Thanks for not asking.

My sister Marla burst forth into the world when I was four years old. I can remember the day she was born in little vignettes. I can't remember my mom being pregnant at all, but I do remember my father picking me from the neighbors, where I hung out while my mom labored. I remember the hospital, and someone getting me a chair so I could peer into the bassinet, and leaning close to listen to her breathing, kind of squeaky and bird-like. It was go from there- with the exception of a few rough adolescent patches, and an argument that ended with her slamming my hand in a door and leaving permanent scars, we have been extremely close ever since.

Anyone that knows me, or even follows Marla's blog, knows that my sister has struggled with health issues since that first squeaky-bird-sounds day. Born with a congenital heart defect and grown into a woman with Lupus, she is a great person dealt a shit card. She kicks ass now, but as a kid, her health care (and health successes) didn't happen by itself. My parents were absolute superheroes, advocating and learning and participating and not sleeping and sitting at the bedside of a very sick child, wondering if this would be the hospital visit they came home without her. 

I only have one child, so I can pour all of my craziness attention into him. For parents that have two or more, you understand the struggle to triage your time and energy into making sure each of your children get an equal piece of your time and attention. I imagine that it is never something that is done to anyone's complete satisfaction, but that you try to do the best you can. For my parents, it wasn't that easy. Taking care of my sister was a job and my parents did it spectacularly well. But trying to triage their time wasn't a matter of deciding who went to what event if we both had something the same day. It looked more like giving oxygen to a baby that was rapidly turning blue while hoping the older one wasn't out in traffic because how on EARTH do you divide attention in a situation like that? 

I don't think that my sister and I bear any permanent damage from that situation. My parents, if I do say so myself, got lucky in their weird, sensitive older daughter, and I always understood that it wasn't personal. I knew that my mom and dad were desperate for some normal sibling rivalry instead of the ER episode they landed in. Still, I do think it shaped me in a lot of ways. I guess that's what childhood does. As an adult, I am a private person. I'm not a fan of asking for help and I don't like to discuss my feelings. I hate when people ask me how I am- I like to keep that to myself.  The people who truly know me know not to ask. But, I think that it was less the way I was nurtured and more my nature, whatever hard-wired weirdness I was born with.

Being a parent, even to only one child in my case, is what really shifted my perspective of my upbringing. We do everything we can for our kids and going all in on something means that something else, somewhere, is missing a piece. Being a parent helps me understand that the missing piece can own an all-consuming part of your brain, the part that wishes you could clone yourself and be in four places at once. Parenthood is triage. It's choices and sacrifice. In the end, my parents gave me gifts that far outweighed the missed attention that I know still gives my mom guilt to this day. The weird, prickly parts of me would have been there no matter what. But the great stuff, the stuff that makes me a decent friend and a good mom and a fucking kick-ass Parent Partner? I wouldn't have been that without my mom and dad.

Just don't ask me how I am. ;-) 

1 comment

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

Hey, how are you?

LOLOL sorry, I could not resist.

Welcome back! I've missed reading your writing.