Saturday, January 11, 2014

Doing Hard Things

This is my 14 year old daughter.  See that bracelet on her arm?  The thick black one she insisted on wearing in family pictures?  It says, "HAVE FAITH".  In big, bold letters Katie declares to the world every day that she has faith.  What you can't see in that photo is the necklace with the shield and cross on it that says, "I can do all things through HIM who strengthens me".   She's an alter server at our Catholic Church and volunteers to serve for funerals, even though they make her cry.  She's a kid who lives her faith in ways I'm not able.  A little light that shines from her, inspiring me to be a better person.

She's a pistol, though, to borrow a phrase from my grandmother. Katie will always be the kid who keeps us on our toes and makes us question the world around us.  We will fight back when the world feels it's necessary to push its own morals and values on her.  We know we won't always win.  When she's gotten through these teenage years, whatever she chooses to do will be incredible.  I have faith in her.

Right now she's angry with us.  And that's okay.  My job isn't to be her friend.  We've put our foot down with the school (again) because of questionable song choices (again).  This time it's in choir.  She's part of the select show choir, which is a big deal and we're very proud of her.  The song choices for the spring concert include "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (oldie but a goodie), "Home" by Philip Phillips (beautiful harmonies), and "Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga.  That's where we said no.

This child is not trading her morals to be part of choir.  She's not compromising her values to make her music teacher happy.  She wants to... oh, does she want to.  And she's furious that we're setting limits.  There will be no public performances of songs that include lyrics about being taken home or doing shots or needing "a man who thinks it's right when it's so wrong".

And this is hard.  VERY hard.  I don't want to make her "the girl who can't sing that one song in choir" or "the one with the crazy parents".  I don't want to be the crazy parents.  But I'll wear the crazy crown if it means standing up for her innocence.

Now, the next question is why did Pennsylvania tax dollars pay for a song about doing shots in the first place... but I'll leave that up to the school board to figure out if that's what it comes to.

Edited to add a bit of snarkiness...

The school handbook clearly states that students can not wear articles of clothing with references to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.  So to prove my point, I put the lyrics on shirts.  They'd get kicked out of school for wearing the words, but not for singing them?  Hm.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

On Our Way

The day I left the hospital with Connell I was desperately ready to go home.  The last time I had spent the night in that maternity ward I went home empty handed and heartbroken.  Andrew's stillbirth was still as raw as my midsection.  We rushed to pack things, shoving socks in bags and hair clips in pockets.  We'd done this before.  We knew that we didn't really need all of the paraphernalia the new mom magazines suggested.

The nurse scurried in and out, sensing our urgency.  She glanced at me from the corner of her eye when she thought I wasn't looking.  I signed papers, moving as quickly as my cesarean would let me.  There was always just one more thing to do before I could leave the labor hall and get on with our lives.

David treated me gingerly.  He remembered my last recovery.  The tears, the shock, the unexpected surgery.  He didn't understand that the pain from this delivery was welcome.  It reminded me I had survived and our youngest son was alive and healthy.  David gently asked me to sit down.  My pacing was making him nervous.   But I was afraid to sit down.  If I did, I may have ended up back in that bed for another night and I couldn't have that.

The nurse returned.  She removed my IV.  She checked my incision one more time.  She cooed at my well bundled newborn.  And she looked at me again, with an expression I'd come to know over the year before Connell was born.  She must have read my entire chart and she knew what had happened.   She was watching me with the eyes of someone who had also suffered a loss.  She was waiting to see if I'd be able to handle this transition from mourning-mother to new-mother-again.  She was giving me time to change my mind and stay the extra day our insurance company would pay for.

The orderly came to my room with a wheel chair.  After she'd bent down to adjust the footrest, the nurse looked me in the eye.  She held my gaze for an extra second.  "I can do this" I tried to tell her with my eyes.  "I can start to move on."

She handed me my 8 pound miracle.  She put her hand on my shoulder as she gave final instructions to David.  "Follow up appointment in 5 days.  Pediatrician in 7.  Make sure she takes her iron and stays very hydrated.  Let her rest.  Enjoy these moments."  She squeezed my shoulder as she said those last words.

We're a sorority of the worst kind, we grieving mothers.  We know each other as we stutter when
sharing how many children we have.  We all wince slightly when we hear a newborn cry.  We all share the same broken purple heart of child loss.  And we comfort each other.  A gentle squeeze.  A willingness to listen.  A different view of family and priorities.

The orderly whisked me through the hospital halls.  He was young and insensitive, taking bumps and turns at breakneck speeds.  Connell let out a yelp as we zoomed out of the elevator.  "You need to be more gentle." I told the orderly.  "We need to get home safely."  He slows down and apologized.  The bright August sun blinded me when I met David at the curb.  He settled Connell in the carseat with care and made sure I was buckled safely.  We drove toward home with our newborn looking forward to moments to enjoy.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Out of Their Loop

I watch them walk out the door, into the mid-day cold.  They laugh as they slide on the ice, her Converse having much less traction than his sensible Clark's.  They flash the same smile over their shoulders at me as they wave, their identical blue eyes shining in the winter sun.  And they're on their way.

They speak their own language now.  He shares his twenty-mumble years of programming and computer science experience with her.  Ruby on Rails, Rust, C++, Java, Linux.  She soaks it up and adds her own spin.  Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram.  He stresses the importance of structure and form.  She focuses on communication and connectivity.  All in a jargon I don't fully comprehend.

I keep an eye on their progress toward the shop on the GPS app.  The ice has made traveling conditions less than ideal, so watching them arrive safely makes me feel a little less out of their loop.  They're meeting with the rest of the team today to continue on their project.  Kids come from two counties and a dozen school districts to be part of this award winning team.  No amount of ice could keep some of them away.  They come to build, program, design, and test.  They come to learn about engineering, physics, public relations, and team work.  But mostly they come for one thing:  Robots.

Then the texts start.  They're really meant to reassure me.  He knows I'm a momma bear and I worry.  But also because he's proud of her.  And he's proud of himself for raising her.  She's building a rig, he tells me.  She's using power tools, suggesting design ideas.  He's mentoring other students and sharing his knowledge.  He often finds himself in awe of what some of them are already able to do at only seventeen years old.  He's enjoying these rare moments of spending time with his teenage daughter.  She was just a little girl a few seconds ago and now she's holding her own as part of a robotics team.  He's creating memories for her to pack along with her college supplies next year.  He's building a foundation of confidence and experience, giving her a launch site for what we know will be an incredible journey into adulthood.  He's teaching her to choose to spend time with people who respect her and to settle for nothing less.

Jill with last year's robot.
This year's is under wraps.
I'm grateful they have this to share.  Fathers and daughters don't often find common ground at this stage.  Robotics has given them something that belongs to them.  This team has given them something they can belong to together.  I'm grateful he is willing to step outside of his quiet comfort zone and get involved.  I'm thrilled to watch her bravely walk into a shop filled with tools and computers and all things "manly".  She gains confidence from the other women and girls in the shop.  Together, they chip away at stereotypes.

The end result of their intense six weeks of building a robot really isn't important.  (Although they will disagree.)  Whatever the team builds will be incredible.  Last year's team gave them an award winning robot to inspire them toward greatness again this year.  Competition season will add a new dimension to the team and to their relationship.

The National Weather Service extends the ice warning.  Fog rolls in.  I watch the GPS app again as they make their way up the icy roads.  They come in smiling, tired.  And they continue to speak in a language I don't understand.  It's theirs.  And I'm glad they share it.