Saturday, June 26, 2010

Safety Town

Hey there-

Who out there loves Safety Town? We did!

In case you don't know, Safety Town is a program for four-year-olds that teaches them about safety. i.e. crossing the street, bike safety, what to do for a fire or if you are lost, etc. They get to meet Policemen and sit in their cars and all sorts of cool stuff. I think it is a national program but I am not sure.

Arthur absolutely loved it. He still talks about it when we drive by the playground where it was held. Every summer when he sees the familiar orange cones set up on the blacktop he, rather wistfully, asks me if he gets to go back to Safety Town.

"Nope," I tell him, "you are all safe now." (how I wish that were true, right? If Safety Town was truly all you needed to get your kids through to 18)

This year as we drove by and saw the little ones trooping around on their bikes with their helmets and the tiny stop and yield signs Henry wondered aloud why he didn't remember Safety Town.

"Because you never went," I told him.

"Why not," he asked. "Didn't you want me to be safe?"

"Well, you were four the summer after your daddy died, we didn't do much of anything that summer, sorry sweetie," I responded simply.

Flashing back to that summer I suddenly felt heavy and sluggish remembering the effort it had taken me to get food on the table or take the boys out the door for the simplest trip down the street to the park. I thought that was the only answer that was necessary, it explained everything.

"I remember we went to the zoo that summer and there was a HUGE thunderstorm and when we got home there was a branch from our tree in our yard and you didn't know what you were going to do but by the next morning our neighbor had cut it up and taken it away and it was all cleaned up," Henry told me.

"Oh yea, I remember that storm, that was crazy. That was so nice of Franz to clean that up for us."

"And I remember we drove a long way to a farm, I think it is my Aunts farm or something, and there were lamps that looked like elephants and lots of other boys and your brother took me to a place with rides and we kayaked on a pond and there was a shower outside."

"Yup, that was a fun trip."

"And I remember Grandma and Grandpa being at the house sometimes and Grandpa read me "The Kings Stilts" and he did that sack of potato thing you do with Arthur sometimes when I got out of the tub."

"Yea, Grandma and Grandpa visited a lot that summer to help. We have that picture on the wall of Grandpa reading you "The King's Stilts" that summer."

"We did a lot that summer," Henry continued from the backseat. "We probably didn't have time for Safety Town."

Does Henry need to know that I cried the night the tree fell in our yard because that one branch felt like an insurmountable obstacle as I stood in the kitchen opening instant oatmeal packets for dinner with tears streaming down my face? Does he need to know that my brother flew in to town early to drive with us up to the farm because without him with us I don't know if I would have had the courage to drive the seven hours to the farm on our own? Does Henry need to know that Grandma and Grandpa were visiting so often helping me survive and get the house in order to sell because I couldn't handle the house without his dad? Does he need to know that I wasn't even aware that Safety Town existed because I was too busy trying to remain upright and simply make it through the day?

I don't think so. All Henry needs to know is that we went places that summer, we had fun experiences, our neighbors were thoughtful and our family nurtured us.

Henry might not have been able to attend Safety Town when he was four, but he learned a lot about safety that summer. He knows that in the worst of circumstances he was kept safe and loved by his own little safety town made up of neighbors, friends and family. That has to be better than little stop signs and cop one tell Arthur.

Thanks for checking in-


Friday, June 18, 2010


Hey there,

Mike took my boys camping for a night last weekend. It is too long and boring of a story to explain how that came to pass, but it did. You would think there would have been great rejoicing on my end for a night to myself, to be alone in the house for 24hours, something that has not happened since Mike and I met.

But no.

The first couple hours I spent feeling guilty. (darn Catholic upbringing) And then I moved on to feeling like I was missing out on some great experience or memory that might be forming out in the wilderness that night.

The second concern doesn't bother me so much. I miss out on many experiences they have at school and when they are with their aunts, so I got over that one rather quickly. It is the guilt that pisses me off.

When Henry was a baby and I would talk about going to book group, a night out with the girls, or a movie I had seen there was always a coworker who would say; "Wow, so Bob babysat the baby?"

"No, Bob did not 'babysit' the baby, he parented his son," was my usual reply.

I don't have that same feeling with Mike and the boys. I always feel he is doing me some huge favor if he stays home with the boys while I go to book group or go out for wine with a girlfriend. I don't feel he is parenting as much as he is staying home with my boys.

If it were Bob that took the boys camping would I have felt the same guilt? I don't think so. I think I still might have had a twinge of sadness that I was missing out on something, because I do like to camp, but I would have felt like it was some daddy/son time, a little male bonding in the woods. Instead I felt gratitude that Mike was willing to take them.

This feeling of gratitude is something I struggle with, the nagging feeling that I should be so thankful that Mike is willing to spend time with my kids, like I owe him a big favor in return. There is a sense of imbalance to it. With Bob I never felt the imbalance. I was grateful to have Bob and thankful he was such an awesome dad but there was no feeling like he was doing me a favor that I needed to repay, he was simply being a dad, being a co-parent.

With Bob I felt the responsibility of parenting as a 50/50 endeavor. With Mike I feel I have 100% of the responsibility and I should feel grateful when he can help me out. This is no fault of Mikes, I take much of the blame for this set up really. Frankly, I don't always want to ask Mike's opinion on parenting issues, I want the bottom line with my boys.

Certainly, if Bob had lived we would not see eye to eye on every decision and I would not have had the bottom line or gotten everything I wanted. When he was dying I spent most of my grieving efforts freaking out about parenting alone, feeling all that burden. But after he died I realized the privilege of making all the decisions on my own. It is a blessing and a curse. One of the benefits of being widowed versus being divorced.

Is this fair? Is it the best thing for everyone? We lost so much, is it wrong to try and hold on to a little bit of control, even though we all know control is an illusion? Does having the bottom line come at a cost to me, to the boys, to Mike? It is exhausting I know that.

Will I ever feel like I am co-parenting with Mike?

I don't know, I hope so, but I also don't hope so. Yikes, does the grieving work ever end?

Thanks for checking in-


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Water Parent

Hey There-

Bob agreed to be the "water parent". You know, the one who goes in the water with the child when you are camping or at the beach and the one who takes the child to their first swimming lessons before they can go by themselves.

In exchange I agreed to be the "zoo" parent. Neither of us were/are zoo fans but I thought it was a good trade since the zoo did not require me to get wet and cold.

As it turned out the Aunts liked taking Henry to the zoo, and later both boys, so I never really kept up my end of the bargain.

Pay back's a bitch!

The memories of Henry at his first swim lessons still haunt me. They were held the months before Bob died. Bob had a PIC line in for his latest treatment so he couldn't be immersed in water or I swear I would have still made him hold up our agreement, weakened condition and all. I even signed little three year old Henry up for classes that didn't require a parent in the water with the child figuring he was bold in the water and an independent sort, he would be fine.


The sounds of his screaming ricocheted off the concrete walls of the pool and slammed Bob and I in the face as the two of us stoically stood behind the glass in the waiting area. You might have thought the instructor was setting his feet in hot lava as opposed to the lukewarm chlorine laden pool. It was almost horrific. I knew the entire pool area was staring at the three of us and the poor instructor but that didn't really register at the time. I could only hear Henry's cries and feel my pounding heart.

I was steadfast and we tried again the next week. By the third week I began to come to terms with the situation. Not my fate, but at least the fact that the other parents were wasting their money. Their children would never learn to swim with all the drama going on. So I moved Henry to the class WITH the parents and I got in that lukewarm pool, chlorine and urine and all, and I sang that silly "Wheels on the Bus" song, but I wasn't happy about it.

Nor was I happy when I had to get in the frigid water of the pool at my parent's apartment the second summer after Bob died, having successfully avoided any need to submerge myself in water the summer before by forcing the boys to be happy with the "hang out by the shoreline and dig in the sand" parent. We were lucky to even get out of the house and make it to an area of nature that had water that first summer.

Well, now the boys can both swim on their own, I have passed that hurtle, and I can resume my "sit on the beach and read" parent status but, alas, these energetic boys of mine have different ideas, they still want a "water parent". Truth be told I was hardly ever a "water parent", I was more of a "walk around on my tip toes and try not to get my shoulders and hair wet" parent.

I see dads throwing their kids high in the air and I watch these children laugh gleefully as they hurtle through the air and splash into the water. I see other parents out in the water tossing Frisbee's and footballs and frolicking. I have twinges of guilt and think to myself that I should really just suck it up, get out there and be a gosh darn "water parent".

Recently, while camping, Henry raced up to Mike and I, dripping lake water and smelling like sunscreen, his eyes bright with hope, his voice high with excitement.

"Will you come in the water and throw us up in the air?"

We both quickly looked pleadingly to Mike, the dad person, who never agreed to be the "water parent" and has no interest in it either. He will usually go out there for a bit because he is a good guy but I truly wish I could say; "Absolutely, I would love to come out and play in the water with you guys." I actually wish I was already out there and they wouldn't have to ask. But there is this voice in my head that won't leave, it is quieter than it used to be but it is still there. It says..."I didn't agree to this, I never wanted to be the "water parent", your dad agreed to be the "water parent".....NO!"

Come on, I have figured out how to make Bob's pizza, his pancakes, put the bike rack on the car and go camping without him, isn't that enough? Do I have to be a "water parent" too?

I have no memories of my parents ever being "water parents" and I seem to be fine. In fact, the one memory I do have of my father ever being in the water involves a father/daughter race on the Fourth of July that he lost a half link lead I gave him. (I know you did your best dad, I harbor no grudge)

I am the "bike riding" parent, the "tennis playing" parent, the "knowing when the books are due at the library" parent, the "making lunches" parent, the "library volunteer" parent, the "take them to the dentist" parent, the "card playing" parent, the "popcorn popping" parent, the "baking" parent, the "good smelling bath" parent,the "remember when you have a math test" parent, the "book reading" parent, the "travel" parent, the "dinner's on the table" parent, the "board game playing" parent, the "make the beds" parent.

I am so many things, I am THE parent. Do I HAVE to be the "water parent" too? Really?

Thanks for checking in-


Friday, June 4, 2010

The Book

Hey there-

I was talking to my mom recently and she asked me the ever present question these days.......what is happening with the book? Actually, many people have stopped asking me due to boredom or fear that I have abandoned the project and they don't want me to feel like I have to explain.

Fear not! The book is "in production". Whatever that means. The publisher is currently working on the "cover copy polish". Whatever that means. And I hope to have a book by the end of the summer.

Of course, I thought I would have a book by the end of spring. Not to mention the fact that I originally "took a year off" to write a book and we are careening up to the three year mark as I write.

I am learning patience my dad says. I don't think I am learning it as well as my husband is learning it that is for sure!

I could compare this entire book writing process to having a baby. Sometimes it takes longer than you think, it can be painful, it can be amazing, there is a lot of sacrifice, it is a miracle, it is scary, lots of it is out of your control, you don't know how it will all turn out in the end, and it helps to have a good partner.

When I was pregnant with Henry and I would wonder how on earth this being in my belly was supposed to emerge from my body I used to look at all the people around me, whether I was in a coffee shop or sitting at a traffic light, and I would think to myself; "Well, every single person on this earth was birthed somehow, so it must be possible."

I now find myself doing the same thing with books. I look at all the books on our bookshelves at home or at the book store and I think; "Well, somehow these were written and published so it must be possible."

At least I can drink wine this time around!

Thanks for checking in-