Wednesday, May 31, 2017

So this happened...

This was just not on my radar yet.

So Catherine has been talking about boys and friends and boyfriends and it's all mixed up depending on the day, sometimes the hour.   In one conversation they are her boys that are friends but not boyfriends.  Other times she loves them but just likes her teachers, showing some awareness about a distinction between the two, and indicating some level of knowing there's a romantic bent to the title of 'boyfriend'.

So we had one of the two boys she adores over today for a playdate.  He's been here before with his Mom, but today came alone.  For the sake of privacy, let's call him Jack.   On Jack's last visit his mother shared with me he has an obsession with diapers (???...whatever!) and of course we have a lot of those around with Matthew.  We currently have a stash behind the couch in the living room.  So she and Jack have been thick as thieves all year, and today were playing downstairs for a few hours.   In the first hour or so I knew they were sneaking into the diapers and sneaking back downstairs.  I told them it was fine to play with them, they didn't have to be sneaky about it, I wasn't and wouldn't get mad or anything.  A little while later I noticed it was pret-ty darn quiet down there.   So I went to check it out.  Jack was in the puppet playhouse and Cate just outside it.  I asked if everything was okay and they said it was, and I made a lighthearted reminder about what I always say when the kids are quiet..."trouble is brewing, right?"   Cate gave a little smile like she didn't quite know what to do with that information as it applied to her and not Matthew (which is who we're usually talking about.)
So I went back upstairs, no big shake.
At some point in there they said they were trying on diapers.  Whatev, right?  I figured they meant on the dolls, or over their clothes, didn't think much of it.

Later I hear some of their conversation as they're playing house, and it's so cute I go down to take a picture of whatever they're doing.  Cate is now in a cowgirl vest and tutu, so she had obviously changed her clothes.  Almost assuredly right in front of Jack, because that's how she rolls.  In her underwear most of the time, or changing outfits left and right.  Particularly dress up clothes with friends over.  Note to self, have a conversation about changing outfits with male friends over.
They were playing house, being darling.
Soon after I hear her going on about pretending to get hair cuts and then "OK, you can be an astronaut AND a hair cutter!  Then you can give my hair a trim when we're in outer space, OK?"
A few minutes after that, "No Jack!  You play what I want to play or I'M not going to play with YOU!"  Aaaaand then, tears and "Mom, Jack won't play with me, I want you to play with me!"
So she tells me all about how she wants Jack to brush her hair and style it and play dress up and I explain to her that honey, boys just don't often like to do that kind of thing.  And oh by the way, you are now totally naked and OMG GO PUT SOME CLOTHES ON!!!!  Wth?!  But being naked is a nonissue and this hair business is really upsetting, so in her world my priorities are totally upside-down.

After convincing her to go get some clothes on I find Jack downstairs basically hiding behind the puppet house in a corner.   Poor, traumatized kid.  I mention that Catherine was being pretty darn bossy.   And how that's not really fun to be around.  He agreed on both counts.  We didn't mention the nakedness.
"Science-ing" brought both kids around and all was again well (baking soda + vinegar = volcanos, food coloring + just about anything = my mom doesn't let me do this at my house, super cool!).    Eventually there was a baking pan full of water and about 4 bottles of food coloring.   Jack was using a small baster that came with the science kit to suck up the liquid and squirt it back out.  I hear Catherine say "It sounds like pee!"  giggle giggle.  Then I hear, "It looks like your penis."  I must have made a sound because she looks at me at says, "You know, the long part."  Yep, I say, because of course she means the long part where the pee comes out.  But, holy hell.  Jack didn't say a word and I couldn't see his face, so who knows what was going on for that poor child.

Later, I'm telling his mother about this because it sounds like hilarious stuff kids say and she's laughing like crazy.  Not until I go inside to look for some of the items Jack brought over to make sure they go home with him did it hit me....wait a damn second.  Diapers.  Trying them on.  Cate changing clothes.  Naked.  It looks like your penis.


So hours later, this evening, I casually and lightheartedly ask Cate if she and Jack were playing with diapers or actually trying them on.  She admits they were trying them on.  I ask if they saw each others privates and let's just say yes, they did.  She gave me specifics on what he saw and what she did.  Still super casual as if this must have been silly and didn't they have fun together today, I ask if they touched each other's privates or just looked.   The latter, thank you sweet Jesus.

Folks...I just did not know we were here.
I thought we were still in "Isn't this sweet, kids just being kids and unfazed by gender differences, just having fun and enjoying each other for who they are" glory!  You know, INNOCENCE.  And it's still innocent for all practical purposes.  But innocent doesn't mean appropriate.   And there were definite inappropriate portions of today's playtime occurring while mama was upstairs dealing with being double billed for our security system over the last 3 years.

Gonna be some new rules in town, kiddo.
1)  Clothes on with company.   All the time.
2)  If you're going to change clothes, do it where they can't see you.  Preferably in another room with the door mostly closed.  Modesty, girl.
3)  No showing others your privates.  Only to parents (or a doctor) if we or you suspect a problem down under.
4)  What am I missing, ladies?  It's now 12:45 am and I'm tired tired tired, but....holy cow.  Holy cow.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Seven years past Italy

My first Mother's Day after Anna died Brad and I went to Italy.   He still had flight benefits to fly standby for free at the time, and I just wanted to escape.  It had only been 5 months.  So off we went, and it was beautiful, everything we all imagine Italy to be.  Having been before, this time we went south from Rome to Sorrento, Capri and beyond.  Took in the stark beauty of the ocean against the dramatic cliffs, my favorite little old men with their canes and caps trolling terraced olive groves, the haughtiness of Capri regulars against we lowly tourists.   Pizza, pasta, lattes.
We pulled our suitcases over cobbled streets, hauled them up staircases when the hotel had no elevator, arranged ferries and busses and found our way through quintessential Italian coastal towns.   We must have interacted with and passed by at least 3,000 people.  How is it then, that no one acknowledged our very guts copiously hanging from our open torsos?   How is it no one saw our shredded hearts?   Noticed the tears that threatened to pour virtually every moment?   For when I look at those pictures, it's all I see.   Broken people.  Moving and pretending and persevering for the sake of the other.  
When talking to other parents of recent child loss about the decision to go Italy for Mother's Day, we always say "You're still going to be miserable, but you're miserable in Italy", as if that somehow makes it more bearable.  It doesn't, but the laughter we so often get from them is high praise, when laughter is the very antithesis to their being at that stage.

Which brings me to today.   Seven years later.   I'm filled with my two incredible living children and as contented as I'd imagined I'd be long before infertility and infant death entered my world.  And I am the  very definition of amazed that this is so.   With 100% certainty I can tell you that seven years ago I could not would not have imagined a Mother's Day with virtually no feelings of sadness or grief.  (Though the act of writing this is bringing some up.)   For years I needed the sadness.  I wanted it.  It was how I proved to myself and others that she still matters.  Now I can own her existence as matter of factly as I can my living children.  

This weekend is filled with happiness and gratitude and glorying in the un-promised result of our clinging to this vision.   To be sure, our family is the picture of getting what you wanted in a way you never could have imagined.  We eschewed donor egg and now have the most amazing little blue eyed blonde of another woman's genetic material, whom I could not possibly cherish or love more fiercely.  We have a darling, precocious son with dancing brown eyes, born of another couple whom I desperately hope will become an interactive part of our extended family over the years.   And I have a dead daughter with my hair, my nose, who makes herself known to me at 11:26 every so often, AM or PM.   Or at some random actual time of the day on a clock with the wrong time, reading 11:26.   A girl I think of every single day, often several times a day.   A girl with whom I keep at a safe distance from my psyche often times, the same way I keep God.  If I were to step into their presence too much, go and actually spend time with them, well, my constructed functioning world would crumble.  And I've spent so much time amongst the rubble these last years, I just choose not to right now.  

Today I get to enjoy the culmination of our journey.  My three children.  My beautiful daughter of soul and spirit involved in her own journey to which I am not privy on this plane, my sassy strong-willed moody funny introspective dramatic precious girl, and my bright outside-loving climbing talking happy curly-haired son.

I am a lucky woman indeed.  Luck.  Ha!  Let me rephrase.  I am a woman who recognizes this life is not guaranteed.    I am a woman who gutted through and survived horrible scenes and experiences and still held the vision of this life.  I am a woman rejoicing.  I am a woman victorious!  I am a Mommy.

Happy Mother's Day to me, to you, and to all the women with mama hearts whose children are not here, whether taken or not yet created…. you are all on my heart today.