Raising Teenagers

I think I’ve figured out part of the reason why raising teenagers is so damn hard.

We don’t like to talk about it.

When they’re newborns, there’s tons of information out there and everyone’s willing to talk about it. When they’re three and acting out, it’s totally normal to share, commiserate and discuss strategies that might work. When they’re school age, it’s still totally normal to talk about problems they’re having with friends or in school or at home.

But the true teenage years hit…and no one wants to talk about it. You know why I think this is? Because if something “bad” is going on with our teenagers, we feel extremely guilty and think we will be judged for our bad parenting.

If your teen is being disrespectful in a major way, it’s hard to admit it and say it out loud because you feel as though you will be judged. I didn’t do a good enough job raising him and that’s why he’s acting this way. Even though it’s TOTALLY NORMAL for your child to act this way, it’s hard to admit.

If your teen is doing poorly in school, or having trouble making friends, or didn’t make the team they had hoped for, you don’t want to talk about it. Again, you are afraid of being judged. Is it my parenting that is making him have these problems? Did I do something wrong? Is it my fault?

If your teen is doing drugs or drinking or having sex, you definitely don’t want to admit that to anyone. Again, you feel you will be judged. You never know if the person you’re talking to is going to be helpful and understanding or look at you like you have three heads because their kid would NEVER do anything like that. Even if they’re a good friend.

All of sudden you have this child, who you have loved, taken care of and cherished for years, looking at you with hate and contempt and disgust and it hurts. It hurts so badly. You just want him to look at you like he used to when he was little; like the sun rose and set on you. You want him to hug you, to appreciate you, to tell you he loves you and knows how much you love him too. And it sucks. Big time. He only wants to be in his room, on his phone, on his Xbox, hanging out with friends, certainly does not want to spend any time with you.

You are at the point where they will be in situations where they are going to have to make major life choices. Did I prepare him enough? Is he ready to make these choices? Did I screw it up? Will he come back to me eventually? Am I a bad mother?

And this is why, I think, we don’t talk about it. We don’t want anyone to know that our kid isn’t perfect. That we might not have done the right thing. We’re afraid of being judged. But when someone is brave enough to open up and speak the truth, more often than not, you find out that you’re not alone. Knowing that helps immensely.

So…who wants to talk about how hard it is to raise teenagers???

 

 

 

 

Demon Thoughts

I should try harder. If I just ate better, worked out more, I could look like her. I am not good enough. I wish I was taller, thinner, prettier, leaner, better dressed. I AM DISGUSTING. Pinch stomach rolls and cellulite on the thighs and want to cry. Wish I could just cut it off. I can’t leave the house today I’m too gross. I wish I could wear that. Or that. Or that. If I just can lose X amount, I’ll feel better. I’ll look better. All of my problems will disappear. Oops, I’m at X weight and I still feel exactly the same. Nothing works. Nothing helps. I AM SO GROSS AND UGLY. Why does Matt love me? My Mom is probably embarrassed by me. People look at me and think she’s let herself go. I need to wear a sign that says “I WORK HARD FOR THIS BODY, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?” I would be devastated if someone thought I didn’t work hard. I work out hard, I eat healthily, yet I still look like THIS. That number on the scale is ridiculous. I can’t buy clothes because I’m not buying THAT size. If I thought I was fat before, what must I look like NOW??? Can I go back to the first time I thought I was fat and be that size? Is Matt disappointed in the way I look because I’ve changed a lot since we got married? Are my kids embarrassed by me?

Is my hair too short? Too long? Too masculine? Not edgy enough? Are my teeth yellow? Are they moving and not straight anymore? Is that another fucking wrinkle? Is that another gray hair? Why do my hands all of a sudden look like my Grandma’s? You shouldn’t wear that. You’re too big. You’re old. You’re not cute enough. Did my nose get bigger? Did my lips get smaller? Why aren’t my eyelashes longer? Where did my eyebrows go? I wish my collarbone and shoulder blades stuck out more. I wish my legs were smaller and longer. That picture of me can’t really be what I look like, can it? BURN ALL THE PICTURES.

I can’t believe I worry about this shit. I survived cancer for god’s sake. I should just be thankful to be alive. This mental illness is so fucking hard to get over. I’ve made tons of progress but I still have these demon thoughts. I’m so done with them. I need to focus on acceptance. Say positive things only. But my demon doesn’t want to let go. It’s been with me for over 30 years. It’s comfortable. It’s my go-to. Great, now I feel guilty and vain when I should just be thankful to be alive. I don’t want to have wasted another minute on these stupid, diminishing thoughts. I need to be a role model for my teenage girls and boys that I teach every day. For my sons. I need to stop thinking these thoughts. I need to be done with this demon. No one loves me for the way I look or the size of my pants. They love me for me. That’s what I need to focus on and realize. Be gone, demon.

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My Demon

I think I’ve been avoiding blogging for a long time because this post was inside but I wasn’t ready to get it out yet. I’m not sure I’ll ever be truly ready to write about it, but I’m going to anyway.

As a child, I didn’t even think about my weight. I knew I was tall, I knew I was a “big girl”, but I was never ashamed of the way my body looked. I never even really gave it a thought and, up until that point, definitely not a negative one. I could swim super fast with my strong legs; I could hit a softball over the fence with my strong arms; I could ride my bike for miles and miles and miles. I would just eat without thinking about it like any kid should. I would eat an ice cream sandwich or birthday cake or chips and not feel guilty. I was normal. I was healthy.

When I was 11, the perfect storm hit. My parents were in the middle of a bitter, terrible divorce. I was about to hit adolescence. My Dad made a comment about me weighing too much. It was the first time I remember feeling ashamed about my body. If my Dad thought I weighed too much, then it must be true, right? Basketball tryouts were coming up. So I decided to try and lose weight. I got books from the library about how to do it. At first, I just decided I was going to try and eat a little less and exercise a little more. Try and get in shape for basketball by running.

So I lost weight. And my mom let me grow my hair out, finally. And we got my horrid acne under control. And I started getting attention for something besides my brain. I would hear how skinny I was getting, how great I looked, positive reinforcements left and right. Things I had never heard before and, evidently, craved. I attributed it all to losing weight. Losing weight meant positive attention and what 11-year-old girl doesn’t want that? And if losing a little weight was good, then losing a lot of weight would be better.

Right around this time calories were printed on the labels of food. Up until that point, I didn’t even think about calories. But all of a sudden, in the midst of trying to lose weight, I knew exactly how many calories were in everything I was putting in my mouth. I became obsessed. I was a calorie savant telling everyone the number of calories per serving of anything anyone was eating. I started categorizing food as bad and good. I started restricting myself to only “good” foods. I started exercising a lot. I’d do a Jane Fonda tape and then go for a 5-mile run and then do sit-ups. I lost a lot of weight. In less than a year, my 11 to 12-year-old body lost over 30 pounds. And that was more than I needed to lose.

Before I knew it, I was eating an apple and a piece of cheese and that was it for the entire day. I’d skip breakfast, drink a diet pop for lunch, go to basketball, go home and do Jane Fonda, maybe eat a little dinner if my Mom was home, do some sit-ups. Go to bed. Repeat over and over and over. I started passing out during track practice in the spring. My spandex running pants were baggy. My aunt started showing me pictures of people who were anorexic and asking what I thought. My friend Carlos told me I was way, way too skinny. My friends said I was the skinniest girl in our class. These words were like winning the lottery to me. I had done it. I was not just thin, I was skinny. And I kept getting smaller.

We moved right before my freshman year in high school. I went from a class of 40 to a class of 250. It was terrifying. I didn’t know a soul. I made friends and joined the swim team and started eating a bit more. I realized that I needed some strength for 3-4 hours of swimming a day. One day, we had to get our body fat tested because, if you want to swim faster, you have to have low body fat, according to my coach. He then posted all of our names and body fat percentages outside the locker room. Mine was 25% which was average. AVERAGE. My skinny, blonde, gorgeous friend’s was only 14%. I knew I had to go back to what I was doing before and try harder. I wanted to be the best swimmer. I didn’t want to be average. I ate enough to get by for swimming hours upon hours each day. I got smaller and leaner. I won races. I made it to districts. It was working.

Throughout high school, my weight fluctuated a bit. I exercised every day but partied. I ate too much. I gained those 30 pounds right back. I got to college and went to the gym and weighed myself and saw that horrible number that had started it all in the first place. And I lost my mind. I started working out between 4 and 6 hours a day. I ate very little. By Christmas, I had lost the 30 pounds and then some. I got so many compliments over break about being too skinny and that it was so awesome that I didn’t gain the freshman 15. I was back.

I taught aerobics and worked at the rec center so I could constantly work out. I ate but I ate only to exist. I never ate food with fat. I never ate dessert. I never ate meat. I mostly ate fruit, vegetables, oatmeal and an occasional bagel. I don’t remember enjoying food ever. I got my body fat tested at the end of my freshman year and it was 17%. I was happy that it was better than average, but it still wasn’t less than 15% which is what I wanted. So I kept trying. Working out more and eating less. I was the skinny-workout girl again.

But guess what? Throughout this whole entire time, I was miserable. I hated my body. I hated my face. I hated myself. I’d stand for hours and hours in front of the mirror and pinch and turn and suck in and stare and just wish that I didn’t look like me. I’d ruin entire days obsessing over food, over calories, over workouts, over the number on the scale. I’d work out even when I had bronchitis or pneumonia. I didn’t sleep much. It was awful. I like to think I hid it pretty well because I managed to have friends and have fun but those who were close to me knew at the very least that I didn’t like myself at all. I was so rigid with my eating and my exercise and my obsession with it, that I know my friends knew at least that much.

Then I met Matt. I still don’t know why he ever asked me out on a second date because I didn’t eat a thing on our first date. Not a morsel. We went out for dinner and I ordered a diet Coke and watched him eat. Who asks that girl out again? I’m so thankful he did. With Matt’s help, I slowly started to eat again but I still worked out like a crazy person. I just traded one obsession for the other.

I had Olivia and gained 85 pounds. That makes sense, right? It was the first time that I ever ate normally because I knew I needed to in order to make sure my baby was healthy. I got pregnant with Gabe when Olivia was four months old so I didn’t have time to lose it all. I got back up to the same weight with Gabe. After he was born, I lost all of it. And then some. Can you imagine how many compliments you get when you’ve gained 85 pregnancy pounds with two kids and then lose it all and then some? My demon was back with a vengeance. I obviously didn’t have hours and hours to work out anymore with working full time and having two kids, but I could restrict. I could count calories. I would wake up at 4:00 a.m. to workout before I went to teach all day. I’d eat 300 calories while at work. I’d eat a small dinner. I was obsessed yet again.

This continued. On and on and on. I could convince myself that I wasn’t really doing anything wrong as long as I was eating something. I tried new diets and new regimens that required hours of planning and thinking about food. Finally, a few years ago, I started therapy. Having an eating disorder is a mental illness. I didn’t even know that until I started therapy. I thought it was just me being obsessed with being thin at all costs. But I’ve discovered it’s so much more. It’s not just about control like everyone assumes. It’s not about being thin even. It’s a mental illness that totally consumes your life and manifests itself with the obsession over food and exercise. It’s been my demon since I was 11. I look at Matthew, who is 11 now, and think he is so young and small and innocent and I can’t imagine him starting to do this to himself. Therapy has finally helped me get rid of my obsession with food. I still struggle with the “good foods vs. bad foods”, but I never restrict anymore. I just eat. I can’t even begin to tell you how great it is to just eat. I still eat healthy, for sure, but there are no more instances of me making myself a separate dinner from my family or not enjoying ice cream on a summer night.

My exercising is under control. I workout 5-6 times a week for about an hour. I work out not to punish myself anymore or to try and make myself better; I work out because it makes me feel strong and healthy and because I love it. I no longer feel like a crazy person when I miss a workout. I no longer feel like I need to be punished.

The one area I’m still struggling with is self-acceptance. Since I was diagnosed and treated for cancer, I’ve gained 20 pounds. The type of cancer I had, along with the treatment, commonly causes weight gain and the inability to lose it. It’s been very hard for me. Very. I feel desperate at times. I feel ashamed of my body. But I haven’t once engaged in my former behaviors and, for that, I am proud. However, I really and truly want to get to the point where I can just accept my body for what it is. I’m not sure I’ll ever love it, but I think I’m close to acceptance. I definitely am getting closer every day.

For 30 years, I have loathed my body. I have tortured it. I have starved it. I have never once loved it. I was always trying to make it better, make it smaller, make it fit some crazy standard I had in my head. I really want to be done with that. I want to wake up in the morning, get dressed and go about my day without obsessing over the size of my pants or the number on the scale.

I have had a miscarriage. I have given birth to three beautiful children. I have survived breast surgery, a year of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation and all the toll that took on my mind and my body. I have taken care of Olivia for almost 17 years now. I am raising two awesome boys. I am strong. I am healthy. I am done feeling bad about the way my body looks. I am working on accepting it just the way it is. I am a warrior and I need to start believing it.

The eating disorder demon is no joke. I wish I could have gotten help when I was younger. I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t seriously hurt myself along the way. I was so unhealthy. Whenever I start to think how great it would be to be “skinny” again, I remind myself that the former me was not healthy or happy. Was not strong. Was not a warrior. She was scared, ashamed and angry. I am happier than I’ve ever been even though this is the heaviest I’ve ever been without being pregnant. I don’t obsess over food and exercise. I am working on my inner dialogue and acceptance.

I am a warrior, damn it, and it’s time I start believing it.

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My Girl

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This girl has my whole heart. If you are a parent, you know what I mean. If you are a parent of a child with special needs, you really know what I mean. I don’t know who I’d be without being her mother. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

She is pure joy personified. This summer has been such a wonderful reminder for me that I want to live more like she does. She is the happiest person I know. She doesn’t judge. She doesn’t hold grudges. She isn’t spiteful. She just loves.

We went out west for two weeks and then Florida for a week. She was so great. But, like all of us after we travel a lot, she was so very happy to be home. It’s her favorite place in the whole world. She hangs out in her room, with a sheet over her like a fort, plays her iPad while she listens to the director’s commentary on a movie playing on her T.V. She lines up all of her stuffed animals friends and plays with them and talks to them. She likes to take them and hide them under her fitted sheet and then take them back out again.

I used to get so upset that she didn’t have friends to play with, that all she liked to do was be in her room. But now? I get it. I get her. This is where she feels safe, loved and happy. Her stuffed animals ARE her friends. She loves them and gets upset when she can’t find the one she’s looking for. She loves to play with them. She enjoys being alone knowing we are right downstairs. She is happy. What else is there?

I think we should all try to live more like Olivia. She doesn’t worry about her weight, her looks or anything. She lives in the moment. She is happy with who she is exactly the way she is right now. She doesn’t apologize for who she is or feel bad because she’s “not normal”. She’s the happiest person I know and I, for one, am going to strive to be more like her in every way possible.

 

 

I Need This

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My BFF told me she missed my blog the other day.

You do? I asked.

Yes! I love your writing. You have important things to say.

I do? I asked.

Yes! You’re so good at it. You have a gift. You’re inspiring. You need to share that.

I am? I do? I am? I should? I asked.

YES!!!

I am constantly doubting myself in everything. I’m 41 and I still don’t think I’m good enough. Especially at this. I have been needing and wanting to write but every time I sit down I have too much to say and I don’t think I’m going to say it right so I just don’t. But when your BFF and your therapist tell you that you should, you listen.

So here I am. I’m going to make sure I set a little time away for myself to write each week. Maybe multiple times each week, we’ll see.

Things have been so up and down for me. The mental recovery from cancer is not easy. Getting used to this new body while recovering from an eating disorder is not easy. Parenting teenagers is not easy. Parenting a teenager with special needs is not easy. Being a teacher is not easy.

You know what is easy?

Summer. Being married to my best friend. Having three children who are my sun and moon. Reading. Going on vacation. Making Olivia smile with pure joy. Swimming. Binge watching shows. Taking naps. Spending time with my friends. Long bike rides. Lifting weights. Manicures. Ice cream. Listening to Matthew tell stories and making me laugh. Watching Gabe become a man. Being loved.

So for right now, I’m focusing on what’s easy. I’m remembering to enjoy and love each moment that I am so blessed to have. And I’m writing. For me. If it’s not good enough, so be it. I just need this.

 

 

Summer Reading I

I am so sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted! Where does the time go??? I hope you enjoy these suggestions…

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

This book is wonderful. It is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. You will LOVE it. I’ve been on the waiting list for almost 6 months and it was totally worth the wait. It is also now in my top five favorite books of all time!

Ove is an older man (I think he’s around 60 but he seems much older!) who is “taciturn” and grumpy. (I put that in quotes because it’s in the book a few times…I’ve never used it on my own before!) His beloved (so beloved it will break your heart) wife has died and he is on a mission to take his own life to be with her. Every day he plans a new method of suicide, but every day his plan is somehow foiled. Ove is such a unique, wonderful and lovable character. Every one of us knows an Ove and can relate to his depth of pain and love for his wife. Ove slowly but surely realizes that life is definitely worth living. Please, please read this book!

 

The Birth House by Ami Mckay

I liked this book enough to read the whole thing, but overall I’d give it a B: better than some, not the best. It is the story of Dora Rare who lives in a small island town in Nova Scotia during World War I. She has been trained as a midwife and healer. The setting is unique and the characters were fairly interesting. I liked the ending quite a bit too.

 

Dead Certain by Adam Mitzner

Ella Broden is the main character that, instead of pursuing her dream career of singing, has followed the safer path of becoming a lawyer just like her father. She is very close with her younger sister, Charlotte, a writer. When Charlotte goes missing, Ella is determined to find out exactly what happened to her precious sister. This was a quick, fun read with a great ending that you probably won’t see coming.

 

A Criminal Defense by William L. Myers

A young reporter is found dead and the main character, Mick McFarland, is hired as an attorney for his longtime friend who is accused of the murder. This is a very twisty, unique book that I really enjoyed. I can’t tell you much more!

 

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Those of you who know me well know that I am obsessed with true crime. My all-time favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder, talks about this book and Ann Rule all of the time so I figured I would probably like it too. I loved it! You will only like it if you enjoy reading about true crime. It’s about Ted Bundy and it’s pretty gruesome, of course, because it’s about his murders. I didn’t realize that Rule was really good friends with him for years. It was fascinating to read this first-hand tale.

 

The Girls by Emma Cline

I didn’t like the ending of this book at all…but I did find the story interesting enough to read the whole thing. Evie is a teenager in the 60’s in a small town in California. She’s lonely and bored and becomes enthralled with a group of girls, hence the title. What she doesn’t realize at first is that these girls are in a dangerous cult. She quickly becomes wrapped up in their ways and even on the fringe of some of their more dangerous escapades. It’s a good book but I was disappointed in the ending.

 

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

I couldn’t finish it. It is written in the Civil War era and the whole story is told in letters back and forth. They are written in the language of the time and you don’t know who wrote it until the end of the (very long) letter so it’s somewhat confusing. I just couldn’t get into it. But if Civil War stuff is your thing, you might like it!

 

This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel

I loved this book. It was a quick, easy, interesting read with intriguing characters and a great storyline. Claude is born into a family of five boys and feels as though he is supposed to be a girl. The family helps him transition into a girl but keeps his biological identity a secret when they move to a new town. It’s basically a story of a family who thinks they are doing the right thing and are doing what they can to protect their child. It’s very relevant and heart-wrenching in parts. I highly recommend it.

 

The River At Night by Erica Ferencik

I was so disappointed in this book. It was billed as super scary and I was very excited to be scared. It wasn’t scary to me at all! I read the whole thing thinking the scary part was coming and it never did. Maybe I’m not easily scared? I’m not sure. Basically, four best friends go on a white water rafting trip in the middle of nowhere in Maine and get stranded. Sounds great and super scary, right? Nope. Not to me! If you’re easily scared, you might like it, but I was mostly bored and waiting for the good stuff to happen.

 

Behind Closed Doors by A. Paris

This was a great book. It was very creepy and different and quick to read. I couldn’t put it down because I just had to know how it ended! I thought the ending was perfect and exactly as it should be. Grace meets the man of her dreams. He’s gorgeous, wealthy and loves her sister, who happens to have Down Syndrome. He is the perfect catch. OR IS HE???? You will love this book.

I’m not sure what I’m going to read next. It will be hard to fill Ove’s place! What are you reading this summer?

Read Me!

Here are some great ( and not so great!) books I’ve read lately for you to enjoy.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Everyone in America should read this book. Honestly. I had no idea what it was about but I love Jodi so I figured it would be awesome. It was. An African-American nurse is accused of murdering a white supremacist’s baby. Right?!?!? Jodi writes in her usual style of alternating between points of view from the nurse, the white supremacist and the nurse’s lawyer, who is a white woman. Jodi accomplished, with me anyway, what she set out to do with this book: open our eyes to racism in America. Not blatant racism shown by the white supremacist but everyday racism that we don’t even realize exists and happens all the time. It really explains and identifies exactly what “white privilege” means. Plus the story itself is very, very intriguing and interesting. Please go read this book!

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I was really excited for this book because I got the title off of a list of suspenseful thrillers. It was not that great. I skimmed a lot of it because it was one of those books that would have been much better had it been about 200 pages shorter. The story itself wasn’t the problem; it was that it was buried under way too many details. The main character, Lo, has managed to get herself a job reporting on a deluxe cruise ship for her magazine. She sees a girl disappear on the ship and won’t let it go ever when someone is trying to make her stop. There are twists and turns that are a bit ridiculous but interesting nonetheless. But it will take you a L-O-N-G boring time to get to the good stuff. The author also made the main character quite an idiot. She drinks too much, takes too many pills and doesn’t act very professional. If you decide to give it a go, skim until the last third of the book where it gets good.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

This was another off of that thriller list. I really enjoyed this one. The main couple has just had their baby stolen. They went over to their neighbor’s house for dinner and left the baby at home but checked on her every half hour. When they come home around one in the morning, the baby is gone. The investigation heats up and you find out what really happened quite early in the book. The rest of the book explores the fallout from the tragedy. It’s really good but it was a little disappointing to find out the big piece of information so early!

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

This one was very good and kept me guessing until the very end. Nick and Dara are sisters and best friends. Dara goes missing and Nick is on a mission to do whatever it takes to find her. A little girl in their town has also gone missing and Nick wonders if they’re connected. It’s a quick read and will provide you with twists and intrigue until the very end. Highly recommend this one!

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

This is a funny story. My BFF texts me and says “you have to read this!” So, of course, I get it from the library right away and start reading it. It seems really familiar. I text my BFF “Did I read this already?” and she doesn’t think so because she kind of keeps track of my books on my blog. But I swear, as I’m reading it, I can see the scenes in my mind and I know what’s going to happen. So I look it up on Amazon and it’s a movie and I’ve seen it!!! It was hilarious because I couldn’t figure it out! Anyway, the story is very good and super exciting but only if you haven’t seen the movie! If you’ve seen the movie, don’t bother because you already know all of the plot twists which make the story amazing!

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

This was one of my favorites. Helen is the main character; she’s a suburban mom who also happens to be a madame in D.C. She has a terribly tragic past that she’s bound and determined to keep a secret. She will do anything to protect her son from the truth. But will she be able to? It’s very suspenseful, with many different plot layers and an exciting ending that you won’t see coming. It’s awesome!

Books I started but couldn’t finish:

I’ve decided life is just too short to keep reading a book that doesn’t hold my interest. Here are a few I started but just couldn’t finish. And amazon.com reviewers agreed with me! (When a book is really long, and I’m not sure I want to keep reading, I head to Amazon and read the reviews!)

Night School by Lee Child —so sad because I love Jack Reacher books but I just couldn’t get into it. Bummer. Hopefully, his next one is better.

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult —one of my favorite authors but the story was too far-fetched and I felt like I already knew what was going to happen.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy — started out good (teenage girl gets cancer and then is in remission) but then took a turn that I didn’t like. Said teenage girl goes on a revenge binge when she thinks she’s going to die and then has to face the music when she doesn’t. She’s not likeable either.

The End of Alice by A.M. Homes — way too creepy for me. And that’s saying something because I love creepy. It’s about pedophilia and told from the perspective of two pedophiles and I just couldn’t stomach it.

If you’ve read anything great lately, or not so great, please share!

 

 

Sometimes You Cry Uncle

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I haven’t seen this big smile that goes all the way to his eyes in a while. I miss it terribly.

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Matthew’s been having a really rough time. He’s in therapy and it’s helping, but he’s still having a really hard time.

He’s terrified that I’m going to get cancer again and die. And it’s really hurting him.

My heart is breaking for him.

Today was one of those days where he just couldn’t handle it. He woke up this morning and you could tell he had been thinking about it all night, dreamt about it maybe, and just couldn’t shake it. Luckily, the stars aligned and I had a snow day today. I made an executive decision that Matthew could stay home with me today. I called his therapist and she had a cancellation. So Matthew and I went to see Lego Batman. He smiled and laughed and my heart lifted a little. I got him his favorites from Panera. He went to therapy and I went with him. We hugged a lot. We talked a bit. It’s very hard for him to put it into words. I think it’s hard for him to talk to me because he doesn’t want to make me feel bad.

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Do you ever have moments of parenting where you’re sure you should be saying something profound but you’re also sure you’re going to say the wrong thing and completely screw the whole thing up? I hope I didn’t today. I told him there are days when you have to power through and there are days when you cry uncle. And today was a cry uncle day. I told him that I’m scared too. That Dad is. That Amma is. That Amy is. That lots of people are scared of cancer coming back. But I told him it’s really unlikely. I told him that if it does I will fight like hell to beat it. I told him that when I get really scared, and it threatens to overwhelm me and consume me, I remind myself that I don’t want to miss out on today because I’m worried what might happen tomorrow. He is, unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to look at it) learning that life is not fair. That life can really suck sometimes. But that you have to find inner strength and keep going.

I don’t know if I’ve said the right thing. I can only hope that something will stick and help. I hope I’ve shown him by example what it means to be strong. I hope I’ve let him know that I understand and completely get it like no one else. I hope he knows how incredibly loved he is and how thankful I am to be his mother.

I hope. And I’ll continue to hope. Forever.

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Bittersweet 16

Olivia turns 16 on Monday.

16.

And I am very sad.

I think it hit me when Gabe went to the dance last weekend with two girls that were elementary playmates of Olivia. One was even the first one to invite Olivia to a birthday party. They both asked about Olivia and said to tell her hi.

But then they got to go out, have dinner with boys, go to a dance with friends, hang out after and have a fun-filled evening. And all I could think of was that my girl should be getting to do all that too. She should be getting her license, having her first kiss, going to basketball games with friends, studying for tests, getting mad at me over clothes, all of the things that 16-year-old girls are supposed to do.

But she’s not.

So I’m sad.

I know I shouldn’t be. She’s healthy, she’s happy, she’s beautiful. But I am. And I’m going to let myself be for a little bit.

But then I’m going to stop being sad because she’s healthy, she’s happy, she’s beautiful. She’s going to spend her birthday in the most perfect way possible: a day off of school, wearing pjs, playing on her ipad while watching a movie and being with her stuffed animal friends.

I’m going to enjoy the fact that my 16-year-old daughter would rather be with me than anyone else. The other day she told me “Mom? You’re my plus one.” (She heard it in a movie but I’ll take it!) Her face lights up at a day in pjs, hanging out with me and Matt. She’s so happy when she’s at home and with her family. She’s getting a special doll handmade by my mother-in-law for her birthday and our whole family is anxiously awaiting her excited reaction because it’s all she’s talked about for months. She woke up today and excitedly said: “It’s my birthday party today, isn’t it?!!!” She’s having a giant Oreo cake made by my sister. Her favorite people in the whole world will be here to celebrate with her. I’ll probably let her wear cute pjs to her party because let’s face it, it makes her the happiest. She is loved so much. She loves us so deeply.

SHE is happy. So I will be happy too. And it will be a sweet 16 indeed.

Happy Birthday, Olivia. I love you more than you will ever know!!!

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Shadow Girl

There are times when I see her so clearly, I think she might be real.

I’ll be sitting next to one of my best friends, watching her daughter cheer at half time, discussing just how beautiful and awesome her daughter is, and I see her so clearly. My shadow girl. My beautiful, awesome, self-assured almost 16-year-old daughter out there too. Her long brown hair is in a ponytail with those ridiculously large cheerleading bows; she has gorgeous just-got-out-of-braces teeth, long legs and a smile that lights up the room; she is self-assured, confident and amazing. She’s catching the eye of a boy in the stands she’s been talking to for a while; she’s giggling in between cheers with her best friend.

Other times, I’m sitting with my BFF, listening to her daughter tell us about musical tryouts, or coming home sweaty from soccer practice, or talking about Project Runway or laughing with Gabe and I’ll see her again. My shadow girl. I can see her so clearly I could cry. She’s rolling her eyes at me, she’s punching Gabe on the arm making fun of me with him, she’s talking about how she might get to play varsity this weekend, she and Gabe are counting down the days until they get their licenses and thinking about summer jobs.

Other times, Matt and I are out to the movies and I’ll see a group of teenage girls and she’s there. My shadow girl. She’s getting popcorn and a Coke and checking her phone and laughing with her friends and finding the perfect seat for the movie. They’re talking about that teacher that drives them crazy, that cute boy who just moved into town, what they’re going to do for spring break.

Many times, I’ll be teaching my class and she’s there. My shadow girl. She’s the quiet, but not too quiet, one at the back who always does her homework, participates in class, says hello and thank you and smiles. She’s polite, funny, smart and involved in school. She’s one of those students you just wish you could clone because they’re so awesome and make teaching so fun and worthwhile.

She’s sitting next to me on the couch watching This Is Us and crying along with me at all the sentimental parts. She’s letting me paint her nails and then she paints mine. We’re going shopping. We’re raiding each other’s closet. We’re sitting in the living room reading books. We’re talking about politics and celebrities and college. She’s telling me about this boy she likes. She’s sharing stories about her friends.

She’s there. She’s everywhere. But she’s nowhere.And as much as I am head over heels in love with my daughter, I would give anything to meet that shadow girl.