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One Long Night

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When the kids were younger and my spouse used to travel for business, we developed numerous coping strategies to make his absence easier on everyone. Generally, this entailed a relaxation of mealtime and bedtime routines. Once, our eldest wrote a list of “Single Parent Rules,” which included gems such as “there’s no such thing as too much TV” and “caffeine is a food group (for the parent),” and she displayed them on the refrigerator for him to review upon his return.

Time softens my memory of the challenges I faced caring for three small humans alone, while the cook, dishwasher and superior reader of stories at bedtime was gone. I’d nearly forgotten that almost every time he traveled, one of the kids would get sick. Often this involved a stomach flu or some other virus; an ear infection or sudden, barking cough occasioned a visit to the pediatrician, followed by a trip to the pharmacy. Sometimes, those awful times when “Mom Immunity” failed, my spouse would return to a full house of cranky, exhausted sick people.

This week brought my memory into sharper focus. Not because the kids were any trouble; the youngest is now old enough to take on the task of preparing dinner every night. The eldest is away at college.

This time it’s the canine child who demands all my attention while the leader of the pack is gone. Her symptoms appear after the Vet’s office is closed for the night, of course. As I hide a small pill in peanut butter and desperately attempt to fit the no-bite collar around her neck while she wriggles from my grasp, I remember the rules that no longer hang on the refrigerator door.

Curling up on the couch for a long night of telling her to “leave it,” I consider how fortunate I am to still have the energy to take care of everyone at home while my partner in parenting travels, how relieved I am that Luna’s ailment is not contagious to humans and how happy I am the Top Dog is only away for one night.

luna in collar again

 

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How I Lost My Voice, Then Found It

I was awakened Tuesday morning—moments before the bossy phone’s alarm went off—to the sound of rain on the roof. It was a light but steady rain. I touched “tap to snooze” and thought, I don’t think I’m going to the Georgia State Capitol today.

walk in our shoes

I had joined the Facebook event—one among 66 maybes—and had every intention of making a statement with my feet. I remembered wistfully the time I boarded a bus headed to our nation’s capitol, a bus filled with Barnard College students, to protest an attempted repeal of Roe v. Wade. Reproductive rights, women’s health, freedom to make decisions about my body, these were issues that still resonated, more than twenty years later. Yet, while I wanted to storm the legislative hearings and make some noise, I seemed to have lost my voice.

Instead, I drove my son to school, answered email and, when the rain slowed to an intermittent drizzle, took a short walk with the dog. Just before 9 a.m., my phone lit up with a text message from a friend: Are you going to the rally at the state capital today?

Feeling guilty about my decision not to go, I replied: Unfortunately only in spirit. Are you going?

I was thinking of going, but the weather and my daughter are making me re-think it. She is home sick.

At that moment I realized that I hadn’t lost my voice at all. Motherhood had merely restrained my voice of protest, at least for now, in favor of my voice of compassion. Raising children had taught me to speak in varied tones.

I shared my regret that an afternoon meeting and parenting duties after school were keeping me close to home, because I worried that my children might suffer the consequences if I got delayed downtown.

I feel this protest in my kishkes but also the competing commitment to be the responsible parent. So you and I are in the same boat…there will always be another opportunity to protest. This one isn’t the right one for me today, I guess.

I said this—well, typed it—in my authentic voice. The one that expresses my solidarity with women who are likewise struggling to find the right tone of voice for the right occasion. Sometimes we need to speak about the things that matter to us, modeling for our daughters and granddaughters how to protect our autonomy and freedom to make decisions about our bodies. Other times we need to listen quietly, to discern how best to meet their more immediate physical and emotional needs.

If my friend hadn’t texted me to ask whether I was going to the rally, I would have blamed myself—my lack of commitment to the cause, my loss of momentum—for staying home. I would have used my voice against myself.

Instead, I read her text as a challenge to find my voice and use it to honor our choices, to commiserate about our common challenges.  What she said next is exactly what I was planning to say to her:

Thanks for making me feel better.

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Feeling Sheepish?

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I was feeling rather sheepish about having missed a class, about having kept the students waiting and wondering for an hour.  Fairly certain that I put the wrong start date in my bossy phone’s calendar, I thought I’d post a public apology on my blog. Maybe include a picture of a sheep.  You know, swallow a small dose of self-deprecating humor to sweeten the bitter aftertaste of humiliation…

Googling images of sheep, I came across several fascinating articles about them; one headline stated that “sheep have a level of intelligenc4737304_black_and_white_sheep-600e that primates do not.”  I’d intended only to look at the photos of cute sheep, but became engrossed in an article that began:  “Sheep aren’t as stupid as previously thought, according to researchers. Never considered particularly intelligent, sheep are actually so smart they make ‘executive decisions’ and have long memories, remembering friends for two years.”

If this is true, my resemblance to ovines is ruined.

Perhaps I should turn, instead, to images of clowns.  Clowns are the saddest people at the circus, because everyone is laughing at them.  But I’m not sad. I’m just forgetful.

juggling momI guess I’m most like a juggler. I toss too many plates in the air above my head and try to keep them all spinning: blogging for three websites, revising the manuscript of my next book, volunteering at the NFCC food pantry, teaching my daughter to drive, scheduling work-related travel…

As I stand amid the rubble and read that list, I’m willing to forgive myself for the occasional lapse.

 

 

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