I have never identified so closely with something written by another mother as I identify with a Mother’s Day essay written last year by Ellen Seidman of LoveThatMax.com.
Entitled, “I am the person who notices we are running out of toilet paper, and I rock: A Mother’s Day tribute to moms everywhere,” this essay includes Seidman’s lists of all the practical, life-improving practical things she notices in her own home. Among things like snack food and glitter and glass-cleaner are also the things like “shoes that fit” and recent family photos and storage for the growing collection of tiny toys from birthday party giveaways. Ellen, like most mothers, also notices uncharged electronics and plugs them in, and she realizes the vegetables in the fridge need to be used before they spoil, and she remembers to procure a gift for the next graduation party her family will attend.
In short, Ellen is a parent.
For most but not all of my female friends with children, Ellen represents in her blog post the inner workings of their minds at all times. Without question, many dads I know have a similar inner monologue, and Ellen notes in her blog that her husband has his own list going. In my house, actually, my husband notices the dwindling toilet paper supply long before I do, but I’m more likely to notice the absence of roasted seaweed, clementines, and red delicious apples before he does. Still, I definitely hold more of the practical, hands-on requirements of child-rearing in my head than he does.
In response, my husband has done a remarkable job thinking ten years ahead of me. When our daughters were born, he set up college savings accounts. He remembers to fund them, too. He handles detailed paperwork like school and religious school registration, health care savings accounts, vehicle research for our current one-car-every-decade-and-a-half car purchasing plan, mortgages, and managing things like making sure the roof isn’t falling in and, if it is, selecting a good roofing company with a good reputation.
And I buy the frozen peas.
Because of this division of labor, when I am forced to consider anything further than a few months away (“does she need new sandals for this summer?”), I find myself out of shape and ill-equipped for the task. I have a talent for dealing with this very moment, and that talent has been honed more than I’d care to have honed it in operating rooms and hospital bedsides over the last dozen years. I know how to throw resources into this very moment far better than how to plan for a moment in the distance. However, as health care plans for this country show a clear path toward ruin for my children, I was forced to get out of this moment and think about what might come next.
I have one child with a kidney condition and one child whose body holds medical history in more organs than I want to mention. I stand in front of the display of lettuce at the store and suddenly find myself paralyzed by the futility of purchasing it. Someday they’ll refuse to treat her for stomach pains and she’ll die of pancreatic cancer because she was misdiagnosed with gastrointestinal disease when she was five, I think, and stare at the lettuce with tears in my eyes.
I know every moment of her history, of both of their histories. Alongside their shoe sizes and their favorite flavors of Cheezits, I can tell you the name of every medication they ever took, every heartbreaking cry of “Mommy!” in the night or in the day as they fought against an IV, every single diagnosis, correct or not. I’ve collected a medical history for each of them that crowds out the yogurt flavors sometimes, that edges past my memory of which kind of shower gel they agreed on this week. I have to take the long view now. I have to think past next weekend.
In my first essay for Scary Mommy, I dug deep into the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and how it removes protections for people with preexisting conditions. In part, I wrote:
I worry that the new health care laws will allow insurers to refuse coverage for anything related to their pre-existing conditions. For my older daughter, that could mean no coverage for anything related to her kidneys or bladder. For my younger daughter, that list could include her entire cardiovascular, digestive, and respiratory systems. In my deepest moments of worry, I picture them in doctor’s offices: my older daughter being told by a billing specialist that a urine pregnancy test won’t be covered by insurance, my younger daughter left puzzling over whether it’s worth spending the money out of pocket for a chest x-ray for pneumonia. (full article here)
For all these years, I’ve collected what felt like useful knowledge, information that could help my children. The research I did for this recent article made everything I’ve ever learned about how to raise children seem irrelevant, as though I have been raising them only to release them into a harsh world that will betray them. The comments on this Scary Mommy article on their Facebook page include devastating misinformation and partisan name-calling, so much that I can’t help but wonder whether there was any point in my research. For every time I remember to stop at the store for laundry detergent, millions of parents all over the country are doing the same. They’re remembering the milk or the insulin, some popsicles or some extra gauze, a loaf of bread or a new prescription for asthma medication.
And all of us are in the same boat. And we’re all paddling with our backs to each other.
For Mother’s Day, all I want is a guarantee of decent health care for my children and for yours.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week our sentence prompt, in honor of Mother’s Day in the US, is “Oh, Mother…” This week is hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and Lisa from The Meaning of Me.