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Catastrophic thinking

October 19, 2009 4 comments

My mother went on a trip to celebrate her anniversary last weekend. She and my dad rented mopeds and mom had an accident. She hit a boat (!) and flew ass over teakettle onto the street and shattered her wrist. I use the verb “shatter” willfully. She had nine screws and a plate inserted into her wrist this week during a surgery.

This is bad. Not tragic, but bad. It’s her right wrist, which is really bad, and she’s in pain, which is bad, but this isn’t the worst case scenario.

When I found out she’d been hurt and was going to have surgery, my brain immediately did what it always does. It went to the worst-case. I started making plans in my head to move my dad up to live near or with me if my mom died on the operating table. Why would she die from an operation on her wrist? Bad anesthesia, blood clot, MRSA infection, I feel like that’s awful but I can’t stop it. My brain always wants to lay out all the options and come up with a back-up plan in case it happens.

The flu, however, is freaking me the fuck out.

Not the badly misnamed “swine flu”. Though that’s part of it. See, the swine flu (h1n1 is just as inaccurate and harder to type, and the accurate ‘novel 2009 h1n1’ is just ridiculous to type, so I’m going with the imprecise but simple ‘swine’) isn’t nearly as bad as people were worried about. And that worries me.

Because sometime soon, not this year but maybe in the next four or five years, there’s going to be a bad flu. A real bad flu. One of those flu viruses that will kill 20, 30, 40 percent of the human population — stinting at no one. Rich, poor, young, old, third world and old world and new world… we’re going to die. A lot.

And we could stop it. But it would require some serious efforts on the part of our government and governments around the world and the swine flu mess has shown that those efforts aren’t going to happen. What’s more, the swine flu mess has fizzled (well, I’m not ready to say it’s fizzled, I think it’s going to get worse, as much as I hope I’m wrong) and people will be jaded. They won’t scream at the gov’t to enact the (complex, scary) measures necessary. Hell, they don’t trust the gov’t int he first place, so they won’t LET the gov’t do anything. They won’t even get the vaccine. (Oh my gods, don’t get me started on the anti-vaccine people. I’ve been up to my hips in them on the local moms email list and I’m just tired of them.)

And there’s not a lot you can do as an individual. That’s what makes me angry. I have a plan for almost any catastrophe. Atlantic tsunami, terror attack on Boston, blizzard, fire, earthquake, I’ve got a plan. Hell, I have a plan for the rebuilding of society in a COMWEC (complete collapse of western civilization).

But as an individual (without the resources to own and stock an isolated ski chalet, like Robin Cook) there’s not a flipping thing I can do about a real flu pandemic.

Okay, rant over.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Holding onto sanity with both hands, hard

October 5, 2009 3 comments

So I just listened to a story on NPR that I knew I shouldn’t listen to. A young girl’s fight with the Swine Flu. It’s awful, don’t listen to it. It’s important, you should listen to it.

Every once in a while I hear stories like this and I get a glimpse into what life must have been like 100 years ago, when a virus or plague could sweep through a town in days and kill wantonly. The idea that my daughter — my healthy, sturdy, big, strong daughter — might die because of the flu…. it’s terrifying. I can’t imagine living with it all the time, every time someone sneezes, every time someone coughs.

I’m pro vaccine and going to get the Swine Flu shot as soon as I can, going to have my daughter get it. (I’d like my husband to get it, but we’ll have to see when shots become available for people without any risk factors. I’ve got asthma, so I’m in the earlier bunch.)

I know, objectively, that the swine flu is pretty mild in most cases. I know that she’s strong and healthy. But I also know that 60 kids have died and while more than half of them have had underlying causes, about a third were perfectly healthy. (If I start thinking about herd immunity, I get all kindsa pissed off, so I won’t even start.)

Anyway, I’m just trying to stay calm and remember that the odds are in my favor. And using lots of Purell.

A delicate situation

September 30, 2009 3 comments

So I haven’t posted in a while — more on that later — but right now I’m wrestling with something and I need to figure out sooner, rather than later, what the hell I’m going to do about it.

My mother’s sister is coming for Thanksgiving.

Now, my aunt is a deeply unhappy woman. She’s an alcoholic, got divorced a few year ago. Her best (only?) friend is in the final stages of a brutal bout with cancer and likely won’t live until Thanksgiving. She has bad health, no work skills, lives on money she gets from her daughter and my mom.

She’s from the South and has some strong feelings about gays, blacks, etc. etc. And she’s not afraid to say them out loud. She knows that sort of language isn’t acceptable in the Northeast, so she makes “jokes” and if you call her on it, she says to lighten up. (My folks won’t call her on it unless it’s awful and frankly, their attitude gets worse when she’s around.) I’ve noticed that whenever my mother spends more time with my aunt, my mother’s politics, already staunchly Republican, turn hard to the right.

There is a ton more — all Southern Gothic stuff — but you get the idea.

Then there’s my mom. My mom had the good sense to get the hell outta Dodge when she was in college and has lived in the Northeast twice as long as she lived in the South. But she is the baby of the family and the dynamics that build a family are hard to overthrow. Especially when one of your first priorities has always been keeping up appearances.

So when my aunt comes, my mother, who almost never has even half a glass of wine at parties, will pull out the wine bottles and have a glass with lunch, another a few hours later, and then two at dinner. It’s an excuse for my aunt to drink enough that she doesn’t need to sneak around and doesn’t get the DTs. But, of course, my mother insists that my aunt isn’t an alcoholic.

(At least, she did last time we talked about it. She changes her opinion at whim, it seems.)

Anyway, when Aunt was up in Nov. for my kid brother’s wedding, there was a Minor Incident.

The Husband was out and I had to get ready. I left The Child with my mom and dad and went upstairs to shower and get dressed. A little while later, I heard a car drive off and then a little bit after that, I heard my aunt on the stairs.

“Hey, who left?” I asked, drying my hair off.

“You parents did,” she smiled at me.

“Did they take The Child?”

“No, she’s downstairs.”

Now, my folks’ house is many things. It’s not even remotely childproofed. The Child was 2 1/2 at the time and well behaved, especially for a two-year-old, but there are two giant dogs who are not used to children, lots of tools and knives that a tall child can reach, steep and somewhat rickety stairs to the basement, exposed outlets, etc. etc. Also, thanks to an acoustic quirk, you can’t hear anything from the first floor to the second. (This is a pretty big house, too, so it’s not an easy job to find an adventurous toddler if you’re not keeping track.)

And my aunt, left in charge of my daughter, just left her unattended downstairs.

As I said, it’s a minor incident. But add to that her drinking (and my mother’s denial thereof), and her general attitude towards child rearing (more in a moment) and I don’t want to leave my child alone with her.

Now, do I simply not say anything and make an effort to never leave The Child unattended by me or The Husband? Or do I force the issue and say to my folks, “Do not leave The Child alone with the Aunt”? That would cause a huge confrontation and fight, I’m sure. But I feel really strongly about not leaving her alone with The Child.

Why? Well, it’s hard to articulate in a small space. Mostly it’s that I was a child in The Aunt’s household. Not under her charge, ever, but I remember being a kid and visiting. I hated it. I remember my mom would have talk with us every time we went down and tell us that we needed to “toughen up” and “get used to the teasing. That’s just they way they are.” I remember finding out that my cousin was indulging in all the standard teen behaviors with her 16-year-old boyfriend…. when she was 12. (And I do mean ALL standard teen behaviors.)

So, while I accept that childrearing mores are different in culture, it’s not acceptable for me. And it may be insane not to want her alone with my kid, but there you go.

A friend today suggested that even if I did have the fight with my mom — and it would be a fight, I can’t see how it wouldn’t be (if you CAN, please tell me!) — would she listen? She’s ignored my rules about sugar, television, and bedtime, why would it be any different? I was kind of aghast at that thought, but the evidence does support her.

Maybe we’ll just all come down with the flu or something.

Categories: Uncategorized

“When did water shoes become standard issue for the American child?”

August 16, 2009 8 comments

The Husband asked me that last night, waving the little pink (of course) plastic pair. I’d had to drive 30 minutes to find the last available pair in The Child’s size in the greater Boston Metro area.

She went last week to visit family at the beach. Water shoes are an indespensible item, apparently.

I’ve never been a beach kid. My family pretty much eschewed the beach for camping so I find the ocean and the culture of beach-going a little foreign. The Husband — who grew up in a very beachy family — informed me that when he was a kid, you either wore an old pair of sneakers (Keds) or went barefoot.

I could see the conversation was about to unspool into one of those “things were so much simpler when I was a child” rants that every human over the age of 29 seems unable to avoid.

So I thought about it. And answered: “Probably about the time that used syringes started showing up on the Jersey shore?”

I’ve decided that this will be my self-set goal for the next three months. To really think about any nostalgia-driven laments about childhood and contemplate why things are different now.

I know some things are worse and some things are better. Helmets for bikes — YAY! (One of my friends, K., swears they are stupid and campaigns against them. But the fact of the matter is that the total number of childhood deaths are way way down since they started instituting them.) Car seats — YAY! Video games — BOO! THose LeapFrog talking book things — BOO! Being allowed to roam around the neighborhood for hours and hours on end without supervision…. uh…. still trying to find a balance on that one.

Categories: Uncategorized

How quickly we forget

August 11, 2009 3 comments

I’ve had my current car for four years this month. It’s a nice car, the first one new I’ve ever owned, and it came with a key fob for locking and unlocking the doors. I remember thinking, the first time I used it, how silly it was that you used a remote control fob instead of a key. How hard was it to put a key in a lock?

(I say that but at least twice in my teenaged years, I had to have someone come get me because I broke the key off in my car door lock.)

The other day, I got out of the car and hit “lock” and it didn’t work. I fiddled and faddled and did all those things you do and it still wouldn’t work. So I went and got The Husband and said, “You’ve got to go lock the car. My remote won’t work.”

He looked at me weird but walked over to the parking lot and beeped the door locked. When he came back, he looked at the fob and pushed the buttons and yes, it seemed dead.

But he flipped the key out and again, looked at me weirdly. “I guess you’ll just have to do it the old-fashioned way.”

“I tried!” i protested. “You can’t hit the lock door on the inside of the car … it jsut won’t lock with the door open.”

He gave me that weird look again and then said, “I meant with the key!”

I looked down at the (entirely functional) key in my hand and just blinked.

I am a nit.

Categories: Uncategorized

Is the culture of parenting insane? Or am I?

August 3, 2009 4 comments

A few month ago, on a chilly and pouring-rainy day, I needed to run an errand in the car. I wrestled the Child into her raincoat, got her to the garage, put her in the back seat, backed out of the garage, got back out, closed the garage door, wrestled her out of her raincoat, put her into her car seat, and got about half a block away when I realized I’d forgotten the quarters that I’d need to pay for parking on this errand.

So I whipped around to the parking space that’s next to our building. Literally three feet from our side door, in a fire station’s “visitor’s parking” slot. I got out, locked the car, and looked up at my door. I was going to be inside for less than 30 seconds — I could sprint up the stairs, fling open the door, grab the quarters on my counter, and be back in the car in less time than it took to write all of that down. The Child was in a locked car in a fire station parking lot. I could see that no one was around for blocks.

Could I just leave her in the car, get the quarters, and be done with it?

No, I couldn’t.

So I wrestled her out, lugged her through the rain, dragged her slowly up the stairs, got the quarters, etc. etc. etc.

As I sat shivering in my front seat, listening to her complain about getting wet, I thought about what I’d just done. Why was I unable to do something so simple? Did I really think that someone was going to carjack my Passat station wagon? Did I really think that a pedophile (with crazy mad car lock picking skills) has been lurking around my apartment for the one day that I lowered my guard to steal my daughter away?

No. Of course not.

So why didn’t I just leave her in the car? I am still not sure. I think it might be because people who leave their kids in cars have been labeled “bad moms” and there’s no gray area… to go back to an earlier post, you either follow the rules or you break them.

More than that, at least I think, is the fact that if something HAD happened, I can’t even imagine what, but if something bad had happened, “they” would have blamed me. I deserved it because I left my kid alone in a car. That’s crazy, so maybe it’s just me and not the parenting culture, but I don’t think so.

At least twice I have been in a situation where another mom was dropping something off for me. Each time, the mom in question had her kid in the car, on the street, locked. She was standing on the street, less than ten feet from the car, she could see the kid, and she still bounced up and down and gasped out, “Hurry, hurry, I gotta run!” and then dashed away… because she didn’t want to leave her kid in a car.

I have no profound wrap-up. I’m not sure what to say, other than, I hope if I’m in that situation again, I have the good sense to get the quarters without dragging her through the rain.

Categories: Uncategorized

Speaking of rules and breaking them….

July 29, 2009 2 comments

I enrolled the Child in a “creative movement” dance class for the summer. I picked it because, frankly, it was cheap, easy to get to, and near a Starbucks. I figured it was something she could do once a week and I’d get to read a book and sip a Venti Passion Fruit Tea.

I was surprised by two things when I got there. One was that all the moms there were “dance moms.” They had investigated the local studios, does their research, had opinions on the style and method of dancing and teaching. I was a little stunned by this, though I can’t imagine why. One of my dear friends is a dance mom and did the same thing for her little girl. I guess I just figured that a summer class would be more laid-back than the serious dancers. (And yes, apparently three is about when you start getting your child involved in serious dancing if you’re a dance mom. Who knew? Well, J. knew but I didn’t ask her. More the fool me.)

The second then that I was stunned by was the difference between The Child and the other dancers. It was a class specifically for three year olds and I figured that it was perfect for The Child who is almost exactly 3 1/2.

Now, I know she’s big for her age and apparently very coordinated, but she towers over these girls. (All girls, alas.) And they all still have that roly-poly baby fat body with that toddlery side-to-side movement. I was really stunned. I had no idea that The Child was so far ahead of other three year olds.

I even asked J. (the dance mom) about it and she seemed a little surprised, too.

Well, as it turns out, no The Child isn’t that much more developed than other three-year-olds. Because this class is apparently populated almost entirely by… two-year-olds!

Event hough it says, explicitly, on the website and in the brochure, that there are different classes for each year — 2, 3, 4, and 5-6 — most of the girls in this class are two. And most of the girls in the four-year-old class are three. I found out when the teacher suggested I think about putting The Child in the Fours class and I said, “Well, she won’t be four until January…” and got this explanation that most of the kids in the three class had finished the two class and moved on. I was stunned.

All the other moms, waiting to pick up their little ones, were nodding like this made perfect sense. I was getting a little irritated and confused, frankly. Why the hell do they say one thing when it’s commonly assumed or known to be another?

It’s not a big deal, clearly. She’s having fun, it’s 45 minutes once a week, I don’t plan to keep her in dance past the end of August (ballet class scarred me as a child). But I’m just so frigging confused…. and a little annoyed.

Categories: Uncategorized