Tag: Childcare

The 9AM Mommy Basil Injection

“By praying for one another, we’re giving each other insulin,” my friend A says after we’ve dropped off our kids and dashed over to the near by cafeteria, half a block from our kids Upper Westside school. We selected the side booth, to the right, our go to position, permitting us to set our backs against the room, against the outside world, for a time.

“This is our praying booth,” A says, her head cocked, causing her long, chestnut hued locks to tumble around her small shoulders.

“Just like a confessional,” I answer. “But only with more crying.”

We chuckle, motivated not by humor but from truth.

I’ve always been a praying sort. First I prayed for a child, and then I prayed for that child’s good health. Now my praying has taking on a smorgasbord quality, prayers sent up here and there, from the time my feet hit the floor to midnight when I turn down the covers and I launch my final salute just before sleep. They run from, “Please God let there be enough milk for breakfast and coffee”; to “Please God let the subway come now so we can get to school on time,” to “Please God let my Spanx smooth out my pouch enough that I don’t regret wearing this dress out of the house.”

BecomingScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 11.22.50 PM a mom may have ramped up my requests. Through my friendship with, A I have lifted up my prayers to mystic levels. Praying for others will do that, taking you out of your own head, your perceived quagmire of troubles and problems. Once upon  a time I’d believed serious trouble stalked me. Not anymore. Sure, I have bad days. Living a faith-based life does not make you immune from crampy-hit-me-with-another-bar-keep-days. But whatever thorny briars I land on are more of the artisanal variety, handmade by my or another’s neglect, or circumstance, or my miscalculation. Now I pray for right out comes on a higher level. For you see, through witnessing A’s journey, her worries, her journey, I know I have everything. A healthy kid is the greatest gift any parent can have.

“We happened to visit our old church last week,” A says as she takes on the jet-fuel of caffeine, “and we happened to met a nurse advocate, one we could never afford. She’s going to help us get the equipment we need.”

“That’s God at work,” I say.Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.44.47 PM

“She only works with private diabetes clients, so she’s really a gift.”

A’s mouth says the nurse advocate is a gift. But it’s her eyes, gray-green and still that contain oceans of worry, dark half moons set below that tell of her long night that speak the loudest.

Ever since my friend’s four-year-old daughter, a bright shining child with dancing eyes just like her mom, received a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes there have been odd gifts that have come her family’s way through this new upside world. The first gift came when A and her husband took their daughter to the hospital after the child started vomiting with such a force on vacation than it moved them toward the nearest emergency room rather than to the airport to board a flight to the east coast as planned. After the EMS team stabilized their four-year-old, five days later, the doctors informed A and her husband that if their family of three had boarded the aircraft for the east coast, only two of them would have exited the plane in New York City.

Now A lives in a world where she wakes her kid throughout the night to test her blood sugar levels, a land where the poking and prodding and worry has no end.

“Forgive me for saying this,” another mom at our school moaned in the sealed, privacy of the elevator car as we descended to the first floor and headed into our day after drop off, “But it’s not like her daughter has cancer, I mean people don’t died from diabetes.”

Heat crackled on my skin. Like gas and electricity. “No, actually she could die,” I blared back leaving off the “you asshole” final punctuation to my statement. “She could fall into a coma if her blood sugar level plummets, while sleeping and not wake up.”

“Oh, I didn’t know, “ the mom said to the back of my head as I huffed off down the street.

Only in New York does one need to qualify just how bad of a time you’re having. Across America, when you share news of this level, people just give their condolences. Ask if they can help. Send out prayers if they are the praying kind. In Manhattan folks want you to prove just how bad it is, say, on a scale from one to ten because, hey they could be working on an eleven situation you don’t know about.

Since last August A and her family have always hit an eleven.

“Getting your kid up school is equal to executing a military operation every day,” a mom once said to me. But at least troops will listen to their general; they’re trained to listen. A four-year-old? Forgetaboutit. And wrangling a four-year-old with Type 1 Diabetes is like the invasion of Normandy. Every damn day. A bad start to my day is finding Julia in the kitchen, just as we need to leave the house, chortling, “Look at me Mommy, look at me!” standing buck naked. (Yes, it happened last week.) A’s bad day has her kid sneaking a piece of candy, or a carb and A discovering this news when she tests her blood sugar, Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.54.54 PMor when her daughter starts to go pale, or body’s wild ride of natural insulin that still thinks it can drive the car, shooting out wild spikes. Mayhem. Then A and her husband must bolt from their home and dash to the hospital in the middle of the night. (It’s happened three times since August.) An even worse day on the heartbreak scale, an epic four-year-old melt down on the kitchen floor crests with, “Mommy I don’t want to have diabetes anymore.”

“Type 1 Diabetes typically affects young people and only represents about 5 to 10% of the population,” says Ron Rosedale, MD, author of The Rosedale Diet, and co-founder of the Colorado and Carolina Centers for Metabolic Medicine. With Type 1, the pancreas is unable to produce insulin.” So just as a young body starts to grow, a break occurs. And lasts throughout life. First A must get her daughter an insulin pump, and then to respect the pump then living with the pump, working it into her teenagehood into adulthood, into both of them feeling confident enough that her child won’t experiment in the ways most of us did. Typical teenage hubris could take her daughter’s life.

So, I up my prayer game. I remember that God is always at work whether I can see God or not, kind of like electricity, or the subway or Kevin Bacon. I recall that my job is to be there for A through our gangster mommy lives in the Big Apple.

“Life is tough,” Pastor Paul constantly reminds his New York Flock  “and if you’re going through hell don’t build condo there.” But there are times when you, whether you want to or not will have a motel stay, suffering long-term durations in hell.

“I understand how this can strain a marriage,” A says.

“But you guys are strong,” I say.

I know that A and her husband cling to God as much as one another. I love that about her. When their nerves fray, she’s the first to say sorry, no matter who launched he first stone.

So far, I’ve never married. Never taken the vow. But I know the promise of friendship. Real connection. And more than through bad dates and broken relationships, and random layoffs I know what I friendship needs. I know how to be a good friend through a bad medical report, and cheating husband, alcohol rehab, and the murder of a child.

So I come a sit with my friend in hothouse of illness and motherhood in the crying booth and offer up cool drink of water by listening with my full on heart.



The Price of Parenthood

The cost of Parenthood, according to The Wall Street Journal

This week The New York Times published an essay on the cost of  feeding,  housing and educating a child into adulthood, and beyond. The post by Nadia Taha, The Cost, in Dollars, of Raising a Child covered every element of child rearing one could think of from braces to college to providing healthcare to the child into his or her twenties. The negative effects of Motherhood aka. “The Mommy Track” against a woman’s career and total lifetime earnings was also detailed. This extraordinary break down,which came to $435,030 in a conservative estimate to $ 776,000  and upwards to a cool 1.6 million by The Wall Street Journal’s cost analysis can be found here: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/the-cost-in-dollars-of-raising-a-child/

But what the writer missed while covering the monetary benefit of not having children is this: Parenthood is rarely so simple and clear. Statically, more than half the children born are not planned, the result of  the “oops factor.” However, human nature and foibles didn’t come into the writer’s reasoning and neither did, it seemed,  did the heart.

As I read the break down my heart hurt. I thought of the parents, the singles and couples, who agonized over having children, and yet found themselves staring at an EPT test strip with two purple lines. I thought of my grandfather, the second man my maternal grandmother married, a woman who brought five children to the marriage and added two more to their new jointly formed family. No one in that house, I believe, conducted a dollar cost analysis to having additional children or the act of raising children produced from another man’s gene pool, an idea lost on me, sadly until the funeral of my Grandpa Joe, ten years ago. I missed thanking the one super hero that ever bounced me on his knee but I can be proud of my brother Jeffrey who followed our Grandfather’s example and married my sister-in-law, a mother of two, and added two children to their union, creating as close that I’ve personally seen to a black Brady Bunch.

As with many things in life you can look at the bottom line or you can listen to what your heart tells you. And somehow, I believe at the end of my life, the calculation made by my heart, to become a mother, to adopt a child, to step into the life I wanted, will yield the best return on investment.

For the Love of Angie

After the firing and release of Donique, Julia’s first nanny, the universe, delivered Angie to my small family. From the start, my Mom knew Angie was the right woman for the job. However, in fairness, I had to keep my word, and allow all four applicants to interview for the position of nanny. My mom could give a hoot about fairness. She wanted to lock and load Angie for Team Julia.

As each applicant came through the front door, and took a seat at the dinning room table, my Mom sat across from them, her word search puzzle book game set in one hand, a ball point pen in the other, typically used to keep her seventy-five-year-old mind sharp, but in that moment, employed as a social shield. While I conducted the thirty-minute interview, Mom listened and then lobbed a question or two over her book at the applicant, then returned to her preferred preoccupation. After the interview wrapped, I’d escort the applicant to the front door.

“Thanks for coming,” I said say with a smile, closed the door and lumbered back down the hallway, mentally sorting over the pros and cons of the woman, settling into my chair to take a closer look at her resume. From behind the folded book, the voice of my Mom would exclaim, “She was nice. But she was no Angie.” By the time the third applicant had come and gone, Mom got testy, “Why are you even still interviewing people?” she said. “Just call Angie.”

I, like a jittery, burned bride that had been abandoned at the altar, sought certainty. I wanted to be sure as I could be about the new nanny. After I week of hunting I realized there was no 100% certainty in anything. 95% was as close as I would come.

The day before Angie started work, my brother Jeffrey called from Michigan. “You better tell the new nanny what happened with the old nanny,” he said.
“Sure. You don’t want her thinking that she works for a hot head, that if she breaks a plate or something then she’s out of job.”
Married moms have husbands. I have Jeffrey.

Following my sage brother’s advice, while I sipped the cold dregs of my cappuccino, on the morning of first day, I gave Angie the low down. Unvarnished. The Reader’s Digest version, sans fireworks. Any good writer knows the truth is dramatic enough.
“Well, first she said after opening the envelope with her Christmas bonus ‘Am I going to be happy after I count this money?’ Then she tried to tell me what her friends had received. Twice.”

Angie listened, her eyes low, her lids shielding her thoughts. Then looked up at me through her shoulder length wedge of light brown hair and said. “This lady who worked for you, she wasn’t Mexican was she?”
“No Angie,” I said child like, puzzled and curious to see where this question was leading. “She was Trinidadian.”
“I didn’t think so. No Mexican person would say such a thing.”

Less you think dear reader this response was an anomaly, a bit of goober smooching of  the new boss, know that three months later, when I offered Angie a small bonus, a lagniappe in the form of cash for taking such good care of my daughter, for being such a lovely consistent force in my home, Angie’s small, honey-colored hand, shot-up in the space between us like a stop sign.
“No. You pay me well, Jenine. I don’t want this money.”
“Angie, take it. Go out with your girl friends, have a nice dinner. Take it.”
“No. I did not earn this money.”
“Take it.”
“If I take it, I’ll just buy something nice for Julia.”

And with that Angie left for home, the bills still clutched in my hand, my jaw unhinged from shock. I went to my cell and dialed my Mom back in Michigan, and as best as I could, told her what had happened.
“I would have taken the money,” Mom said.
“Me too. Everyone could use an extra fifty bucks. I know Angie could.”
Mom sighed. It wasn’t heavy groan. For an expression of air over a phone receiver ,it was a light, breathy breeze. “You got the right one this time,” she said.
A sigh of relief.

Angie has reaffirmed my certainly of goodness in the world, that right finds right. Good connects to good. I treat her with fairness. She treats me with respect, and sometimes something even greater.

A month later, a week ago, I came home on a Friday, hauling a bag of Trader Joe groceries, a large plastic Buy Buy-Baby bag, containing a Talk and Learn Elmo toy, my work tote stuffed with files, print outs and books— my ass dragging through the door, twenty minutes late. By the end of business on Friday—between motherhood and the mayhem of advertising-my body is burnt down to the ground. I girded myself for the nanny backlash I’d become accustomed to with Donique; a poked out lower lip, a sour attitude, after all, I was twenty minutes late. On payday. But I just could not move any faster. Too loaded down to even send a “I’m running late” text.

I limped through the door, carrying a broken smile on my face. I’d read that Maya Angelo said, a child should always feel when parent looks at them, after an absence, that they are the light of the world, no matter what happened at work, no matter what ad concept was bashed, or what panhandler was doing their stage show on the Uptown B train, as you cling to the last minutes of adult reading time. So at the threshold I gave my daughter the light she deserves. As Julia did her welcome home dance, her tiny little samba of joy in the hallway in front of me , I let the bags and the weight fall to the floor then scoped Julia up into my arms. Angie studied the scene closely.
“I’m late, sorry,” I said. “It was the best I could do.”
“I’ve been meaning to tell you something,” Angie said.
I braced my shoulders, my will, my resolve.
“I so proud of you,” she said. “You’re such a good Mom.”
Instantly, my eyes flooded; fatigue and flattery, a potent mix.
“Angie, you’re going to make me cry,” I said, blinking back tears.
“No. You do every thing around here. Take care of Julia. You make the money, and pay the bills. Really you are taking care of the three of us. You do a lot.”

I pulled Angie close, and hugged her tight, simply because I didn’t know what else to do. Grateful. No. It’s more than gratitude. Angie has become a new north star, a fresh illustration of divine order, that the universe has intelligence, knowledge of what I and my daughter need. And in what order we needed it. When I came to Julia, Donique did a lot of good. But Angie does a lot of good for both Julia, and me.

I never knew at the onset of motherhood, that the small village I told the judge in Ethiopia I had back in the States, that among my great supportive friends and family, Angie would be at the center.

The Big Bang Theory of Nannies

It happened. Out of the blue. (People always say that, but it’s a cliché for a reason) In just a few words, and my happy mommy train was knocked off the track:

“I’m I going to be happy with this money after I count it?”

This simple sentence, uttered by my nanny, imploded our system of supply and demand. What she was supplying, I wasn’t buying anymore. Namely, her services.

All over the amount of her Christmas bonus. A bonus. A gift. Not a given.

As a writer I treat words more seriously than civilians. So, when my nanny made what she considered a simple question, there was no going back; her greed, her ingratitude, now exploded across the Holmes Family universe.

So, from the last of December when I informed her that “ I wouldn’t be needing her services in the New Year,” ; the search for a new babysitter began, lasting until the third week of January, thanks to an assist from my Mom who came from Michigan to help care for Julia, with my sister in law in the wings waiting to provide coverage, while I worked and interviewed new child care workers on the side, in the evenings, I thought of the gift my former nanny had given me.

For a long, long while I believed the goal in life was to get all my ducks—or sippy cups— in a row, with all the tops matching, aligned then everything in my life would be ducky. Once Julia came home, I thought my Mallards looked marvelous. I’d hired a great nanny. My job was going well, my grad school thesis, accepted.  Things seemed to be going along swimmingly until that sentence was launched from my nanny’s mouth, when she revealed her true self. And in that Big Bang I understood, there’s no perfection. No time when the machine runs without a hitch. There’s always, a Big Bang waiting to expand the universe, to stretch it, pull it into a new definition of life. And reality.

Change is eternal in life, especially true in the Big Bang Theory of Life and Nannies.

Childcare workers, like all people, are complicated creatures. An email reply from another mother from my Upper West Side Mom Yahoo Group put it best,” This is person who’s giving your daughter examples to live by when you’re not around. Get rid of her.”

Life as a money-grubber is not on my Julia list.