Quite recently something happened that just pulled the proverbial rug out from under me.
This has not been the best year for me, so far. An MS episode clobbered me in the winter and spring, then a bout with thyroiditis. Terrible, terrible depression associated with the thyroiditis. At the same time, I was starting to develop a very painful problem with my right shoulder. I haven't written in months, and I have lost track of my favorite bloggers.
My 11 year old son was invited to go to DisneyWorld for a few days this summer with a friend, 'Zach'. His friend's mom, 'Mindy', was going to take them both in late June. I didn't think he'd want to go. He's kind of a homebody in certain ways. I had a hard time imagining him being gone and living without us for more than a few days. He'd been away for the occasional sleepover, but never for more than a night. My husband and I talked about it and decided that we'd ask him - if he wanted to go, we'd say ok. It could be a good experience for him to spend time away from us. And he surprised us - he wanted to go. He though it would be fun to spend the time with Zach, and he thought going to DisneyWorld would be fun.
So I said yes. Mindy asked me to write up information about him - what he liked to eat, what his routines were. I wrote up a very honest account of my son, and identified some of the things that could be issues - the heat, making sure he had enough water, making sure there was decompression time, etc.
Meanwhile, we started our summer immediately on June 2 with our family vacation. I was struggling quite a bit with what turned out to be a "frozen shoulder". Also known as adhesive capsulitis. It completely took me by surprise, and really took over my life. I was in massive amounts of pain. We came back from vacation mid-June. I immediately started doing physical therapy and myofascial release therapy massage 4 times a week. I also went in for a cortisone shot (I had tried one early on but it didn't take because it wasn't given in the right location.) For a couple weeks, the shot really, really helped. It started wearing off in a few weeks. I was juggling various painkillers to be able to sleep at night at that point.
I'm having a hard time writing this. My stomach hurts.
By the time the Orlando trip got booked, it had morphed into a 6 day trip in July. We had my husband's family visiting for the first couple weeks of July so I had to rationalize whether or not my son leaving after the first week was a big deal. Mindy had called me to check on the dates. In retrospect, I wonder if she was trying to give me, or her, an out. I had a quiet voice my head asking me if this was going to work. It's brutally hot in Orlando in the summer. Whenever I'd have a conversation with Mindy, she'd say something like "I can't believe you're letting him come with us! I don't know if I could do that." I started secretly wondering if she'd expected me to say no. Surely if that was the case, she would have backed out? I felt like I couldn't back out as everything was booked, and my son really seemed to be looking forward to it. I told myself it would be fine. I just kept telling myself that. One of my mistakes was secretly wondering. I should have just sat down and had a conversation with Mindy.
The trip, it turned out, was a bit miserable. By all accounts. He called me the second day and talked about how different Zach's family was from ours. "Mom, they have to plan everything! We just have to keep going and going all day long with no break." I knew what he meant. Our family tended to be a little more go with the flow, and they were up at dawn, getting to the park early trying to beat the lines. You really do need to do that kind of planning if you are trying to get the most out of your Disney dollars. I get that - I don't think he totally did. He said the heat was unbearable for him. He worried that he was going through his spending money too fast. I had suggested he give the money to Mindy and let her manage it so he didn't have to worry about losing it. That turned out to be a problem. He couldn't track what 'his' money was going towards and whether he had anything left. He doesn't like to spend money, and I really should have arranged that very differently. I should have given money directly to her to cover his food, and not phrased it as being 'his' money. That was totally my mistake. I sent Mindy a text about it and she responded that there was no problem, that my son had plenty of money left.
I talked to him every night. The last night, he asked me if it was ok that he stay in the hotel room by himself while they went out to the fireworks again. I said of course. He had me on the phone for several hours while he was alone in the room. He couldn't wait to get back home. He said they were being mean to him, that they didn't ask him what he wanted to do, that she didn't save him a seat for the parade, etc., etc. Clearly, there were some problems. There was not much I could do, and I just talked him down each night.
We met them at the airport the night they came back. It was very clear that things had been strained. It felt uncomfortable. Of course, they were all exhausted and I figured they needed some space and major decompression time.
Meanwhile, we had friends from the UK that were coming to visit us with their two young kids. We got back from the airport that night. Ozzie checked his email and realized that our friends were coming not at the end of July, but the end of this week. I told myself I'd catch up with Mindy in a week or so. I mentioned to her maybe we could get together for lunch, on me, and I thought maybe I'd send her a gift certificate to one of the nice salon/spas in Boulder. I started getting my head around the next round of visitors. I had just said farewell to Ozzie's mom the day before.
My next mistake was not calling Mindy and checking in. I had assumed from the weird vibe at the airport that everyone wanted a break from each other, and I was continuing to feel overwhelmed.
Our British friends arrived a few days later. They literally got off the plane, and their youngest son vomited. It turned out their older son had been sick the day before. By the time they pulled into our driveway, he was throwing up again. We were all hoping it was, you know, "travel sickness". Nope. Over the next 5 days we one-by-one got the virus (except for Ozzie!) It was awful. It's been a very, very long time since I had a stomach bug that nasty. Two weeks later, I'm still feeling bouts of nausea. My daughter got sick on the way to a show at Red Rocks. My son and I were pretty much sick at the same time - very hard on both of us. He somehow willed the vomiting to stop for 10 hours and played a concert for the rock band camp he did that week. That was amazing. And he came home from the show and got sick again. I missed a bunch of days of PT, and ventured back to reality, PT and work mid-week.
The next day, I received an email from Mindy. It was angry - bringing my son was a mistake. He didn't have any stamina, he needed too much water, the money was a problem, he had bummed everybody out. "He and Zach are on different paths in life." She felt that it was best if he and Zach severed their friendship.
I felt slapped in the face. I immediately wrote back and apologized for being out of touch - I had not intended that and things had just happened unexpectedly. Honestly, it wasn't even like I was putting off doing something for her - I absolutely did not once think about it. "This is your brain on MS"? I don't know, I just know that I clearly messed that up. I wrote what I believed was a polite and compassionate response to what I thought was a very distressing email. I suggested that we get together to talk about whatever issues there were - certainly we could work through things.
She wrote back that there was nothing to talk about. She and Zach had talked and this is what they both wanted.
I felt stupid. I second-guessed every single thing I had said or thought or did or didn't do. I had to leave on a business trip to Portland, where I've been for a few days. I started out feeling like I had a dagger in my chest. I mean, I've had two, maybe three very difficult friendships in my life. But when there were problems, they were about me. This is about my kid. That's what makes my stomach hurt. I think deep down I know that he's ok - he will be ok in life. But this certainly stirs up all my fears for him. He's struggled with a lot in his young life - major speech problems, a learning disability, a low tolerance for frustration, tantrums. He's made huge strides - he's learned how to read, and he's gotten far better at managing his emotions. My absolute worst fears are that I have grievously failed my children. That I have not prepared them "right". And, of course I have failed them. it's certainly not all I've done - there's been some good things, too. I wouldn't know how to begin to be a perfect parent and it's hard to live with just "doing my best". But there is something deeper in this that is bothering me. I think it's that I know how much my son would be hurt if he knew what she wrote about him. My heart can hardly bear knowing it. To be honest, I cannot imagine writing such a thing to someone else. I have a way of naively going through the world sometimes, and then I let myself get so hurt by other people's actions.
I did send Mindy a nice gift certificate to the local spa. I don't know if that is her thing or not. I don't think I care. I need to close this chapter, I think. I'm certainly not going to say anything to my son. He has not mentioned wanting to see Zach, so I assume he has a sense for whatever's going on energetically. They'll be attending the same middle school next year - who knows how that is going to play out. Is there anything more terrifying than your kid starting middle school? I think one of the first posts I wrote for this blog happened on the day my daughter started middle school. I cried all the way to work that day. Funny how I was just diving into battling the school district over my son's learning disabilities that day, too.
I clearly made mistakes here. My choice on how to handle this situation would be very different from the way it played out. Earlier today i felt like maybe I had half a dagger in my chest. Tonight it feels like the whole thing again. My gut instinct is to never, ever take any risk again, ever. To not get close to people. Don't trust people, whatever I do. Do not, under any circumstance, befriend new parents at the middle school. Well, this will pass I guess. Meanwhile I'm popping Tums, Pepto-Bismol, acidolphilus, enzymes and anything else i can to get my stomach to stop hurting. For two days, I've been wondering whether I'm up for another 8 - 10 years of parenting. I'll gear up. I think it's the fear that's eating my stomach up.
ps. Portland is nice.