How can I help you to say Goodbye?

Frank L. Baum, author extraordinaire of the Oz book series, said “Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”  We all deal with endings and new beginnings differently…some of us fight the endings, bemoan our fates, focus on the sadness at each ending, and take those new steps into the unknown as if we were trudging through sap, while others are able to embrace the unknown, look for the excitement in the changes to come, and bravely walk into the future with our faces looking only forward.

As much as I wish I were that second person, that joyful, brave, beautiful soul…I’m not.  I hate major changes.  I run from them, I do everything I can to keep them from happening, and when they slap me in the face before I’m completely prepared for them, I cry, I shake, I rant, and I feel the loss of what used to be to the depth of my soul.  Change is scary to me.  My husband has finally learned that if he wants me to be able to accept something new and important, he has to give me months to adjust to the new idea–time enough to think of all the angles of the change, to accept it in my mind and in my heart before I am forced to accept it in reality.  Of course, he is my wonderful husband–the world itself is seldom so accommodating.

My kids and I found out tonight that they will have to change school districts next year.  This came about due to over-crowding in their old district and us being there on a ‘choice transfer’, which means that we’ve had to request permission every year to attend that district, and they finally are saying that nearly all of their district schools are at capacity and they are not accepting any transfer requests for the upcoming school year.  For my son David, who is in 2nd grade, this is hard, but his biggest worry is that no one will want to be friends with him next year.  I know this to be completely untrue, because he is my most out-going child who is always making new friends wherever he goes.  I don’t worry about him too much–it’s a new idea and it’s scary, but he’ll be fine…I’m sure of it.

My daughter Sarah, however, is 11.  She’s starting 6th grade this fall and has been in her school district, in the same elementary school surrounded by the same peers, since kindergarten.  She’s got very tight, very close friends there, she’s in the highly-capable program and was looking forward to starting pre-algebra this fall at the middle school with all her other friends.  We’d already attended the middle school information night, she had already requested her elective classes, and her teacher is routing the paperwork to ensure she is able to continue in the HighCap classes for both math and English…but now, that can’t happen.  In the new school district, elementary school runs from k-6th grade, so she’s going to be back in elementary school, and surrounded by kids she doesn’t know, all while going through puberty.  (Did I mention previously she’s started puberty?  Yeah, I’ve got a toddler and a hormonal pre-teen…such fun times here.)   There is a lot of new, unknown things coming, and she desperately wants to keep things how they’ve been.  She is understandably broken-hearted, and utterly devastated.

As a mother, these are the times where I’m supposed to be strong for my kids.  I’m supposed to be logical, calm, understanding, empathetic, and able to show them all the benefits and new adventures to come with this change.  I know that’s how I’m supposed to be, but I reacted emotionally when I found out.  I cursed, covered my mouth and tried to correct it with a non-curse word, read and re-read the email a few times, muttering agitated words while Sarah said “What??  What happened??”, and then I told them, while I started crying.  I couldn’t hold back the tears, despite my best attempts.  I still can’t.

I can’t help but keep flashing back to my school years…I was home schooled until 5th grade, so when I started in public school, it was in my last year of elementary school, I didn’t know anyone at the school, I had no idea what a normal school day was like, and I was incredibly socially awkward…I stuttered, too, so life wasn’t fun for me.  Sixth and seventh grade weren’t much better for me, because while I was still trying to adjust to the new social structures, they were in constant flux with the changing hormones of the kids around me.  It was hard for me to get used to those new changes, and every change had the capacity to devastate me, such as a fight with a friend, a change at home, a friend moving away–all those things, such a normal part of life, can be so hard when you’re young.  Change can change who you are and how you view yourself, so sometimes it’s scary.

This school district change is a BIG CHANGE.  I know it’s a small thing to so many people, but to us, we’ve been blessed to have had very little geographical change since I had my children.  Stability has always been important to me–I have worked hard to give my children the stable life that I felt was best for them…but this is change, inevitable and certain, and it’s a big deal.  Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”  This is something that I will have to change my attitude about–I know it, and I know I will have to teach my kids how to embrace the new things to come–but it’s not an easy change.  It will take time for my mind to work it’s way though the change, and more time for my heart to accept it, but I know it will.  It’s just scary now.  I managed to say the right things to my kids before bed, and God willing, I’ll do my best to have more of those nice, logical, empathetic phrases to say to them when they wake up in the morning, but right now, when it’s just me, it’s scary.

When I was talking to my daughter about change tonight, a song came to my mind, one that I heard sung by Patty Loveless when I was young.  It’s called “How Can I Help You to Say Goodbye? ( ) It’s a country song, so it’s a tear-jerker, but I’m hoping that I can take some of the wisdom from it and help my daughter to say goodbye, and let her know that I’ll be there for her.  Life is never going to be easy all the time, we all have to face changes and uncertainty, so all we can do is hold tight to our faith, and ask God for the strength to take those new steps forward.  Proverbs chapter 16, verse 9 says “A man’s heart plans his way, but The Lord directs his steps.”  Well, Lord, here are my feet, ready to follow your path.


Sarah Is 11 Today

Sarah is 11 today.
On April 20th, 2006, I was checked into the hospital to undergo a second attempt that week to induce labor. I had been dealing with preeclampsia, high blood pressure, and had been on bed rest for the past 8 weeks, so needless to say I was ready for Sarah to come. I had wanted to have a natural birth process, but with the blood pressure issues and the preecclampsia, my doctor preferred I deliver on her schedule.
   They started the induction process around 10am, and around 5pm, when labor still had not started, they decided that I needed to have that baby anyway, so they broke my water.  My mom had been there all day, watching the heart rate monitors they had on me and had on Sarah, and she had noticed that Sarah didn’t particularly like the contractions I’d been having. According to her, every time I’d been having a contraction, Sarah’s heart rate would drop, and it was making the nurses nervous.
   After another 4 hours of labor, post-water breakage, I still hadn’t dilated beyond 2cm, and I was exhausted and scared. They told me that I was going to have to be prepped for an emergency c-section, and around 10 they started those preparations. For me, there’s never really been a scarier feeling than what I went through in those next several hours–the feeling of the large needle slipping through my vertebrae to completely numb me from the ribs down, the nausea from the epidural medicine, the utter lack of any control over my lower body, having my arms strapped to a board, keeping me in their preferred position, and that damning drape they put up so I couldn’t even see what they were doing to my body…it was all so terrifying surreal–before that, I’d never even had major surgery, and suddenly here I was in this alien world, everything so cold and sterile.
   The epidural makes it so that you don’t hurt when they cut into your body, but you still feel what they do. The doctor cut through flesh, muscle, and uterine wall to remove Sarah, who, after two full workdays of pitocin-induced contractions, was so badly jammed against my pelvic bones that the doctor, a small Asian lady, had to use a considerable amount of strength and fineness to pull Sarah out.  She could never have come out on her own, we discovered–my tailbone is longer than average and curves in, blocking my birth canal. They tell me that her umbilical cord, which was actually shorter than it should have been, was wrapped around her neck four times, and had she been able to progress down the birth canal naturally, she very well could have strangled herself before being born. That c-section, and my weird body structure, most likely saved her life.
   At 12:04am, April 21st, 2006, my first child, Sarah Elizabeth, made her appearance into this world. She came like many other babies today, even though the circumstances of her birth may be different, and she came out screaming and was placed against my chest. I have to say, the first time I heard her cry, I started crying myself, and I don’t think I stopped for quite a while.
   Life is so all-encompassing. It’s beautiful and it’s awful.  It’s powerful and it’s frightening.  It’s wonderful and it’s tragic.  It has such power over us, that simply the recollection of certain memories can still bring a renewal of those same feelings, no matter how long ago we originally felt them.  I still cry when I think about that birth.  It wasn’t my last c-section, and I love all three of my children, but that first foray into this new and scary world called parenthood will never leave my memories, and thus far never fails to bring tears to my eyes upon summoning those memories.  As I write this, the tears have been falling again, in memory of that frightened young woman experiencing such a huge change of her life, and in memory of that little baby, so new and so precious, and so tiny and fragile.
Happy Birthday, my darling girl.  Happy 11th birthday…such an important one.  Happy entrance into womanhood, happy year of change, happy day of the eclipse (Yes, there’ll be an eclipse over the Western US today), happy everything.  I will always love you.
**edit:  I was misinformed about the eclipse day–it is August 21st, not April 21st.**