DD (Darling Daughter) Is AWEsome!

I am in complete and utter awe of DD (Darling Daughter)! Ever since she’s been around, I cannot help but be inspired by her and grateful to the gods, God, the Universe for their gift to me. She’s always been perfectly her own age yet an old soul at the same time.

I remember when she was 2.5 or so, she got into the driver’s seat of the car and wouldn’t get out. When I finally managed to move her into the car seat, her huffy words to me were, “When I’m grown, you’re sitting in the car seat!” I loved her fierce, but moderated, display of independent spirit!

And when she was 5 years old, the Electra Complex showed itself quite clearly again (remember, as a Maddie, DD did not have a father for whom to compete with me, so that it manifested vis a vis my profession is pretty telling!). I was teaching at Salem State College (now “University”) at the time and had to bring her with me to one class meeting, as I had no care. Until that time, she had come with me on occasion to the high school where I taught, and she even “co-taught” a 10 week Spanish course with me at her preschool. But, I didn’t even think about that as we drove up to the campus and I set up for class. My expectation was that she would sit at a student desk and draw, colour, or read. Her expectation proved to be quite different. She kept coming up to the front, trying to help out, and I kept sending her back to the student desk, rebuffing her gently (I thought)…after all, my college students were paying for my expertise as a professor; I couldn’t have them taught by a 5 year old! So, I didn’t understand at all why my DD was smoking mad as we wrapped up and got back into the car to drive home. Indeed, she was so angry as she climbed into her car seat that she couldn’t speak to me or even look me in the eye. Perplexed, I sat in the driver’s seat and, looking at her in the rearview mirror, asked, “What’s the matter, ciccina?” Finally, she mustered a clenched answer: “When I’m a grown up, Salem State is going to want me and not you!” It was all I could do not to laugh out loud, so serious was she. But I smiled and answered, “I’m sure that will be true very, very soon, my love!”

Truer words were never spoken, for every day I realise just how talented DD really is…and I’m constantly amazed that I made her! And so far, I haven’t wrecked her…that’s the best part, the testament to the one tenet I had established for myself as a parent in the early days of my pregnancy: as long as I can see her for who she is, and not for whom I want/wish her to be, and as long as I don’t ruin the core of her, I’ll have done a good job as a parent, and, especially, a Maddie. We’ve almost made it through ten years and I think I can breathe a sigh of relief about her on the cusp of pre-teendom; I think I can honestly say I’ve been a good (not great, for I’ve had my moments, let me tell you!) parent so far, through all the ups and downs (and I pat myself on the back – because, after all, who else is going to pat me on the back?!).

DD is talented at all things creative and athletic: swimming, viola, drawing, dancing, story telling. Her drawing in particular has always attracted attention. Indeed, at age 3, she drew a picture of herself, my mother (a huge influence in our lives) and me – shown at right – that was pdg (pretty darn good)! 

Now age 10, her drawing has matured as well as her entire Self and, as you can see from the above Salem State anecdote, I’ve learned to consistently involve her even in my professional activities. She has seen me writing posts for this Maddie endeavour; she has waited patiently for dinner as I carved out my thoughts from beginning to end, read other blogs, researched a topic, or set up the Facebook page, Twitter account and e-mail, etc. I thought, then, it would be fun to do this Maddie thing together, since, after all, we are in life together! She’s recently become interested in drawing animé, so I’ve asked her to create her animé imagining of a Maddie, a mommy and daddy in one, that fits for both single moms and single dads – an “everyMaddie,” if you will.

I was breathless when I saw her first sketch, following the instructions in her “How to Draw Animé” book but drawn freehand, nonetheless. Here it is:

DD has a light hand when sketching so this is a bit hard to see…hopefully you can all make it out!

I am so in AWE of my AWEsome DD that I just had to share…and invite YOU to share YOUR OWN experiences of jaw-dropping, I-don’t-deserve-such-a-great-kid-but-thanks-GOD/UNIVERSE, AWEfilled and AWEinspiring moments with your DKs (Darling Kids)!

Looking forward to reading your stories, until then,

I wish you all Peaceful Parenting,

The Original Maddie 🙂


“Mummy? Can You Make Me a Little Brother?”

Hmmm. How do you explain to a three year old that in order to make a little brother you need a man around? Especially when you’re too tired from working full-time and being a full-time Maddie and trying to be a decent daughter yourself and a good friend to the few friends who are still in your hectic life to actually, I don’t know, date?

DD (Darling Daughter) sprung this question on me, as per usual, just when I thought she had finally fallen asleep and was slipping out of her bed to go wash dishes and correct homework. I went back to her in the dark, wrapped her in my arms, and very simply answered, “I’d love to ciccina, but, I can’t.” I didn’t expect it, but I should have…the inevitable “Why?”

So, I took a deep breath and tried to explain the facts of life matter-of-factly, succinctly, and sensitively. “Well, ciccina, I can’t because, as you know, my husband left before you were born. And I cannot make a baby alone. It takes two – a mommy and a daddy – to actually make a baby.  So, you see, I really can’t make you a baby brother.”

Silence for what seemed like hours, but was probably only thirty seconds. And, then, her considered response:

“O’kay, then; I’ll take a baby sister.”

Peaceful parenting,

The Original Maddie

Caring For A Chronically Ill Parent At Home

Mamma became seriously ill, seemingly overnight, one September Saturday, 2009. She seemed lethargic for a full day. Then again, she had been on some serious pain medication for many years, for the chronic pain of severe osteoporosis, with its debilitating bone deformations (she had severe kyphosis of the back). And she only weighed about 90 lbs., on a good day. I kept checking on her, feeling something was terribly amiss. She finally roused at about 10 p.m., got up, and agreed to go to the hospital. By 3 a.m., in the ER, she was back to her normal self, laughing and joking with my then-7 year old daughter. Indeed, she felt so good that she and my daughter were gently teasing me about my propensity to worry about them, to over-protect. My DD (Darling Daughter) and I left then, after the doctor on duty said that she seemed all right but that the hospital would keep her overnight for observation. At 6 a.m. the picture changed drastically: my mom was in multi-systems failure, on a ventilator, in intensive care. The doctors did not hold out much hope.

But, miraculously, she recovered after a tracheostomy and three weeks in ICU; she was sent to a local rehab hospital (Youville Hospital, Cambridge, MA, now Spaulding Rehab: www.spauldingrehab.org) where she recuperated in record time: in less than a month she had been de-cannulated and sent back home. We had a glorious Thanksgiving with my brothers, their wives, children, my cousin and her family, and good family friends; we were all truly grateful that the worst seemed to have passed. We had a normal Christmas, with Mamma coming to our house to sleep over on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We played DD’s “Game of Life,” a Santa gift, until 10 o’clock that night (DD won, in spite of not having gone to college, Mamma came in second place, and I lost…what else was new?!). Everything changed again, never to be the same, by mid-January 2010. She was not only cannulated again, she would never be able to live without a trach. She required the help of a ventilator by night and constant oxygen by day, just to be able to get up, wash up, have breakfast and perhaps a chat or two with family. In the hospital, she had also acquired a severe colonization of MRSA – a resistant staph infection – where? Where else but in her lungs, her weakest point. But both she and I felt she had some more time left on Earth, on this plane. So, we set about returning her to her own apartment; she had lost so much physically, ceded so much control of her life to her disease that she really needed to be in the environment she had created and controlled for so long. 

Bringing her home was not easy. We had chosen the specific rehab hospital – Spaulding in Cambridge (formerly Youville) – precisely because they were the only ones who didn’t think we were crazy to want to bring her home, with vent and other respiratory equipment. In fact, they set everything up through a home respiratory company (New England Home Therapies, which I highly recommend! http://www.nehtinc.com/) and Mamma’s insurance. My brothers and I became amateur respiratory therapists, checking the vent equipment nightly, “plugging” Mamma in every night, suctioning her regularly, and amateur RNs, performing wound care, trach care, checking Mamma’s vitals, counting and giving her meds. We received valuable help and training from her doctors, the vent company, the nursing agency that gave me (and my daughter) respite during the week by sending vent-certified overnight nurses who grew to love Mamma as much as we did, who became family, the visiting nurses who supplied physical and occupational therapy, the senior care agency who found us a transport chair and even a pulse oxymeter for home use, from friends and family.

There were times when I felt like pressed monkey meat in the middle of a sandwich, bouncing between Mamma’s needs and DD’s needs, with no real time for my own. But it was worth it.

Mamma lived at home for another nine months, infection free. It was a reduced life, and her illness took center stage, but she was mentally fully present. Those “extra” nine months were a gift.

This post is to give all those other Maddies (or not Maddies) out there heart and courage: if your ageing parent becomes ill and wants to stay home, fight for that right. Make all the phone calls you need, tell your sob story in intricate detail to absolutely anyone and everyone who will listen, and you will find the resources you need…they are out there.

That is what I did…and it did take a month of phone calls (almost eight hours a day of calling one agency, then another, being placed on hold, telling the entire story, over and over again). It also took looking at some negative case managers straight in the eye and telling them my “pie-in-the-sky” wish list for the services Mamma needed, and enduring their incredulous stares and comments of “You’ll never get any of that.” I did receive most of my “pie-in-the-sky” requests.

Persistence and faith pays! And, remember, if you don’t ask for it, you really will never get it! If you do ask, well, the worst anyone can say is, “We can’t do that.”

Peaceful parenting!

The Original Maddie!

How to Answer Difficult Questions

“Where’s My Daddy?” (or, if you’re a single Dad, “Where’s My Mommy?”)

The Answer
My DD (Darling Daughter) was 2 and a ½ when I first got this question, which I thought was precocious. DD always asks these deeper, difficult questions at the end of the day, once we’ve relaxed thanks to the bedtime routine, so I have no “background noise” (like stress from the office or stress about getting dinner on the table sometime before 10 p.m.) and can actually think. But, I happen to be an advance planning type-A personality, so I was ready for it, with the naked truth:  “I don’t know.”

The Rationale
I had decided a long time ago that I would never, ever lie to my child, especially about the things that really mattered. Her identity, her sense of self, was what has always mattered the most. In toddlerhood, children are at a concrete stage. How could I explain my not-really-a-marriage-even-though-I-thought-it-was, when it was hard for me to understand it as a 38-year-old adult? So, I knew that the answer had to be simple and concrete. “Where’s my daddy?” I honestly don’t know. Of course, my daughter had follow up questions: “Is he living somewhere else? Does he have another family? Is he dead?” I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. The answer had to remain simple, concrete…and consistent. Children are concrete, they have no life experience, they are naturally trusting, but they are not stupid. Had I once answered, “Of course not” (such as to the “Is he dead” question), she would have pounced on that as a “Mommy must know something” type of answer, and her trust in me would have begun to erode.

My Advice to Fellow Maddies
So, for what it’s worth, my advice to all my fellow Maddies: try to anticipate the potentially difficult questions that your children may ask and think through your answers carefully, thinking like a child but maintaining your adult’s perspective, so that you preserve your children’s trust.

Background to My “Maddie-hood”
My elevator speech about my marriage is: “Short marriage, long story.” I was married about 5 minutes when I became pregnant. I didn’t actually know, or believe, I was pregnant until about the second month; according to my gynecologists from the time I was about 22 years old, I was unable to get pregnant, sterile (thanks to my first long-term boyfriend who, unbeknownst to 19 year old me, was stepping out with other women; I was with him for four years and two Pelvic Inflammatory Disease episodes that I only discovered once they were so raging that I couldn’t walk…but no medical person told me the reason  I had contracted either one. Obviously, though, doctors can’t predict everything, since I got my surprise bundle 13 years later, at age 35.)

My “husband” came to the first obstetrician’s visit, listened without once looking at me, and, as she asked for blood samples, spoke up, saying, “I don’t have to give blood. I just gave blood at another clinic, for another woman, six months ago, and they said everything was fine.” I just stared at him, as did the obstetrician. I was dumbfounded, speechless. My mind raced with questions, “Six months ago? When did he have time to sleep with another woman, when he was dating me?” After all, until we actually had the piece of paper saying we were married, I saw him so often that it felt as though we were living together.

Needless to say, I read him the riot act in the car, as he was driving me home (because, no, we never actually lived together; in fact, after we were married, it was hard to see him at all…so how I got pregnant is still a mystery to me – though I know it couldn’t have been an immaculate conception as I’ve never been particularly saintly…more of a naive Magdalene, really – which means I was a wild child by Catholic school girl standards but really, really tame by real world standards). He told me that after all I was merely the “factory” for his son (he never, ever entertained the thought our baby might be a girl…Spanish-speaking-male machismo personified), that all any woman really wanted was to have a baby and be a mother (he was helping me – and every other woman who would sleep with him – “fulfil my female destiny”), that he had decided to become a Mormon (obviously completely misunderstanding the entire Mormon religion and picking out the only part that he liked about it – the multiple wives part – without realizing that even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints hasn’t endorsed polygamy in a very long time).

After that ride home, I didn’t see him again (though I most certainly felt his presence, through intimidating e-mails, sitting in his car right in front of my house all night long, following me, breaking or pulling out one – and only one – headlight overnight, every four nights (but a random four), for a year, just to let me know he was around and could harm me if he chose to) until a year later, when he actually appeared at the court hearing for annulment of my civil marriage (which, by the way, I won). He moved without telling me, changed his phone number, and didn’t call. We were both 35, so I was done; I knew then that he would never be part of our lives if I could help it – I refused to make my child endure the “revolving door” phenomenon, or to try to find him every time I wanted to travel, move, etc. with my kid. At best, my “husband” was a philandering narcissist; at worst, he was a psychopath…I didn’t (and still don’t) care to find out which one.

Question of the Day: Does anyone have any other advice, suggestions, recommendations, or stories to share about how to answer children’s difficult questions? Please share here!

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