Monday, December 14, 2015

The Unthinkable

Honestly, I didn't know how to title this post. It has been 5 months minus one day. I named it after the first two words of my facebook post because I don't know how else to tell this story. In fact, I didn't plan on telling it here. It lives in my mind- locked up. Only to be taken out and looked at when necessary. I'm writing about it here because I told Madeleine I would. I'm writing because one day she will see this blog and it will fill in all kinds of holes for her. And it will retell her story from another perspective and that is important. 

I want to write the real words here. I want to remember the details so explicitly that I can always conjure that feeling, although horrific, to remember why we fight the good fight. And yet, I want to forget. To bury this memory so deep that it will no longer evoke emotions when I drive by. So that when I consider what my girl has endured I won't shudder. So that when parental guilt rears it's ugly head all I think about is a failed gift or a crappy dinner. 

But, this is our story.

My original facebook post:

The unthinkable happened today. My strong, brave, beautiful daughter climbed high in a tree to prove to girl (who was saying mean things about her leg) that she could. The branch broke and she fell. I saw my girl crumpled on the ground. Tried comforting her while organizing how to get Michael Meyersthere and what to do with max. Fortunately an angel was placed at the park. I have always trusted my kids with Jessica Elliott and she was there for me once again taking max to my mom's house. Madeleine was rushed to harborview by ambulance. We are relieved and feel so thankful that she has no fractures and no evidence of a brain injury. She may have other complications in her organs and is being kept over night. Prayers are welcome. My heart is grieving for my boy who was so courageous as he saw Madeleine lying motionless. His mom so preoccupied that I didn't thank him for waving down the ambulance and didn't get a chance to say goodbye. My heart is heavy for my scared precious baby. Thankful for these amazing humans at harborview that are taking such good care of my girl.

Here's the whole story that I might remember for Madeleine. She asked me about it the other day when we drove by Meridian Park. She couldn't remember details. She made up parts and spoke wrongly about other parts. It's ok. She was in shock. I told her that one day I would tell her the whole story. Here it is:

I woke early. It was going to be a hot day and I met Greta to go for a run. I only know about this because facebook spontaneously posts my runs and I have a run on the books for July 15. Max had an appointment in the afternoon and I had asked my wonderful friend Megan to watch Madeleine for a bit. Mad was excited. Megan's girls were excited. It was a done deal. 

I dropped Mad off with Megan and took Max to his appointment knowing that Megan was going to take the girls to Meridian Park to play. Max and I were to meet them there after his appointment. We brought the twins' new bikes. We brought the pup.

There was a farmers market at the park that day. Tons of people and no parking. Max and I found a spot and proceeded to lead Winston on his leash toward the play area to see Mad. Because there was a farmers market there were so many people and families! There was also my friend Cassie with her two angel kids. And my friend and beloved babysitter Jessica with a baby she was taking care of the afternoon. Both encounters (Cassie and Jessica) were so welcome! It was summer and I hadn't seen either ladies in a while.

The day was beautiful and hot. It was a perfect day to play at a vast Seattle park full of orchard trees and screaming kids! I wore a linen skirt that came above my knees... with flip flops. On the top I wore my favorite white Anthropolgie tank in white. It is delicate with spaghetti straps. This is important because how many times do you leave the house thinking you may be wearing the wrong thing for the unexpected events that might happen.

When Max and I arrived he instantly played. I checked in with Madeleine. Chatted with Megan. Walked/ran the pup around. Watched kids play and all the other things you do when your kids are nine and you are at a park on a beautiful July day.

I walked to Cassie who was at the swings and chatted. I walked by a tree and Madeleine was a good 10 feet up. I said, "Mad, not too high up- that would seriously hurt if you fell."
Mad: "I'm fine"
Me: "It's time to come down. Remember our rule."

The rule is not to stand or rely on any branches that are smaller than your upper arm. You see, my girl has climbed trees from the beginning.

I walked about ten feet to my friend Megan on the bench. I started to tell her about something- who knows what.... I heard a crash and a scream.
I looked to my right and saw a child crumpled on the ground beneath a tree. It took me a half second to recognize Madeleine's yellow stripe tank and grey shorts. She was wearing her running blade. The hospital would cut that tank from her body but her shorts would remain a relic until I threw them away last month. 
In a second I was next to her. Almost light speed I fled. Bionic Woman. The dirt and gravel scrapped my knees (remember the linen skirt?) as I literally slid to her side. I laid my body next to her in order to steady her. To keep her from moving a potentially broken neck or broken spine or concussed head. I was so aware that the park could see my ass. I was sure that my skirt had hiked up and my ass would be completely visible. I didn't care.

The first words Madeleine said was, "mommy, I want to wake up now."
I cried and told her it was okay.
I asked her what hurt... her tongue and her back, she answered.
"Mommy, is this a dream?"
"I want to wake up now"
What I didn't know is that Max was the first responder. He asked her, "Madeleine, are you okay?"
I think I might have pushed him out of the way. I will always wonder this and feel bad.

There were lots of moms there. I don't know them. Even Cassie was there and I barely remember her. One mom said awful things:
-I think she hit her head
-She is in shock
-I tried to catch her
-"Honey, do you see a light?"

One mom said, "I called nine one one can I call someone for you?
"yes, my husband, where's my purse"
Cassie: I'm here, what can I do?
Me: Find my purse, it's green, over there. Megan, she has the dog too.
Me: to the mom: My husband doesn't have his phone... what time is it... 5:08...He's home. Call my home number.... No, I don't know it!.... Find my phone... It's in my phone... Here's the passcode.. find "new home" (I don't know my home number. I named it 'new home' 7 years ago.....

Mom from park: no michael, this is not your wife. your daughter has been in an accident. the ambulance is coming...
The mom who told Madeleine about the light told Max to flag down the ambulance. I choose to think she had the best intentions because who would actually ask a boy, age just 9, whose mom is unavailable and whose sister is broken to get the ambulance. And, he did it. And thank goodness he did because Jessica saw him flag the ambulance and knew something was wrong with our babies. 

To be continued....

Thursday, August 27, 2015

PSA: Teach Your Kids

Friends, I have an important public service announcement. I say this as a parent and as a teacher. I know that some kids will learn social cues almost automatically and other kids need direct teaching. Please do the direct teaching.  It is critical. Four years ago I wrote this blog post. Unfortunately it has gotten worse as Madeleine has gotten older. Unfortunately she notices it now and takes it personally. **These thoughts are scattered because these words bring emotions. Apologies for poorly written posts and when I'm ready to share this professionally I will clean it up.

My girl is a strong one. I cannot know what she deals with in her heart and her brain every day. I cannot know what it feels like to know that she will always look different from her peers. She is so strong. She deals with this shit over and over and over again. She deals with adults staring or telling her "she's amazing" for doing things all-limbed kids would do. Or merchants giving her free ice cream (true it has happened many times). She deals with kids looking, ogling, taunting, name-calling, following her around, asking constant questions and running away from her. This happens daily.

We were in the airport a few weeks back and she said to me, "mom, watch how all these grown ups stare at my leg." And it was true. Grown men in suits and with suitcases almost tripping themselves to stare. Now, that is not a bad thing but the point is Madeleine notices it.

It is not uncommon for kids to ask questions and mostly this is fine. Teach your kids to ask questions. It is important in all aspects of their lives. If they are wondering and they are polite there should not be a problem. I have taught Madeleine to say, "I noticed you staring do you have questions?"  At least I have tried to teach her this but sometimes she growls.

It's true. My daughter growls at people. She is fed up and sick of "using her words". The non-verbal growl usually conveys enough.

Friends, I could write hundreds, maybe thousands of snippets about this issue. I could tell you about the time kids ran from her, or called her gross and creepy, or told her that only two-legged girls could play. I could tell you how she has cried about it and how she feels alone. About how she cannot look at Hannah Andersson catalogs because she is jealous that footy pajamas will never look 'like that' on her.  But instead I want to tell you one story.

Names and locations have not been changed because I don't care.

Yesterday we were at Pop Mounger Pool in Magnolia. If you are unfamiliar with Seattle I will tell you that Magnolia is an affluent neighborhood and it happens to have one of the only outdoor public pools in our area. It is a lovely pool with a twisty slide and a kiddy pool and a great hang out spot for many school aged kids and their families.

The kids (Max, Madeleine and Max's good friend) were eating up the last days of sunny summer at the free swim time. Max was playing with his buddy and Madeleine was doing her own thing and joining the boys from time to time. Madeleine is an excellent swimmer and very confident in the water. She is also cool with being alone and playing by herself.

With only ten minutes left of swim time I was hanging out in the shade and perusing twitter. Max's friend came up to me suddenly and said, "there are girls bothering Madeleine and I think there may be a fight". When I looked up I could see Madeleine getting angry, I could hear her voice and I saw two girls ages 7-10 with life jackets on near her. I swiftly walked to that end of the pool and as I approached the girls began to swim away. Madeleine was so angry and upset she couldn't talk to me. Finally she screamed, "I hate them! They are so mean!" Then Max, friend and Madeleine began to relay some things the girls were saying to Madeleine. They were taunting her. They followed her around to be mean! They grabbed her leg! That's right, they TOUCHED her body! to be mean. They said horrible things.....
*you are ugly
*your leg is gross
*your family must not love you because they cut your leg off
*your leg looks like a penis
*you can't swim
*you must be a baby because your leg is so small

Max and friend totally stood up for her. They told the girls to leave Mad alone. And the girls didn't stop. The boys were so quick thinking that Max stayed with Madeleine while friend found me.

I found the girls in the other pool and calmly gave them a lesson in respect, kindness and differences. At first one of them tried to deny it and then they just listened. But they never apologized. I wish I had known who their parents were. I wish I had told the life guard that they touched my daughter as she was coming down the slide and she hit her head and that is a safety concern.

But mostly I wish that parents would teach their kids kindness. Teach them that people are made differently. Not the talk of, "God made her that way" because many kids lose body parts or are burned and scarred later in life. Teach them that shit happens. That we all have something. That even if you are different you still matter. Everyone deserve respect. Live and let live. And get the fuck over it.

We cannot know Madeleine's reality. She kept saying to me, "mom, they said it looks like a penis". She told me she thought one of the girls was named Lola. This is important because if you think you know Lola you owe it to Madeleine to teach her.

For fuck's sake people, teach your kids how to be kind. I get curiosity but I don't get cruel. I will blog soon about books you can read to your kids or movies you can watch.  Please, start teaching them while they are young. Show them pictures of people who are different colors. Who live in different cultures. Who have bodies that are formed differently. Surround them with racially diverse people, with people who have Down Syndrome, with people who talk differently. It is a critical lesson in life and it needs to be directly and deliberately taught.