Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Mom Job

It’s the hardest job I ever loved.

My kids were fed, watered, cleaned and clipped. Taught to read, write, compute and get along in polite society. Given direction, graduated independence, religious training, boundaries, love.

Meeting kids’ needs, supporting one’s co-parent/partner, maintaining a clean, safe home? It’s traditionally known as the Mom Job.

Of course, the Mom Job isn’t always Mom’s job. Sometimes Dad runs the house while Mom works. Unmarried teens and others get life done with help from extended family. Grandpa cooks, cleans and gardens while burping a coo-ing baby. Step-parents help raise a partner’s child. An army of nannies, maids, housekeepers, tutors, surrogates and wet nurses do for the 1% what one person does for the family in the real world.

And sometimes? When a parent hides behind her own insecurities and disengages from her children’s everyday, Grandma pitches in to help the parent-on-deck. With talker updates. Homework, tutors, meal planning, carpooling, grocery shopping, list making. After school buses, vacuuming, ironing, scrubbing toilets and the ever-present, never-done laundry, laundry, laundry.

I’ve been here before: teacher meetings, supply lists, sports events, birthday parties, play dates, homemade Halloween costumes, classroom Valentines, car repairs, doctor appointments.

Hubby and I argued then about money and who got to mow the grass (while the other watched the babies). I was frequently and irrationally mad at him for having a job where he conversed with grownups in the outside world. While I wiped pee off the bathroom wall, cleaned snot from headboards and scraped chairs free of crusted spaghetti sauce.

I wasn’t perfect. I was addicted to a soap opera called The Guiding Light. I told my kids Reese’s Cups and Diet Coke were grownup-only delicacies and if they partook hair would grow on their chests. Afternoons, my son sat in his bed for two hours until his sisters outgrew naptime. While I closed the blinds, unplugged the phone, ignored the doorbell, ate chocolate from a bag and watched tv.

One minute my babies played naked in the backyard pool. The next they were riding bikes through the neighborhood, going on dates, graduating high school, doing college, moving across country, getting married.

When my kids left home, I studied languages, ran 5k’s and a marathon. Got a job. Played piano. Joined a writer’s group, attended conferences and seminars. Wrote and sold articles and short stories. Travelled the world.

And then? The most amazing opportunity changed everything:

The Mom Job is different as a grandma. I need authorization to talk to teachers. I don’t sign permission slips or school notes. I have no responsibility, make no final decisions. I don’t attend IEP meetings or family therapy sessions.

I do meet buses. Oversee time tests and piano lessons, clean toilets, fold clothes. I’m the Mom-Behind-the-Curtain; a soft-lapped worker-bee.

I am the Nonnie-Nanny.

My refrigerator is stocked with mac’ncheese, popsicles, fish sticks, fruit. I know the names of the Thomas the Train trains. I own a copy of “Everybody Poops.”

It’s the hardest job I ever loved. Again.

Luckiest grandma ever.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Diagnosis Glasses

Amaze Girl scribbled. She wrinkled a corner of the paper. She wiggled in her seat and fidgeted with her shoe. She stared out a window.

I sighed. Impatience niggled at me. Babe, I said. Look here.

She startled. Rotated her attention back to the page in front of her.

Hey, look here.

She sighed. Shook her head. Tapped her pencil. Turned. Her eyes rolled to my ear, slid along my forehead, down the side of my face.

Babe, I said. Focus. My fingertips tapped the area just above my cheeks.

She opened her eyes wide until her irises were surrounded by white. Raised her chin. Frowned.

Now she was looking at me - more or less.

The assignment was math; double digit subtraction with borrowing. She knew how to do this. Why was it taking so long to complete?

Was the problem an innate inability to focus? Poor attention, slow thinking processes, ADD/ADHD, early exposure to lead? Bad attitude, ineffective effort? Low self-esteem? Does she watch too much tv, eat too much sugar? Need to run, more positive reinforcement, extra practice?

Sure, there could be other concerns to address.

But first? It seems Amaze Girl couldn't see.

If your child has a vision problem, he or she may act out in certain ways…be inappropriately or appropriately diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD or ADHD. Some children appear to learn normally but become frustrated quickly.

Amaze Girl's first eye test was done in a medical doctor's office and showed nearly perfect vision. It took a moment but she read all the tiny numbers. Saw all the big letters.

Amaze Girl's second eye test, completed by an optometrist while her eyes were dilated, revealed a significant need for visual correction. Or in the words of one technician, "Whoa!"

"A typical child's eye muscles are strong," said the optometrist. "Muscles expand and contract, move. When muscles work hard to compensate for a visual impediment it can be a cause of focus and attention issues in school." He smiled. "Dilation inhibits the muscles' ability to adjust so we can read her true prescription."

Amaze Girl is far sighted, which means her eyes focus easily on far-away objects. When she turns her attention to objects that are close up, her eyes require time to adjust. They'd labor again every time she glanced away/turned back.

After a while, the exhausted organs would be done for the day. Even if Amaze Girl was not.

If there is a problem in how easily or quickly our eyes focus, that visual problem is called an accommodative dysfunction…children have a large amount of focusing capacity…(but) may be unable to quickly change the focus of their eyes from near to (far)...

With glasses, Amaze Girl's handwriting improved. Her intellectual endurance lengthened. Since she no longer had to wait for her eyes to adjust and refocus her reading was more fluid.

I held up my camera. Hey, Babe, look here, I said.

And immediately, without hesitation? She did.