than brief moments of pouting over the lack of a (non-canine) sibling to play with, she has loved every minute of all this mommy-and-me time. She’s going to look back on this pandemic fondly, of that I’m sure.

 

brown paper bag

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

It has forced me to reconsider how we stock our fridge and pantry.
We are so fortunate to be living in a time and in a country where the infrastructure already existed to facilitate changes like “curbside pickup” at stores, Door Dashing take-out to our front porch, and having grocery items delivered to our homes. Before all this, our family typically did a Costco run once or twice per month and I went to the grocery store on Sundays for what we’d need for the week. Beyond that, my husband would schlep to the store for whatever I’d forgotten and/or whatever we decided on a whim that we “needed” at 11pm on a weeknight. Now, though, stocking our house takes a bit more planning. To stay out of stores, we order groceries for delivery. And lots of you are doing the same because the typical one- or two-day delivery from Stop & Shop now takes about 14 days from reservation to delivery day. It takes a bit more pre-planning to make sure we don’t forget items and we think harder about what we “need” before taking a jaunt to the store for something, and never past 8pm since most essential businesses are closed after that. We cook more, order out less, and are more mindful of what we actually need to get by for a couple of weeks. And that’s something I hope to continue even after COVID-19 is nothing more than a mention in the history books.

 

My new schedule allows more hobby time.

background book stack books close up

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

At 2pm on a Monday afternoon a month ago, I’d be just punching back in after my lunch break. Maybe I’d be submitting payroll or on a conference call with a client. Maybe I’d be elbows deep in title transfers or planning an agenda for our staff meeting. But right now? I’m sitting in a camp chair with my laptop on my lap, blogging while watching my daughter play in her sandbox. This past month has afforded me more time for writing, more time to tackle my to-be-read pile of books, more time for binge-watching trashy reality TV on Hulu. I bake more. I relax more. I smile more. Instead of rushing home from work to whisk my girl off to whatever extra-curricular she has on her agenda and then home to get her ready for bed only to rinse and repeat the next day, we can breathe. Everything outside the walls of our home has been paused. And that has given us an unprecedented opportunity to pursue true happiness rather than obligations.

 

white printer paper with be kind text on plants

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

This is my chance to reassess and reinvent my life.
When this “stay at home” order is lifted (or even relaxed) and life starts to return to normal, I hope to not just revert to the way things were. This pause has taught me to not take the little things for granted; an over-booked weekend of soccer games and kids birthday parties, a night out with friends, stopping by to see my dad “just because.” There’s a whole list of things that I can’t wait to do again the minute I’m able. And every last one of them are things I never really appreciated doing before all this. I hope to be kinder to strangers, more patient with my loved ones, and more resolute in the pursuit of my own happiness. And I sincerely hope I’m not the only one.

 

So today, I urge you to stop what you’re doing. Put the worry and doubt aside. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do or where you can’t go. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and for your kids. Sit out in the sunshine and breathe some fresh air. Pause. And see things from a different perspective. Look at all those open doors!

joy painting brush

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

A Map to My Heart April 13, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:13 pm
Tags: , , , ,

What’s the way to my heart? Hmmm. I haven’t really had any reason to give this topic much thought in a long, long, looooong time because my heart already belongs to the hubs. But how did HE win it? And how has he managed to keep it all these years? THAT I can answer.

1) Be able to hold a conversation.

I like humor. I like logic. I like organizing and listing. I like daydreaming. Some of my favorite times are after our girl’s in bed and we’re up talking about our days or future plans.

2) Try to understand my anxiety.

It doesn’t always make sense, even to me. I often can’t tell you why I feel it or what will make it dissapate. But he always listens and tries his best to reason with me without judging.

3) Kick ass at parenting.

There’s no rule book or instruction manual. We’re all just winging it, doing our best to raise kids who are well-adjusted members of society. I’m so thankful that for the most part, he and I are on the same page when it comes to how best to raise our girl. And when we’re not, we’re always able to find a happy medium. Every day, no matter what, I’m a thousand percent certain that our girl has the type of father who will show her by example how a man should treat the people he loves.

4) Do the “boy jobs.”

Look. I was raised by two loving parents who didn’t really put much emphasis on gender roles. My sister and I were taught to be independent, to never rely on a man. So it took me a long time to feel good about giving up control of anything, even in my relationship. But once I did, it was like a weight was lifted off me. I’m still self sufficient in most things but see no harm in splitting responsibilities, either. Equal partners. Except for when it comes to killing spiders or cleaning up dog vomit. Those are boy jobs, for sure.

5) Never give up or walk away.

I’m often hard to handle. I can be irritable, grumpy, hard to live with. I sometimes try to isolate myself. But he’s held onto my heart all these years because he doesn’t give up on me. He’s patient, he pushes me to open up when all I want to do is disappear inside my own head, he often knows what I need even when I don’t.

 

Pet Peeves: Quarantine Edition April 8, 2020

If you’d asked me to list my top three pet peeves a month ago, you’d have gotten a very different list. But this is where I’m at now…

1) Feeling both overwhelmed AND bored. At the same time. At all times.

My day begins with three hours of working remotely. And most days, that’s not enough time to get the job done, which leaves me feeling…spazzy… for several hours after. And during that time, I also encourage my girl to start her school work, which she’s not always able (read: willing) to do without guidance. So when I’m done working, an hour or two or three of being a teacher begins.

I prepare eleventy bajillion snacks and meals daily. And pick up twice as many toys/messes.

I do my best to keep my girl connected to school, teams, and friends…. Taught her how to use Microsoft Teams, encourage her to video chat with friends, got her tablet set up with the various apps—and there seems to be a new one added at least weekly—our district is relying on for “distance learning,” and staying on top of all the email updates from teachers and coaches. Which reminds me. I still have to Venmo her dance teacher for the Zoom dance classes.

And when all this is done, we’ve got HOURS left in our day to decompress, though it never seems to be enough time.

At 8pm, we head outside for “bell time.” (Town-wide, people are encouraged to ring bells or otherwise make noise from 8:00 to 8:02 as a show of solidarity in this social distancing era.) And while we play our musical instruments, for lack of bells, my girl dances and I silently think, “One day closer to normalcy.”

After our girl is in bed, it’s time for dishes, laundry, picking up toys (again), and cuddling up with hubby on the couch. By this time of night, I’m ready for a giant glass of wine as a remedy for the anxiety that’s built up all day.

Rinse and repeat.

2) Having to repeat myself.

Here’s a smattering of the phrases I catch myself uttering multiple times per day, every day day…

– “Just because we’re home doesn’t mean you don’t have to brush your hair.”

– “I said ONE snack.”

– “No, it’s not lunch time. You JUST finished breakfast!”

– “3:00 is NOT dinnertime.”

– “Turn off the tablet!”

– “C’mon, we have to get this school packet done before we go outside.”

– “If you want to play outside, you need to put on actual clothes. Not pajamas.”

3) People who don’t stay home.

I’m following the rules. Other than outdoor time in our yard and walks around the block, my girl and I have left the house exactly once in the past three weeks. And that was to take part in a birthday parade for my cousin’s twins, which didn’t require us to get out of the car. Hubby goes to work and occasionally the grocery store. That’s it. If everyone did the same, we’d all be able to get back to life as we knew it sooner.

 

Poop Happens September 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 2:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

One thing I have learned since becoming a parent is that poop is important. And talking about it is perfectly acceptable. You, my dear readers, will learn that from this post, if you haven’t already.

Before I was a parent, I didn’t realize you need to know when a kid poops. Not only when but how often and—gasp—what it looks like. (“Greenish and kinda seedy” is a common utterance in our house.) And this past weekend, I learned that poop is never more important than when it’s not happening. As was the case this weekend.

Friday night is a bath night for Rylin. Chris usually puts on a bathing suit and jumps in with her; it’s easier than trying to get her to sit still in the bath seat we have. So when she didn’t do her usual afternoon poop on Friday, Chris and I decided that we’d bathe her “after she poops tomorrow morning.” That turned into “before bed tonight after she poops” which turned into “Sunday morning after she poops.” Several times over the weekend, she got that real concentrated look on her face which was coupled with a little grunting and general fussiness. But when we changed her…no poop.

So we did what any parents in our shoes would have done. We busted out the big guns. We fed her Kirkland brand formula. Now, Kirkland makes some wonderful products. Don’t get me wrong here. But their baby formula seems to go right through Rylin. Which was a nuisance when we first discovered it but is a lifesaver when she’s having a hard time going.

GrinWhen Sunday night rolled around and there still hadn’t been poop, we admitted defeat. “She HAS TO have a bath tonight,” I decreed. Chris agreed.  While he drew the bath and suited up, I laid Rylin on the changing station on her “pack and play” which, for the record, is about five steps from the bathroom door. I took off her outfit and diaper. She smiled at me. It was a wide, tight-lipped grin which when flashed my way at 6:30am means “Hey, mom! I’m glad to see you!” But apparently when she does it at 7pm it means, “Brace yourself. I’m about to pee on you.” I let her finish, dried her legs with a baby wipe, and passed her off to daddy in the bathtub while I changed the wet pad that lines the changing table. Phew, I though. At least she peed BEFORE I picked her up to bring her to the bathtub. Because THAT’S happened…she’s happy as a clam in the bathtub and I’m standing there with a pee-drenched shirt. Not fun.

Rylin loves water. Be it the pool, a bath, or a shower, she kicks excitedly and tries to grab at the water. So bath time is usually all smiles and laughter. But last night was different. Chris bounced her up and down in the water and let her splash a little. Then all of a sudden, she started screeching like a tween who was just told that Justin Bieber has retired. Bright red face, pouty lip, hands balled up in fists. Inconsolable. Chris did what any concerned parent would do. He lifted her up out of the water and pulled her to his chest for a hug. And that’s when I saw it.

Poop.

“Keep her up out of the water!” I instructed Chris and I ran to grab some baby wipes. And that’s how I came to be bending over the bath tub, catching poop in a baby wipe. The whole time she was going, she kept trying to turn around to see what on earth was happening back there, fussing and straining all the way. And finally she was done. I dropped the “gift” into the toilet, flushed, and told Chris I’d be right back with another baby wipe to clean her before he puts her back into the bath water.

Photo credit: Bree Kohler-Priester

No sooner had I walked out of the bathroom to get more baby wipes, I heard Chris say, “Oh, boy. The Kirkland formula has kicked in.” I came back to the bathroom to find what I was hoping we had managed to avoid. Poop. In the bath water. Rylin smiled at it as it floated away, towards the drain. Not that tight-lipped grin. A big, gaping smile that says, “Look what I did!”

And all we could do was try not to laugh and remind each other, “She’s lucky she’s cute.”

 

 

Audiology and why I’m a terrible person July 17, 2013

Somewhere during my third trimester, probably over a bowl of ice cream and certainly while rubbing my belly, I mused to Chris, “Our job as her parents is to help her become the person she’s meant to be.” We had been playing the what-if game that all expectant parents play. (Don’t they?)

What if she hates us? How could she when we’re going to teach her and listen to her and love her unconditionally?

What if she’s gay? I just hope she finds someone to love and grow old with.

What if she decides she want to be a vegetarian like her momma? I’ll be happy as long as she’s nourished and growing.

And I had decided that I would never be disappointed in who Rylin becomes because my only expectation is that she becomes herself. Those parents whose lives shatter when their children choose the “wrong” career or marry the “wrong” partner are surely only devastated because their children have failed to live up to what mom and dad have already carved out for them in their minds. If we just roll with it and watch Rylin unfold into the young woman she is, how could we ever have regrets? I was so confident in my ability to clear my mind of all expectations for her future and remain open to all the possibility that was curled up and kicking inside me.

It wasn’t until her two week check-up that I began to question my willpower to not start to fill in the blanks for what lay ahead for her. “When do we retest her hearing?” I asked her pediatrician. She received a “refer” on the hospital’s infant hearing screening prior to us being discharged. Refer, as far as I can tell, is a nice way of saying “fail” without making new parents feel like their kid is anything less than perfect. Anyway, the staff pediatrician at the hospital assured us that it happens to lots of kids and that “the vast majority of them test normal at the recheck.” We tucked that information away and assured ourselves that Rylin would be like “the vast majority.” So there was nothing to worry about.

“We can recheck right now, as long as she stays quiet like this,” her doctor replied. She pulled out a machine that was about the size of a walkman (yes, I’m dating myself) and put a tiny earpiece into Rylin’s left ear as she dozed in my arms. A few seconds later, she withdrew the earpiece, made an adjustment, and replaced it in her left ear again. And then, she said what I was afraid to hear. “She’s still not passing. I just checked twice.” We were told that additional testing would be required and that a specialist from the children’s hospital would contact us to schedule an appointment.

In the days leading up to the appointment with her audiologist, I convinced myself that nothing was wrong. She probably just had fluid in her ear from delivery still. She startles to loud noises, so clearly she’s fine. Right? 

The audiologist began with a test that, she explained, tests whether or not there is any blockage in the ear canal. There wasn’t. No debris, no fluid…just a clear path to the ear drum. I breathed a sigh of relief, certain that that meant the fluid that was in her ear before—the fluid that prevented her from passing the initial screenings—had drained. She’d pass this test with flying colors.

Next, she pulled out the same walkman-looking machine that Rylin’s pediatrician used in her office. This, come to find out, is called an OAE (oto-accoustic emissions) test. Greek to me. Anyway, she checked both ears. “We like to test both, even though in her case we aren’t concerned about her right ear. We like to gather information from both ears.” The news wasn’t quite what we were expecting. She wasn’t passing on her left ear. But her right ear was behaving in a similar way. Does this mean neither ear works correctly? 

The audiologist explained the final test to us as she affixed tiny round stickers to Rylin’s forehead and behind her ears. In the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test she would attach electrodes to the stickers and those electrodes would measure Rylin’s brain’s response to various tones played through a tiny earpiece inserted into her ear. One at a time; again, both ears would be checked.

We sat as quiet and still as possible, hoping that Rylin would remain sleeping long enough to complete the test. I watched the computer screen in front of the audiologist and wondered what all the lines meant. They’re moving a lot. That’s a good thing, right? About an hour into the test, the earpiece was moved from her left ear to her right. And we continued to sit quietly. Until about 15 minutes later, the audiologist explained that Rylin was starting to stir too much to continue the test. “I was able to rule out profound, severe, and moderate hearing loss.” I felt relief until she continued. “But I haven’t been able to rule out mild hearing loss.” And, again, her right ear (which passed the initial screening) is behaving much like her left. She showed us the computer screen she had been working from and pointed out what the lines meant. “This line here is the sound I played. And this line here is her response to that sound. With normal hearing, you’d expect to see a distance between these lines.” Rylin’s report didn’t look normal. Additional testing would be needed. When we come for our second appointment, the audiologist said, we would retest both ears. And determine whether or not Rylin might be a candidate for hearing aids. Hearing aids? Rylin doesn’t need hearing aids. 

When we opened the exam room door and entered the hallway leading back to the waiting room, I caught a glimpse of my future. A young boy was on his way in. He looked to be about five years old. A bit unsteady on his feet, clutching a toy truck in his arms, thick glasses perched on his nose. The woman walking next to him—likely a speech pathologist—chatted with him and I couldn’t help but notice that his pronunciation was off.

Suddenly, the what-if game took a different turn. What if she really can’t hear? What if her hearing loss affects her speech development? What if she needs hearing aids. I found myself googling to learn more about infant hearing loss. Could infant hearing improve? Could the BAER test results be wrong? Do children with mild hearing loss perform as well in school as children with normal hearing?

I expressed my concerns to Chris. “If both ears are behaving the same, that means her left ear is only barely failing, right?” And what I thought was, “Or her right ear is barely passing.” I admitted that I was worried that she may need hearing aids. I was worried about how others would receive her, how her peers would treat her. Will she still get to be a normal little girl? I watched her closely for signs that she was hearing. She startles when the dogs bark. Her eyes flinch when I replace the cap on her bottle after a feeding. She can’t possibly be not hearing, right?

A week passed between that day and our next appointment. Same office. Same test. Different audiologist. After about two hours of sitting quietly, watching my sleeping newborn with electrodes all over her head, the audiologist turned to me with news. “She is testing in the normal range. She is responding to all the tones I’ve played and I’ve been able to duplicate those responses, which rules out the possibility of it being a fluke.” Both ears. No more retesting. No hearing aids. Completely normal.

I let a tear slip out and broke into a huge smile. I have never felt so much relief.

And then I felt guilt. I realized that despite the fact that I vowed to not plan my daughter’s future for her, I somewhat had. In my mind, she’d learn to talk early and excel in school. We’d whisper secrets to each other before I tucked her in at night. She would tell me long, winding stories about her days and her friends. I hadn’t planned out anything that didn’t seem like a given during my pregnancy. But I had planned enough to be shattered by the reality that a hearing loss could change the things I wanted for Rylin’s future.

I felt like a terrible person for allowing myself to spend the last week thinking that a mild hearing loss was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to Rylin. I thought back to that little boy at the audiologist’s office and felt ashamed that I saw his imperfections before I saw the fact that he was a happy, well cared for little boy. I felt disgusted that my biggest concern was possibly needing to have my newborn fit for hearing aids when other parents are dealing with much bigger issues than mine. I thought of my cousin and her wife. My cousin was due to deliver her baby girl exactly one month after I was due to deliver my baby girl. But instead, she delivered a sleeping baby ten days after Rylin arrived. How could I have been selfish enough to worry about a possible mild hearing loss when she’s dealing with child loss? Isn’t adapting to a future slightly different than I expected for my child better than kissing my baby goodbye on delivery day? 

I’ve talked to my cousin about my guilt over the fact that she and I got to experience pregnancy at the same time…and now I’m left with a healthy baby and she’s not. I feel a pang of regret when I share photos of Rylin to Facebook because I wish she could be sharing photos of Delaney growing, too. She told me not to feel guilty. “Life isn’t fair at times,” she said. “But the fact you guys have a beautiful healthy baby and we don’t isn’t considered one of those times.”

This post is for Sasha. And Racheal. And most of all Delaney. When life throws us a curve-ball in raising Rylin, I hope I can see past the set-back and remember how blessed Chris and I truly are.

On a related note, my cousin’s grieving has brought her to blogging as a way to get her emotions out. You can read her work here: http://sakoh1113.blogspot.com/?m=1