Brace Yourself

Dear Z,

I was thinking about you lot last week, as you went from being horribly sick and cranky with a stomach bug for four long days to having "the BEST, MOST AWESOME TIME EVER" building dams and sketching geese in your Nature Academy summer camp. To say it's been an up and down week would be an understatement and the ride of this week is as familiar to me as it was surprising.

(Life is about change. "Familiar" and "surprising" are not mutually exclusive.)

Of course, parenthood is a primer for dealing with change, but you specifically teach me about change - and my own resistance to it - every single day. Your moods are a rollercoaster with fast and unpredictable swoops; your behavior can be startlingly mature and wise one minute and hopelessly infantile the next. I am constantly pulled off axis by you but I want you to know that that is not your fault or responsibility. I know you're just learning how to operate this brain and body you've been given and it's my job as your parent to first find my own calm center and then help you find yours.

(I will be working on this for the rest of my life. I may or may not get any better at it than I am right now.)

When I was in my teens, I always thought that being an adult would be some pleasant plateau of existence. By adulthood surely I would have figured out who I am, why I'm here on this earth, what I want to do with my particular life's allotment of time and resources. Every passing year, I patiently wait for this self-actualized plateau to arrive.

(There is no plateau.)

Small things change all the time for me, still, at the ripe old age of 40. For instance, I recently discovered, after many, many years of loudly professing my love of drip dry hair, that I actually like to blow dry my hair. It looks so much better! I can actually do it pretty quickly! I don't have to wear a pony tail all day, every day! My identity shifted as a result, if only internally. At first I was embarrassed as if I was pretending to be someone else. I was worried I might suddenly need fancy manicures too or decide to wear heels every day. Now I've calmed down and assimilated it into who I am. I wear birkenstocks, I rarely wear makeup, I am not really into fashion and yet I sometimes blow dry my hair.

(Identities shift from time to time, if you let them. Don't be scared.)

Last week was rough for me in ways that were not related to holding a puke bowl for you at regular intervals. I was able to summon empathy when you were sick because I am, in fact, constantly aware of the frustrations associated with physical sensations as a result of two, count em TWO, braces I have on my body at the moment.

Two weeks ago, I got invisalign braces to correct the misalignment of my teeth that had gotten bad enough to cause my tongue to get stuck in my teeth on a semi-regular but deeply painful basis. Since I got them, I am constantly aware of my mouth, of how my voice sounds (hint: like a four year old with a lisp), of whether people can tell that I have them, of the constant pressure on my teeth. I don't like them, I don't like how they feel, I don't like how self-conscious I feel with them in. But I'm doing it. Because I need to. Because I will get used to them eventually. And it will be over someday soon, before I know it.

("It won't be like this forever" is almost always true.)

Then, last weekend, I took the first of three classes on how to fully correct my diastasis recti without surgery. I didn't realize it would require me to wear a tight brace around my torso 24 hours a day
for at least the next 6 weeks. And it may not even work for me.

And it's hot, sticky, I-want-to-wear-tank-tops SUMMER.

Z, I'm like you in at least one major way: I'm hypersensitive physically and emotionally. When I'm physically uncomfortable, I can't concentrate. I feel frustrated with the world and I don't want anyone near me. So I get how you are. And I'm pretty sure that one day, you will get how I am too.

Every morning, I stand in front of the mirror and refasten my ab brace and brush and replace my invisalign braces with the best attitude I can muster. Some mornings it's with a mirthful "Brace YOSELF!" Others is with a resigned "brace yourself."

We will learn to ride these waves together, you and me.

(Just, you know, brace yourself.)


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama

1 comment:

Jen Anderson said...

I know just how you feel with the invisalign. I have dental appliances (one top for nighttime, one bottom for day) to help with my TMJ/migraines. The first 2 days I wore just one of them, all I could think was "Thing in my mouth! Thing in my mouth!" And that was even though I had 4 years of braces and bite plate as a teen.

This too shall pass. But not soon enough.

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