Dear Neighbors, Thank You For Being A Part of My Village

I live in the retirement capitol of the world. Literally.

The median age of my town is 67. It’s been referred to as “Heaven’s Waiting Room” and all of the other “near death” jokes you can think of. Bunko, golf, and pickle ball are the focus of most conversations and no one eats dinner after 5:30pm, (which, I’ve somehow comfortably melded into this). The speed limit here is 45 but you must drive at least 15mph under that in the left lane. And, if you’re looking for any establishment to be open after 8pm, you’re out of luck. Our Walmart is open 24 hours, though. That was giant news when it opened.

I have been here the majority of my life and it wasn’t always the most exciting place for children. When I was school-aged, most communities were strictly 55 and over (and still are), meaning, yes, that they discriminate against anyone younger living in them. That said, young families were just dispersed throughout our town since there was not one community that was geared towards that demographic. We were lucky to have one or two kids within a 3 mile radius.

I now have an 8 year old who happens to be an only child. And truth be told, I am one of those moms that hates playing with their kids. Sorry, but it’s true. I am not that kind of fun mom. I will do dance parties, watch movies, go on hikes, go to the beach, go to the pool, but if the play involves my child telling me what to say during imaginary play….nope. Sorry. I suck at it. So, she does rely on her friends, as I believe she should.

About 4-5 years ago, a home builder of those cookie-cutter type housing communities acknowledged the need for a community that appealed to younger families, noticing that this population is growing here.

Low and behold, he was building a monster community where he put in a….water slide.

:::Cue opening gates of heaven music::::

A water slide. Fucking genius. Build it and they will come.

And so all of us young families marched in like zombies to purchase a new home and asked, “Where do we sign?”, declaring, “Take my money!!”. I don’t even think any of us cared what the house necessarily looked like, what the quality was like, or how much it even cost.

There was a water slide. And playgrounds. And walking trails. And kayaks. And even promotional pictures posted of….children playing. It was a Christmas miracle.

So, I’ve painted the picture. My neighborhood houses approximately 75% of the young families of our town here. Slight exaggeration but not really.

The amazing result here is that my child now has built in friends. A plethora of young kids her age. So many that I cannot count. She’s so fortunate to have this. I’m actually envious of her childhood, at the risk of patting myself on the back.

But she’s not the only fortunate one. I am, too.

My neighbors are a huge part of my village. The village it takes to raise a kid. And I’m so thankful.

I’m able to have her put on her handy little GPS watch-phone thing and off she goes, sometimes for hours. Maybe playing video games, maybe playing and outside game of kickball, maybe playing Legos somewhere.

So, yes, my kid is the one that’s always at your house.

But it works both ways.

As I type, I’m listening to fort building and nerf gun wars upstairs after a sleepover, that was complete with popcorn, donuts, and massive amounts of YouTube viewing. Sometimes I have as many as 7 children playing at my house, recording videos, destroying my daughter’s room. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope I’m able to give other moms and dads the same breaks, breaks that they certainly deserve, that they give to me.

It might not always be an even amount of time spent between houses. I don’t keep score. My guess is that no, it isn’t. My child probably spends far more time at others’ houses than they spend here because it’s always more fun at someone else’s house.

And if that’s an issue, I would hope someone would speak up and tell me, but I’m assuming we are all in this together. We’re all here for one another, watching our kids grow up together, helping raise them together. (I do expect you to say no to her, as I’ve had to say to your kids, and I expect you to discipline her as you would your own. Again, in this together.)

I love the independence that this neighborhood gives my daughter. I love the freedom it affords her. I’m a huge advocate of breeding healthy independence and freedom because if it can’t start in early childhood, when does it start? When do we stop hovering? When they’re teens and then they go insane with their new freedoms, not knowing exactly how to channel it? I know these are controversial questions, so I’ll answer that for myself…

I’ve realized that having wonderful neighbors allows me to feel safe about letting my child experience things on her own. It has allowed her to make some of her own choices, which aren’t always going to be the right ones, and that’s ok. I trust her. And no, I don’t trust everyone else. Yes, strangers can be dangerous, and I hope I’m doing a decent job of teaching her that. I feel comfortable allowing her to find her way, within reason, because I’m surrounded by a great support system.

I understand that my style of parenting isn’t everyone’s style. We establish that day in and day out with one another, based on the online parenting wars. But I do understand that not everyone agrees with giving their children as much freedom as I give mine. And I definitely respect that. No two parenting styles are alike, which makes the world go round, and ultimately will help my child become more well-rounded, having been exposed to so many different families.

Having all of these amazing people surrounding us, allowing my child to come in and out of their homes, eating their food, playing with their children, even sleeping over at times? I can’t say it enough: I’m so thankful. It’s an amazing advantage and it’s so comforting to know you’re all here. (And special kudos to those parents that imaginary play with my kid. You’re fucking rockstars.)

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of my village. I’m forever thankful. And I hope you feel the same.

 

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I Don’t Want To Fit Into My Kid’s Clothes

And even if I could, I won’t wear them.

:::Deep breath::::

Ok. I am writing this with complete cognizance and mindfulness. I am not a fan of mommy wars or shaming. My message is not that of judgement, but more of awareness. Read this as a cautionary tale, of sorts, from someone who has struggled with body image issues for many, many years. That is my disclaimer.

Something has been bothering me about modern day mother-daughter relationships and I am going to attempt to articulate this the best I can.

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I always viewed my mother as a beautiful human. Inside and out. Still do. I cannot remember exactly when I became aware of how beautiful she is but I remember hoping to look just like her when I grew up. I remember thinking how pretty her skin was, her hair, her nails, her jewelry. I took notice of how she took great care of herself and how she always looked so put together. Nothing extravagant or out of the ordinary, but she was gorgeous and I knew it. I’m pretty certain we all believe our moms are beautiful and we idolize them. Or many of us do, especially when we’re little. Nothing shocking about that.

But what I remember most, from a very young age, is being very aware of how thin she was. Not that she was abnormally skinny, but definitely thinner than other moms. It was an observation that stuck with me, for sure.

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When I was young, as in elementary school age, I was stick-skinny. I ate and ate and was just long and lean. People used to ask me if I even ate food at all.

Until I hit puberty.

Then I became long-ish and round-ish. I quickly became well-developed (read: size C boobs at age 12) and packed on an extra 20lbs or so above my “recommended” weight. (I use that term loosely since weight charts are complete bullshit.) Point is- I grew fast and furious, as humans do. My body did what it wanted while I continued to eat what I wanted, within reason, as I believe kids should.

I was acutely aware of how fast my body was growing in those terrible middle school aged years when all of this body image shit starts. I remember being one of the only girls with big boobs in 7th grade and the boys would say things like, “I bet you can’t touch your elbows together behind your back”. Being young and naive, I would try it, as all the boys would laugh and look at my new developments. Middle school was the most evilest of years for me. I digress.

By the time I was in 8th grade, my mom and I were able to share clothes. I continued to grow taller, a bit thinner again, and my mom, who remained consistently thin, was able to fit into my size. She was young and fun and progressive so I didn’t blame her for shopping in the same clothing department where I found mine. (Mind you, this was the late 80s so think high waisted Guess jeans and oversized shirts. Nothing like today’s style.) And, I didn’t see the harm in it, I didn’t find it odd, and didn’t think too deep into it most of my adult life.

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Approximately a year ago, when my daughter was 7, she and and I were in the shower together. She was staring at my belly, then would look at her own and poke at it. She said, “I’m chubby. I’m not skinny like you”.

I literally stopped in my tracks.

“CHUBBY?! NO YOU ARE NOT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW.”, almost yelling.

I wanted to immediately and completely erase those thoughts from her mind. And my mind spun with how this vocabulary even got into her brain since I was always cognizant of using words like “chubby”, “fat”, or any sort of negative connotation in relation to body image since I spent several years of my adult life being overly concerned with how much I weighed, at one point even being diagnosed with anorexia. If I’m being honest, I’m still far too preoccupied with weight. However, I am bound and determined not to bring these issues into her life.

It turned out that someone at school that day had called her chubby so, on that very day, she became aware that she has a body and that we have societal views of perfection. And it made me sad. And it made me angry. And it made me reflect on my own image of body awareness and perfection.

It made me realize, I always wanted to be skinny because my mom was skinny and skinny equaled beautiful. I fault society for telling us this everyday, and I also saw it at home. I wanted to always fit in her jeans because she fit into mine and that’s how I started to measure beauty. Because as women, our measurement of beauty has no other option but to start with our mothers. They’re our yardsticks for everything so body image and beauty are certainly no exception.

Listen. (Especially to you, mom. Listen.) Do not misunderstand. I do not blame my mom for all of my body issues because we shared a few pairs of jeans in 1989. She did nothing wrong.

It’s certainly more than fine that my mom was thin and healthy. It was wonderful to grow up with a mom who valued healthy eating and fitness. It was absolutely ok. And I do not begrudge moms for taking good care of themselves, being fit, looking younger than their ages, getting botox or whatever else women do to become their image of beautiful. I.do.not.judge. I exercise, I shop in the junior department, and I even dye my hair pink. I love pretending to be younger than I am.

However.

I believe what we need to be careful of is creating competition with our daughters.

The thing is, our daughters are their own people with their own bodies and their bodies shouldn’t look like our bodies, and vice versa, even if they do indeed look similar in size and shape. When we buy the same clothes as our daughters, share clothes with our daughters, it’s riding that fine line of wishing we were still their age, almost pretending we are still their age, and being more of a peer to them than their mom. We’re forcing them to draw comparisons to us when we share these intimate similarities with them. They can’t help but compare how their bodies look in the same article of clothing. It’s a natural response to compare. These can be dangerous messages no matter how much of a bond it feels like you’re creating by sharing things.

Multiply in the additional pressures of growing up today: the advances in technology that give us a voyeuristic view into how celebs look and dress. The make-up, the lip fillers, the shorter shorts, the diet fads. Christ, the Jenner girls alone have made girls feel like they all need to be supermodels and look all grown up by the age of 14.

So, we need to be there for them on a different level. Because we’re their moms, their safe place, their rock, their elder, their role model, but we also have a responsibility to show them that beauty looks so very different on everyone.

Does this mean we all have to wear mom jeans, Polo shirts, matronly dresses and ditch every stitch of sexiness to show the hierarchy of motherhood? Of course not, but there has to be a balance and because I lost my parenting manual, I don’t know that I have a formula for that balance, but what I do know that putting an emphasis on still fitting into a jean size that I was in high school isn’t something I need to impress upon my kid, even if it boosts my ego. I do not need to create the belief that this is of importance in life. Because it isn’t.

I obviously hope that she picks up on my healthy habits- exercising, making decent food choices, good hygiene, etc. All of the things we try to pass down to our kids to make them the healthiest version of themselves, but emotionally, I don’t need her to value a body shape or size over another. Therefore, my jeans will be different from her jeans, even if they happen to be the same size.

It’s a lesson to me, too, which is really the point here: self acceptance. When I learn to do that, so will my daughter. And also? To accept the aging process, to acknowledge that a woman in her 40’s really has no business shopping at Forever 21, even if they can. Because we aren’t 21 forever. And that is ok.

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The Sneaky Moments of Motherhood

Motherhood is full of moments. Moments that are new, moments that are scary, moments that are frustrating, moments that are full of emotions. Motherhood is this string of moments that sometimes just seem like one long, everlasting moment.

Sometimes you wish for these moments to disappear forever. You wish some away so desperately, because they’re fucking hard. Sometimes you wish you could remember what you felt like in certain moments because things happen so quickly. Time is so accelerated within motherhood. Sometimes you wish you could relive the moments over and over and over because they’re so full of love.

Tonight, I had a moment.

It was a moment with a familiar emotion…but it’s an emotion I have a difficult time describing. It was a moment that I have a difficult time explaining. But it’s worth noting because I know every mom feels this. I know we all have these moments.

It’s this moment of realizing that your child is yours. That your child is growing. That your child is maturing. That your child isn’t little anymore. They’re these moments you realize…it’s happening. They’re becoming…them.

It’s this moment that I can only describe as those “sneaky moments”, because, for me, it’s an emotion that totally sneaks up on me and surprises me from time to time. It overwhelms me.

These moments aren’t to be confused with those of “firsts”. Not like their first word, first step, or first day of school. They aren’t to be confused with moments we’re flooded with pride because of good grades, or a good game, or where their kind heart shows. It isn’t that feeling of simply feeling how much you love them or appreciate their existence.

No. None of those are the same.

Tonight, as I was watching my daughter get ready for bed, she put on some music. This song Capsize that she loves. She sang every word, words that I couldn’t quite make out, but she knew them. She sang these words with such passion and confidence. She was brushing her hair and singing as she looked in the mirror.

She didn’t know I was watching. I was just observing her. All 4’5″ of her 8 year old self. All 74lbs of her.

It wasn’t anything new or out of the ordinary. But I had that sneaky moment. That moment where her life kind of flashed before me.

That moment where I realized she is the same human that was once 7lbs2oz in my arms. The one I didn’t know what to do with as a newborn. The toddler that that loved the word “uh-oh” and that hated sleep. The one that loved her purple baby and her green hospital pacifiers. The one that hated P.E. in kindergarten and didn’t want to learn how to ride a bike until she was almost 7. This is that same little, tiny human that grew inside of me. None of this felt possible in this moment, it didn’t feel real.

These moments take my breath away because it’s kind of too much to take in. It’s too much to reconcile in my mind that this is happening, this tiny human is growing up and becoming a bigger human. In these moments, it’s when I’m blindly reminded that I’m responsible for who she’s becoming and that she’s who she is because of me- the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s these moments where I catch a glimmer of me in her actions, or her body language, or her mannerisms.

It’s in these moments that I feel cheated because I let too many moments go by without noticing.

You know these moments?

I’ve had these moments before, like the time she told me she was embarrassed when I kissed her outside her classroom this past year. And like the time she told me I didn’t need to walk her to class anymore. Or, even in less obvious moments, like the one tonight, and sometimes it’s happened when she simply says something like, “Bye, mom. I’m headed out to play. I have my watch-phone on if you need me”.

Some days, these moments pass me by without evoking that feeling of sneakiness. They’re just another moment of motherhood. But, these sneaky moments. They’re real. They’re powerful. They’re beautiful, magical, scary, and almost frustrating all at the same time. Frustrating only because you know one thing is for sure: you can’t rewind, there is no replay. This is it. It’s happening.

I’m certain some moms have these moments more than others. I’m sure maybe these moments don’t even feel sneaky to other moms like they do to me. But I know we all know these moments. These moments, they’re different. They’re defining. They’re earth shattering, to some degree. They’re sobering because you’re reminded of the tremendous job we have as moms. The enormous and wonderful responsibilities we have to these little humans.

These moments are teaching us. Sit with these moments and listen. Absorb these moments. These moments are telling us ever so subtly to slow down. And they’re also telling us we are doing one hell of a job.

Don’t blink, mamas. The moments are all around us.

 

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The Function in Dysfunction

I talk a lot. Sometimes too much. I’m an over-sharer and sometimes I feel the need to word vomit in the most simple of conversations. It’s just who I am. Too transparent. But it’s certainly led to some interesting conversation.

I was talking to someone affiliated with my work world, someone I had just met, and she was asking me about life, in general: kids, vacations, etc. Just small talk. She asked if I was married and I said my usual, “No, but her dad and I are still in a relationship. We’re together but don’t live together”.

She gave me the same perplexed look that everyone else does. People don’t understand this type of unconventional situation. I get it. She is quite a bit older than me so she seemed more concerned than most do about my answer.

And then she said this: “Well…that’s an interesting set up. So much dysfunction for kids these days. I guess broken homes are the norm with all of the divorces. No one stays together anymore.”.

Dysfunction. I loathe that word in relation to describing a family.

Broken. I loathe that word in relation to a home.

It got me thinking- why, and how, on earth did we ever start describing families of divorce as “dysfunctional”?

Totally rhetorical but my annoyance remains.

This idea that divorce is synonymous with dysfunction and brokenness should not be perpetuated. Those are temporary states, or emotions, within divorce at times, but not adjectives that should describe families.

What a horrible label. It’s something that I have heard less and less of since divorces are so common, but these ugly words we use to describe families that aren’t the fairytale version of marriage and family- “dysfunctional”, “broken”? Let’s stop that.

My family is not dysfunctional. My family is not broken. And my child does not need to think otherwise. If her father and I would have stayed in a marriage, a relationship, which, at the time of separation was completely unhealthy- arguments, tension, unhappiness, amongst other things- wouldn’t that have been broken? Wouldn’t that have been dysfunctional?

The difference is now, yes, she has two houses. She spends the night at one house twice a week and the other house the rest of the week. There are challenges that go along with this. There is navigation involved. There were certainly concerns for my child when this drastic change was made, but at the end of the day, she has two parents that love her. She has a family that functions despite the title of “divorce”. We all still function. No one is broken.

Hearts might have been broken, sure, but they’re in some phase of repair and they certainly won’t stay broken, so let’s not call anything broken. We were living in more dysfunction before, prior to divorce. So let’s not call our new normal dysfunctional. Let’s get rid of that ideal, of that perfection, in relation to what families look like and how they function. Perfection does not exist. Anywhere. We all know this. Let’s stop with the stigmas.

Everyone functions because they have to. They navigate their new normal- all of us do that have been through a separation and a divorce. None of it is easy, most of it is not pretty. And it can certainly get downright ugly. But it was most likely ugly as the textbook definition of marriage, too.

It’s redefining. Not dysfunctional. Not broken.

We know our children do not go unscathed by divorce. We, as parents, we know this. We do not need ugly labels to reinforce this, however. We do not need this global idea that we simply gave up on marriage, that it was that easy. That we didn’t try. No one lives behind our closed doors. Only we know our reasons, only we know what we had to do to function and thrive the best way we know how.

This obviously also goes for divorced families that now have new marriages, maybe step-children. They’re beautiful, extended, blended families. At least most of them are. Not all of them are the families pictured together at the kids’ soccer games, or at Disney together, as one big happy family, donning the shirts labeled with their specific role in the family, (this just isn’t realistic for every family of divorce), but they all function to the very best of their abilities. They all love.

Once again, love wins. Love for our kids, it wins. Always. We, as parents, make every decision with our children at the forefront of our minds. That’s what we do. And the last thing we want is for them to be labeled as “broken” or “dysfunctional”.

Can we do better, collectively? Can we look at a divorce situation objectively and just silently acknowledge that this family did the best the could then and they’re doing the best they can now. I did not grow up as a child of divorce but so many of my friends that did are badass, full-functioning, successful, functional people. No worse for wear and definitely not broken.

All families are beautiful. They are all unique. They are all functional in some way, shape, or form. They do not need perfection. They just need love.

 

 

 

 

Please Don’t Thank Me for Being A Working Mom.

I read this wonderfully sweet post today, thanking us working moms for basically holding down the fort, if you will, in the work force. It was endearing and not at all condescending like some pieces similar to this have been. I felt the author was genuine and all of her words came from a beautiful place. Calling us “true feminist heroes” felt amazing. It really did. I admit, I puffed out my ego for one second. ‘Yeah. Hell yeah. We are feminist heroes. Damn right”.

But listen.

Don’t thank me.

I needed work more than feminism and work needed me.

I am unapologetic for wanting- no, needing- my career.

Yes, I need to work to pay bills, especially as a single mom, but I also need to work to stay sane. I never aspired to be a stay-at-home-mom. I never even aspired to be a mom, if I’m being honest. Not to be confused with not wanting to be a mom at all. I did want a child. It happened, it’s wonderful, and I’m thankful but it wasn’t my sole goal in life. It wasn’t my end all, be all. It wasn’t what would define me. I knew it would probably be a part of my life but I also knew it wouldn’t be my whole life.

And quite frankly, I don’t understand why we shame moms who aren’t fulfilled by motherhood alone. Why we still, in 2017, make moms feel like they should be fulfilled by motherhood alone. Why do we pity working moms?

I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “Ohhhh, you have to work? That must be so hard!”, when my daughter was little. I remember blatantly lying and saying, “yes, yes it is so difficult”. She’s 8 now and I still hear this pity from time to time, especially when I travel for work. I don’t lie anymore.

No. It’s not hard. I mean, yes, motherhood is hard in all of it’s forms, but working is not the hardest part of it. As a matter of a fact, working might be the easiest part of being a mom for me. At least there’s a job description and a manual for my day job. And at times, my job is far easier than being a mom, (especially in the “threenager” years. AmIrite?) It gives me time to myself in some ways. It gives me a break. It gives me my own idenity. It gives my life an additional purpose. It gives me something my child cannot. And, when I travel for work? Hello? Hotels! Alone!

No, It’s not difficult for me to be away from my child while I work. I don’t ache for her during the day, I don’t feel guilt that I’m not with her 24/7. I’m not sad that I’m missing moments. I returned to work at 7 weeks postpartum and I was happy to do so. I was looking forward to having that piece of my life back.

And I don’t feel bad about admitting these things. We, as moms, are sometimes shamed into feeling that we should solely be a mom once we have a child.

Think about this: do we shame and judge fathers this way? Do we hold dads to the same expectations? No. Never have and never will.

Although women have emerged as “bread winners” of families over the last few decades, it’s still far less common and it’s still widely scrutinized. And it’s unfair. The feminist movement fought for equality (and yes, we’re still fighting in so.many.ways.) and I am a proud female business owner, I work my ass off, and I am a mom.

And for those that do choose the path of staying home – wonderful. That is equally as amazing. If some moms are fulfilled by the very, very difficult job of staying at home with their children, kudos. Big fat kudos to them because I wasn’t built for that life. And I’m ok with that. My response when moms say they stay at home is, “Ooohhh, I’m sorry. That must be so hard!”. I am not envious. At all.

I’m certainly not writing this to take sides in any sort “mommy war” of who has the harder position. We are all in the trenches of some tough, tough shit. And that common denominator is simply motherhood. We are all warriors of that same battle, of that same beauty.

The true “thank you” goes out to those feminists who paved the way for women to join the work force, those that gave us a choice in the matter. I am eternally grateful for the pioneers that got us here. I am also grateful for all moms raising amazing, kind-hearted humans, no matter what else they do with their time.

Carry on, warrior mamas. We are all fighting the good fight of raising children the best we know how.

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Being an Only Child, Raising an Only Child.

Being an only child is interesting. And by interesting, I mean it’s fucking awesome.

Clearly, it’s all I know but as I raise my own only child, it’s brought up a lot of thoughts, conversations, and emotions.

As a child, I remember looks and words of pity from other children and parents alike about my sibling status. I remember adults making judgmental statements about being certain that I was a “spoiled brat” and almost being fearful of my personality prior to even knowing me because surely, only children can’t be nice, don’t share well with others, and must be socially awkward. While pieces of all of those things may be true, I never understood why some viewed, and still do view, these as exclusive traits to only children. I know plenty of assholes and mentally unstable people that have siblings.

To be perfectly honest, yes, I lived a pretty charmed childhood. I was raised in a middle class neighborhood by parents who worked their asses off to give me a good life. I didn’t truly want for anything. There were no younger children in my extended family which translated into me being the center of the universe in my younger years, and maybe somewhat in my not so younger years, but I digress. I had three step-cousins that grew up down the street from me and they were the closest to siblings as I could possibly get. I loved my life.

I did pretend to want a sibling in my elementary school years because it sounded like a semi-good idea but the truth was, I really liked being an only child. I had plenty of friends, I learned how to share well (eventually), I became extremely generous as I transcended into adulthood, I was always taught a strong work ethic, I am extremely self-sufficient and independent, I formed a bond with both of my parents that was unprecedented amongst my friends, and I was extremely social. I liked my own space, and still do, I was bossy as a child, and I was very particular, and still am, but again, I’m not sure those translate into any kind of “syndrome” from being an only child. We will never know, right?

The biggest negative for me of being an only child  is now, in the present. I’m pushing 40 and now is when I do sometimes wish I had sibling. Watching my parents age, especially with a father who has been in extremely ill health for the past year, is tough to do alone. But who’s to say if I had a sibling that we would have some unbreakable bond and be able to lean on each other for support? Not every sibling relationship thrives. It might not even be considered a wish to have a sibling, it’s more of a curiosity of what that relationship would have looked like.

I now have unbreakable bonds with a few friends and cousins. No, they’re not a sibling replacement of any kind but none the less, they’re strong bonds and a thick foundation for all that matters in life: family.

So, raising an only.

Needless to say, I can’t imagine it any other way. I knew when my daughter was first born that I wold never have another. Motherhood was way too intense of an experience for me from the beginning to go through it again. Now that might be a result of having a small family or being an only child, but again, who knows?

What I do know is that I’m raising her, like we all try to do, to simply be a good person with good character. And guess what? I can do this without having another child.

She is taught to share with friends, she is encouraged to socialize, she is taught the value of money and hard work, she is rewarded for positive behavior and punished for undesirable acts….just like children with siblings.

Now that I’m raising my own only child, the looks of shock, surprise, pity, disgust and the comments of, “You cannot just have one child!”,  “You have to have another child, for her“, or “Oh, she must be so spoiled”, are truly offensive, not only to me as a mother, not only to my parents for having an only, but to my character because I am an only child.

My daughter is not suffering because she is an only child. It is not some form of torture. I am not turning her into some horrible human with malice intent because I decided to not have another child. I am a fairly well-adjusted adult raising a child to the best of my ability and having a sibling for her would have no bearing on this.

Is she spoiled? As much as I hate that word, yes, I guess she is. No, she doesn’t get everything she wants and demands, but she has a charmed life. And if she had a sibling, he or she would be living a charmed life as well. Why? Because I can. Because I work my ass off to do so. And I can do so with also teaching her good morals and values, just as my parents did for me.

In reality, it’s all in the way each and everyone of us are raised, sibling or not. I turned out alright and so will my daughter.

It was just a normal Tuesday.

Only it wasn’t.

On Tuesday, November 25th, 2014, my 65 year old father suffered a massive stroke.

Whew. Ok, there I said it. The end.

Personal traumatic events are funny. Not like in the “haha” way but in the…almost ironic way, I guess. I started this blog for an obvious reason: I pen my emotions. It’s how I release emotions, good and bad. It’s my therapy. Only, with this subject, I just can’t seem to find any fluidity. I’m totally stunted with not only writing about my dad’s stroke but when I speak about it, it’s like I’m talking about a stranger that went through this, meaning him, my mom and me- all strangers. Coping mechanisms, I haz ’em.

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If you know me, you know that my parents are my best friends. I am an only child and I have always been overly enmeshed with my parents. As in, they even came up to visit me in college and went to the bars with my friends and me. (Hey, Florida State had Tennessee Street and Floyd’s and Creed, and football. Who wouldn’t want to do that with their kid?)

He was everyone’s dad as I was growing up. He was the, “Man, I wish your dad could adopt me” dad, the one that makes me always beam with pride. He was infallible, immortal, ageless.

Confidant, business advisor, handyman, computer repairman, star babysitter, “Bop-bop”, travel companion, unbiased, engineer, advocate. I can’t even come up with enough adjectives to describe my dad. He was not someone who would suffer a stroke and fall into ill-health.

Only, he was.

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I never wake up early on my own. Never. 6am should not even be a time to be awake in my world. My natural clock says 7am is good, but on this average Tuesday, 5:55am is when I jolted awake. It’s as if someone shook me. I sat straight up in bed, almost breathless. I laid back down, looked at the ceiling briefly and decide to grab for my phone that was on the floor. I saw a missed call from my mom. “Oh God. Please let that have been an accidental call from my dad when he took my mom’s phone off charge this morning. It’s happened before. Nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong.”, talking to myself.

I chickened out on calling her back, I texted her.

“Did you mean to call me?”

It’s like everything stopped in that exact moment when the phone rang. My world stopped completely. I literally could not get my legs to stand or my feet to move or my brain to function as I listened to my hysterical mother telling me something about my dad on the floor, moaning and…”did she say stroke? Did she just say she thought he was dying? Is my mom crying? It’s still dark out, it’s quiet in the house. I must be having a nightmare.”

When people say “my head was spinning”, that is indeed a real thing. My head was spinning. I asked to speak to the paramedics, asked them to take him to Sarasota Memorial. “Ma’am, we don’t have that much time. He won’t survive if we take him that far”.

“What? That far? That’s 30 minutes away. What.is.happening? What’s a stroke again?”. I literally lost all thought process. I was totally stricken with fear. I thought, “maybe if I just stay here and go back to sleep, this won’t be real. Maybe I don’t have to deal with this…because I just can’t”. My motivational thought was then, “What would my dad do if this were me?”.

After I instructed my mom on what was going to happen next (“You stay there, Auntie Dorothy will pick you up, I will meet the ambulance at the hospital”), called my aunt, I suddenly realized…this was real.

I began to hyperventilate. But I couldn’t lose control. “The facts. What are the facts right now?”

-My dad was being taken by an ambulance to Venice Hospital because he had a stroke.

-Lily is asleep in the next room.

-I need to get to the hospital.

-I need to drive there but how will I get my legs to work?

-I need an anti-anxiety pill.

-I probably can’t leave Lily alone.

I called Lily’s father who lives 15 minutes away and he arrives in 6 minutes flat. I somehow manage to get in my car and make it go.

I pull out on the main road right behind the ambulance that was carrying my father. Emergency lights screaming, speed of about 60 miles per hour. My leg was shaking so violently that I couldn’t feel the gas pedal. I honestly could not process what was happening, but I was there.

I go in through the emergency room. I told the triage nurse I thought I was going to pass out. I will never forget her words: “No, you’re not. You’re going to be here for your dad. Sit. Have a sip of water and tell me your dad’s date of birth”.

“Ok, I can do this.”

The time in the ER was not really anything I can piece together. There was a lot of rushing around, a scene like Grey’s Anatomy, no joke. There were a lot of nurses. And a neurologist that showed up that was the furthest thing from Dr. McDreamy.

My mom and aunt showed up at some point. My dad didn’t know how to say his name properly. He knew the year. He had no movement on his left side. He didn’t really know me or acknowledge me. They told me they had to take him for a “procedure” to help stop the stroke damage. TPA, stents, whatever. Only, no, not whatever. I have to pay attention. My dad was always the one here though, paying attention. Where’s my dad?

Everything from here on out was medical. Ups and downs. He won’t live, but he will. He won’t walk, but he will.  24 hour waiting periods to see if he will survive. Sign this “Do Not Resuscitate”. ICU. Left sided weakness. Can’t swallow. Retrain everything. Oh yeah, his heart isn’t working well either. Oh, AND, his left carotid is also blocked and we have to stent that side, too. More 24 hour waiting periods.

And within those 8 days in ICU, my dad, as I know him, showed up, fighting like a mother fucker. He lived. He walked. He swallowed. He talked. He got angry. He was bribing me to sneak him out of there. He complained about the food. He made some jokes, especially when I stepped on his catheter.

Two and a half weeks in intense rehab and he was home two days before Christmas. Home, a different man, yet the same.

So, I sit here seven months later, two days before Father’s Day, trying to process this. I still can’t completely.

People see pictures of him, or maybe even see him, and say “He’s doing so great! He looks so great!”, and he is and he does, but this is his new life filled with doctor’s appointments, medications, and frustrations for him. Roles have reversed and now he must listen to my mom and me rather than the other way around. He must follow doctor’s orders. Although he’s gained some of his independence back (he even drives, against my better judgement), he must give into being taken care of.

His brain is injured, he knows this, but he does not understand his limitations. It’s the fighter in him.

He recognizes that everyone treats him differently and he doesn’t understand why. Through all of this, he truly doesn’t understand what he’s gone through and what his differences are. I’m glad he doesn’t. I don’t want him to see those differences because at the end of the day, he’s still my dad. He’s still here. He’s still trying. He’s still persevering through all of these shitty health problems that have resulted from ignoring preventative medicine for 65 years. He is still here. And although he’s not exactly who he was before November 25, 2014, he wants to be. He is still here.

What I do want him to know is how inspiring he is, how amazing he is, how resilient he is, how brave he is. I have sat down many times to write him a letter to tell him this but I have never been so sure that my words weren’t making enough sense or holding enough weight. How do you possibly capture 38.5 years of appreciation, admiration, and love for someone in a simple letter? It’s impossible to put that in words.

This is where I would say that actions speak louder than words, but, not in this case. My dad and I have never been the overly affectionate type. Hugging and kissing- not our thing. “I love you”s- not very often. Actions. Always actions, communication and gestures with us. But again, how do you show someone enough gratitude when they’ve been your rock, your stability, your go-to person for your whole life?

Im not sure but I hope I’m making him proud by trying.