Waiting For The Proverbial Shoe To Drop

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mother-and-son-in-rain Image via Shutterstock

Death visited me early in life. My father died when I was four and my grandfather died six months later. Phone calls in the middle of the night always meant someone was sick, dying, or dead. Maybe because of this I am always expecting the worst or for the proverbial shoe to drop. I am finally in a good place with a loving husband, wonderful kids, a new home, and a community we’ve embraced… and yet it all feels so tenuous.

In an instant, a terrible incident could pierce my bubble. Car accidents. Bus accidents. Plane accidents. Bike accidents. Trees falling down in a storm crashing through our roof.  A slip in the bathroom.  A tumble from somewhere that didn’t seem too high. Random acts of violence.

It’s almost as if I have flashbacks for stuff that didn’t even happen to me. In fact, I am plagued with recurring daydream nightmares of gruesome images I’ve seen on the news:

  • A bus with its top half sheared off – along with its passengers’ heads.
  • The woman who drove the wrong way down a parkway and killed herself and a gaggle of kids.
  • A car accident in Texas that killed the parents and left their children in wheelchairs.
  • Babies left in hot cars to die.
  • A toddler run over by grandma in the driveway because she never saw him.

I am one of the most laid back moms I know and this paranoia seems a complete contradiction to that. I could go on and on about the stories I hear that leave an imprint on my brain. What I conjure up on my own is usually worse. Decapitations, loss of limbs, broken bones, brain injuries, sicknesses, diseases, death. Blood, guts, blue lips, death eyes. These visions haunt me. Every. Single. F^&*ing. Day.

Now, before you tell me I need to go straight to a therapist and not pass go to collect my $200, these images do not cause panic attacks or make me unable to function. They do not debilitate me or consume me for every second of every day. They pop into my head at random times and I acknowledge the thought, tell myself to get on with the day, and move on. I don’t really have time to ruminate over them.

I also keep a mental list of all the places metaphorical lightning has struck nearby. Between one thing or another, many moms I know have serious medical issues with one of their children. My heart aches for them. I see their struggles but can’t possibly know their depth. And yet, a part of me is relieved that it wasn’t my child. It’s not schadenfreude, it’s just a kind of superstitious belief that if it happened to someone I know then it can’t happen to me. Because lightning can’t strike the same place twice, right?

And yet, worries infiltrate my thoughts at the most inconvenient times. I get into the car in a sleep-deprived state knowing my reflexes are slower, and images of horrific car accidents flood my brain. The girls had a fever and I pray with all of my being that it will pass because a trip to the hospital could expose them to a deadly disease. Every time my husband goes on a bike ride with our son  I have scenarios play in my head of errant drivers plowing into them. I see an ambulance in the distance and a horrific image enters my brain of a loved one in a mangled wreck.

I wonder if I am the only parent who thinks these things. I am pretty sure I’m not. I think we just don’t talk about it because we don’t want others to know how neurotic we are or get labeled as a hypochondriac.

Or maybe we’re just superstitious that if we reveal our deepest fears out loud they might actually happen.

One and Done

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one-and-done Image via Shutterstock

As the mother of an only child, I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked when I am going to spawn another from my loins. My daughter recently turned four, so and I am often reminded that if I wait much longer there will be too big of an age gap, or my uterus will prune up like a plum in the sun. If I am going to have more kids, I better get into the bedroom and start making some noise. Now.

The thing is, I don’t want any more kids.

When I tell people I am “one and done” they look at me as if I abused a kitten.

“But don’t you want your child to have a sibling?”

“Isn’t she lonely?”

And of course “It is so much easier with two because they play with each other.”

I don’t refute any of those statements – I have considered them countless times myself. Siblings can be wonderful. I have an older brother who was like a God to me growing up. I adored him and my parents had hours of free time while we played with his He-Man toys in the basement. There have been times when I observe siblings hugging, playing, wrestling and feel a wave of melancholy that my daughter won’t have that bond. By not producing another child, I am denying her of a unique part of the human experience. This does make sad sometimes. Yet giving my daughter a brother or sister is not a reason to have another child when I don’t want one.

Is that selfish? Yes and no.

Everyone parents in their own way, and in reaction to the parenting they experienced as a child. Both my parents worked when I was growing up, so I was a latchkey kid who spent a lot of time alone. My brother was three years older and after a certain point, he didn’t find his little sister to be the most desired companion. He wanted to hang out with friends, read books, play video games, or do whatever 12-year old boys do in their rooms with the doors locked. I had a sibling, but he wasn’t put on this earth to entertain me and my parents were busy with their own lives. I was often surrounded by people, but still felt lonely.

When my daughter was born, I committed to be present with her in a way I never experienced. I’m not a helicopter parent who hovers over my kid like the NSA, but I have thrown myself into the process unique to her being an only child. Knowing this is my one opportunity to be a mother, I have made certain decisions I wouldn’t have otherwise. We co-slept, I breastfed until she was three, and I dedicate ample uninterrupted time to her every day. I have fully devoted myself to my daughter in a way my parents never could, simply because I was another kid to deal with.

My child won’t know the closeness of growing up with a sibling, but she shares a distinctive bond with her parents. I know some people believe that being the single focal point of mom and dad makes only children selfish, greedy egomaniacs – yet I have observed the opposite. My daughter has a sense of security and self-assuredness that comes from knowing she doesn’t have to compete for attention, toys, or most importantly, love. Starting at a young age, my daughter embraced the concept of sharing because she also understood her friends would soon leave and everything would be hers again. This awareness allows her to be more patient and giving than many of her friends with siblings.

Having only one child has also allowed me to integrate her into my life rather than always relying on childcare. There is a certain freedom that comes with managing life with just one kid. We spend a lot of time together because she seamlessly accompanies me while I teach classes, go to meetings, or attend social gatherings. Her exposure to my adult world has resulted in her ever expanding intellectual facilities because of so much one-on-one attention. Similarly, her verbal skills are beyond her age as a consequence of having grown-ups as her primary conversational partners.

While there is a special joy that comes with being a part of a large family, this is also true in a small one. My daughter recently asked when I was going to put a baby in my tummy so she could have a sister. My heart raced as I told her that wasn’t going to happen. She responded with the one question every child asks, “Why?” I swallowed and braced myself. “Well,” I explained, “I am happy the way things are. I love my life with you and don’t want things to change. Is that okay with you that I don’t want to have another baby?”

She thought about it for a moment than hugged me tightly “Yes mommy, it is. I am really happy, too.”

Related post:  10 Reasons I Love Having An Only Child

10 Things Your Kids’ Bus Driver Wants To Tell You

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school-buses

First things first, let me be clear that I love being a school bus driver. I love “my” kids and all the crazy things they say and do. But the adults I have to deal with? Lets just say that I’m glad that it’s the kids that I drive around.

These are just a sampling of the things I’ve heard during my time as a driver:

1. “My children will never ride the bus, it’s too dangerous.” A bus is designed to be safe without seat belts. That’s why there are tall padded seats. As a driver, I cannot see the lap of every kid on my bus and someone would get hit in the face by an unbuckled seat belt. Your child has a higher chance of being in an accident while you drive them to school. Even if the bus is hit, it sits high off the ground so the damage isn’t done to the area where the kids are (in most cases). Basically, in your average car vs. bus collision…The bus WILL win.

2. “My child was bullied on the bus and you did nothing.” Sadly this happens. We do our best to take care of it. Those who are bullying get in trouble–this often involves a trip to the principal, a call to their guardians, and if it is severe enough, they are not allowed to ride the bus anymore.I have parents call and tell me I didn’t deal with it when their child was being called names on the bus. I always want to say: “Did YOUR kid tell me there was a problem? No, they did not. I have up to 77 kids on my bus and there is ONE me! I am sorry I didn’t hear your kid get called a poopyhead in the LAST seat on the huge bus. I was making sure the kids crossing the road were not run over by the ASSHOLE going 50 in a 35 zone and texting, while I could hear his music over my BUS ENGINE (and previously mentioned 77 kids) and flying by the GIANT YELLOW BUS WITH FLASHING LIGHTS!” But I don’t.

3. “Are you sure it was my kid?” Yes, I am sure your child, who I have driven since he was in kindergarten (and is now in 5th grade), was trying to strangle his seatmate. Thirteen other kids also say it was your child. It is NOT the first time we have talked about this. Yes, I do have to write a report about it. Yes, there is a chance your child will be suspended from bus rides for the near future. I am not visually impaired. If I were, I would not be allowed to drive the bus.

4. “Well, the other kids hit him first.” And… the other kid is also in trouble and I just got off the phone with his mom who swears her son would never do such a thing (see above). That does not mean your kid has the right to punch him back. Golden rule, two wrongs don’t make a right, ring a bell?

5. “Oh yes I know, he/she is a trouble maker.” This really just means, “I know my kid is a pain in the ass, but I am not going to do anything about it.” I am sorry parents but seriously, remember who is the parent and who isn’t and grow a pair. Put on your big girl panties and tell your kid he/she needs to straighten up or they will be walking to school.

6. “What do you mean you won’t come to my house?” I live in Vermont. There are a lot of roads we can’t go up. We do not drive up private roads, and other roads we simply make it up. We also need a safe place to turn around, and what might be a nice, easy road in the Summer or even Fall when school starts is not easy in the Winter when there is ice and snow. We are a bus, not an ATV.

7. “I am so sorry I am late.” I don’t care what your reason is. You made every other child arrive home late because you couldn’t get to your kid’s stop in time. No, I will not drop your Kindergartener off at the bottom of the 3 mile hill to wait for you.

8. “I am sorry, I didn’t see you.” You would be amazed how many people say this after driving by our lights. I am glad all my kids crossing the road are trained to wait for me to give them a thumbs up before crossing. My response (in my head, if not out loud) is “You didn’t see me? The BIG YELLOW bus with the FLASHING LIGHTS and the FLASHING STOP SIGN? Should you even be allowed to drive?”

9. “It wasn’t me who passed you.” We call in the license plate numbers of those who pass our lights. In fact, our kids are trained to read them and tell us what the plates are. The police call the person, and they tell the cops it wasn’t them. Oh, so it was not you in the car with the specialty plate that says PASSBUS that is cherry red and a 1966 mustang convertible with the white wall tires that was driven by a female with blond hair, at 3:17pm at the Grille? My bad.

10. “How can you possibly do your job and not kill someone?” A school bus driver is not glamorous. I love the hours; I get my kids’ vacations off and I don’t have to pay for after school care. But more than all that, I love my job.

I love watching the kids grow up; the kindergarteners from my first year of driving are now in 5th grade. I love hearing about lost teeth and won games. I love seeing last year’s 7th grade boys coming back after the Summer, standing 3 inches taller.

Are there days I want to duct tape them all down? Yes.

Do I have to stop on the side of the road and put the fear of bus drivers everywhere into them? Yes.

Then there are the days you get a hand drawn card telling you that you are “The bestest diver in the whole word.” These are the days you treasure. These days make it all worthwhile.

The Question That Shall Not Be Asked

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pregnant-women

Listen up, America, because I’m only going to say this ONCE:

YOU DON’T GET TO ASK IF A WOMAN IS PREGNANT. EVER. Ever. EVVVVVUUUUR.

It’s none of your flipping, nosey, too ignorant for words business.

NONE. OF. YOUR. BUSINESS.

Here, let’s practice with my SHOULD I ASK A WOMAN IF SHE’S UP A POLE? Quiz (which, frankly, should be added to BuzzFeed immediately):

1. Do you ask a woman at the bus stop you haven’t seen all summer if she’s pregnant? NO.

2. You see a random woman at the grocery store whose gut has the telltale sign that she’s growing a human in her abdomen. Do you comment?  Hell to the freaking NO. Because RUDE.  Because STRANGER.

3. True or False: Women want to be asked if they are gestating  (you had BETTER have answered FALSE).

4.  A woman who looks like she has a watermelon shoved up her shirt is shuffling through the mall, alternately rubbing her belly and placing her hands on the small of her back. She is overheard complaining she has to pee every five minutes and is headed toward Cinnabon. Do you:

A.  Ask her when she is due.
B. Tell her that motherhood will be SO EXCITING FOR HER!
C.  Reach out, touch her belly and say, “Aw, I loved being pregnant!”
D.  Continue walking past her without opening your mouth and proceed on to Williams Sonoma to purchase a pot to bang over the head of the person who asks this poor unsuspecting soul if she’s pregnant.

5. You are standing on a Labor and Delivery floor and a woman is in seemingly active labor. Do you ask if the baby is coming? NO, you moron, you don’t ask pregnant women stupid questions. Go get her some ice chips NOW. I said STAT. (Sorry, THAT was a trick question…my bad).

I don’t care who you are, what your intentions are or whether you think you have the “I Can Tell A Knocked Up Woman From A Mile Away” superpower: It is NEVER okay to comment on the current status of a woman’s uterus.

What annoys me the most about this epidemic of ignorant stupidity is that people actually think it’s OKAY to say the words out loud. It’s as if these morons haven’t been taught “If you have to ASK the question, it’s probably not a good idea”. These are the same people who probably ask if the sky is blue, where Grant is buried and whether you can cry under water. Oh, and they probably say “supposably” and “Valentime’s”, too. But, I digress.

What makes me even crazier is that there is not an equivalent question asked of men. Think about it. No one asks men if their boobs are real, what they “do all day” or if they are having twins (and believe you me, I’ve seen PLENTY of men sporting guts the size of triplets). I swear to Hello Kitty, the next time a man asks me if I’m ready to pop out another Fruit Loop, I might just counter with “So, when did you lose that other testicle?” with a glance down at his junk.

On behalf of all the belly gaining, pear shaped, extra fluffy women out there, I implore the procreation obsessed, ignorant mouth opening, question asking asshats to THINK TWICE before they verbally assault a woman and her innards on the street.  Keep your comments regarding America’s uteri to yourself and realize that your selfish need for information does not outweigh basic manners. I won’t ask you what happened to your testicles, you don’t ask me about the miracle of life behind my belly button. I won’t comment on the fact that your thighs don’t touch and that your abs are rock hard because you haven’t shoved a cantaloupe out of your hoo ha and you can just zip it about my midsection the size of Texas. It’s as simple as that.

And just to clear things up: No, it’s NOT my time of the month, no, my Fruit Loops are NOT adopted and yes, the ladies are REAL.

Ahem.

I’m glad we understand each other.

Related post: 10 Ways to Piss Off a Pregnant Woman