Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
I finally got to put on that cap and gown and cross the stage to have someone drape me in that lilac hood.
And I was so proud to stand next to my friends and my colleagues while I was granted that degree that I have wanted and worked towards for so long.
I had so much support, yesterday and always... my family who has loved and supported me through 22 long years of schooling, and finally got to watch me complete my doctorate...
One of my best friends Lauren and her husband Dan, who drove six hours to sit through a very long day of speeches, just to be there for me while I got my degree...
And of course Caroline. Who was my biggest motivation throughout the second half of this really difficult program. My mom handed her to me as I marched out of the convention center with the other graduates, and I carried her through the receiving line of faculty and VIPs, in her little lilac dress. She put her arms around my neck and laid her head on my shoulder and I whispered to her that mommy was a dentist now, that I did it for her. She said "Mommy dentist? Happy 'wation, mommy." (Which I assume meant "graduation", and my mother taught her to say.)
She is only two, but I think she is proud of me. I know, for sure, that I am proud of myself.
Allow me a moment of what I hope is more pride than conceit... I have been through so much over the past year and there were so many times when I wanted to lie down and quit or give up. But I did not. I kept going and I didn't just finish this program, I did well, and I stayed true to myself and the things that I always knew that I wanted. I hope I have set an example for my daughter when she is old enough to understand what I did for myself and for her.
And I hope that if you read this and you are a mother, or a single mother, like me, and you are in school or are thinking about going back... that you believe that it's not what so many of my classmates say, that they don't know how I could ever do it when I had someone else's life to put before my own. She was not an obstacle to this achievement, but my biggest motivator and the single most important reason that I never lost sight of my goal.
I once was afraid that because I got pregnant halfway through school, my career was over. But it wasn't that way. I can have both. Now I have my DMD, and I have my daughter. I am so happy, proud and content. There is nothing more that I need.
And to everyone who has ever asked me how I could do it with her, I guess I would say that the real question is, how could I ever have done it without her?
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
There were times when I never thought this day would come. I know people say stuff like that all the time, but really, there were a lot of bad times when I never thought this day would come.
So much has happened since I started dental school back in 2006. Engaged, married, pregnant, Caroline's birth, my year off, separation, divorce. But my trainwreck of a personal life aside, I passed all those classes, took all those exams, cared for all those patients, finished all those requirements, passed all those boards.
I finished my requirements a few weeks ago, and last week I tied up all the loose ends, transferring my patients to third-year students and completing all my paperwork. I cleaned out my desk and brought home all the piles of dental stuff in my lockers. (It sat there in boxes on my living room floor for a few days... burs and fake teeth and impression material and spatulas and wax and drills and dental instruments... before I finally found the space to stash it all away.) I did my exit counseling for my loans (and man, was that ever depressing), squared up with the prosthetic lab and the bursar and the record room. Signed out, officially. No more responsibilities to the school. Ever.
It made me feel sadder than I expected it to. Don't get me wrong, that entire program was immensely stressful, and I am glad to finally have gotten through it. But I guess I'm a nostalgic kind of person and I will miss all the people that I will never see again. Of course I'm starting there as a resident at the end of June, so I'll be right back in the same space, but most of the people won't be there. I was originally pretty upset about switching classes, but I really, really like my "new" class, and I will miss them.
Regardless, I'm still so excited for Sunday that I could jump up and down and scream. I've been wearing my cap, gown, and hood around my apartment for the past entire week. (Which is normal.)
My degree. Doctor Julia, DMD. It is so close, I can taste it. It is something that no one will ever be able to take away from me.
Monday, May 9, 2011
I don't think you can truly appreciate your mother and everything she did for you until you are a mother yourself. At least this has been the case for me. We have certainly had our disagreements over the years. I went through the typical teenage girl stage where my mom and I were constantly at each others' throats. But I think that now, especially having my own daughter, I've reached the point in my life where I can declare without a doubt, and I hold this truth to be self-evident because this is totally at least as important as anything written in the Declaration of Independence: your mother is always right.
What's that? You want specific examples? Well, I suppose I can think of a few...
There are ways to settle a fight over a toy that do not involve biting. Forget what those mean sixth-grade girls say because they don't matter and you are beautiful. You don't have to work quite so hard at every little thing-- not everything has to be absolutely perfect, and happiness is more important than perfection. You should get along better with your brother because even if he's annoying you right now, your relationship will matter to you down the road more than you know. Your father is not always right, but he still deserves your respect. And the ultimate kicker: You are so young, what's the rush to get married?... just enjoy being engaged for awhile and see how things go.
At some point in time, I rolled my eyes at each and every one of these statements, ignored them, and without fail I suffered the consequences. Some of them led to overly dramatic screaming-fights ending in tears and the slamming of bedroom doors (mine, not hers). But I can look back without a doubt and declare unashamedly that in each of these circumstances, my mom knew what was best, and she always was looking out for me, even if it made her unpopular with my teenage self at the time.
And ah, the one about marriage, didn't I eat my words with that one... But I can proudly say that I came right out with it and was not embarrassed, when I told my mom I was filing for divorce: you were right. I was too young. I should have listened.
My mom always stuck to her guns, and I can only hope that I do the same when my turn inevitably comes with my own daughter. She hasn't always lived her life exactly in the way that I want to live mine (I mean really, who has?), but the bottom line is this: she is a strong woman and whatever strength I have, I owe it to her and my father and the way they raised me.
Since I've become a single mother, I've become closer than ever to my mom. She always has my back and does so much for me and for Caroline. I rarely even have to ask. She is always there for us, no matter how much help I need.
I love you, Mom. Caroline and I are so lucky to have you.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Caroline has been sick and so I was up with her for most of last night. I went home after school today and laid down to take a nap, because she was supposed to be with Tyler tonight. The second I fell asleep, the phone rang. It was Tyler, saying that he was bringing her here instead because she wasn't feeling well and wanted to go home. I stumbled out of bed and answered the door. He handed her to me, accused me of loving the fact that she only wants to be with me, and stormed off. Caroline and I looked at each other for a minute and then I shook the sleep out of my eyes and told her we were going to the store to get medicine.
I dragged the poor sick kid out in the rain to pick up a filter for her humidifier and medicine and chicken soup. Got her home and set up with the soup. She wouldn't eat, wouldn't drink, wouldn't do anything but scream and beg to be held. I picked her up and carried her around, still screaming, while trying to run a bath for her and dose her with medicine and set up the humidifier and wade through the piles of laundry and toys that were covering my floors. This went on for about a half hour and by the end of it, I was near tears as well, and my arms were really tired from carrying her, and she was still howling. And I don't do well at all, running on no sleep.
I got mad. At Tyler. Which is totally stupid. But I was just mad that he thought I wanted to do all this alone, that I was happy about it all. I'm not. I want them to have a relationship and I don't want all of this responsibility to fall on my shoulders, every single time. I set the screaming Caroline down on the couch, gritted my teeth, squeezed my eyes shut, pressed my hands over my ears, took a deep breath, and counted to ten. (Moms. Single or otherwise. You've been right there with me. Don't deny it!) Then I got a grip and got to business.
I put Dora the Explorer on my laptop for Caroline to watch and stuck a binky in her mouth. (Judge me for the binky and die, betches.) I really try to avoid putting TV on to keep her busy, but this was an emergency for real, and anyway I suppose Dora is somewhat educational, even if she is super annoying and always wearing that little belly shirt, I mean what is up with that? There are kids watching, girlfriend, you think you could tone it down a little? I mean we get it, you're cute and all, we get it, but it's kind of inappropriate, no? Anyway did I mention I haven't slept, and where was I?
Oh right. So I put Dora on and whipped into supersinglemommy mode. Cleaned the place up at lightning speed, set up the humidifier in her room and closed the door, ran a steam bath, set up everything to put her to bed, and measured out her meds. Grabbed Caroline off the couch, turned off that annoying chick Dora, bathed her (uh, Caroline, not Dora), dosed her with meds, brushed her teeth, read her a book, rocked her, and laid her down in her crib. Oh, and collapsed myself onto the couch.
Now she's coughing up a storm in her bed but at least she's asleep and not crying, so the rest of my evening includes plans for a hot shower, a glass of wine, some mindless TV, and early to bed because I'm pretty sure I'll be up all night again.
I mean. Whatever. I can do the single mom thing. I've been doing it a long time now, starting from way back during my marriage. But when the plans change and you throw a very sick and very loudly screaming inconsolable toddler in there, things fall apart for me a little bit. It's okay though. I got this. We moms are tough. Right?
Monday, May 2, 2011
People are celebrating in the streets. I don't feel that way. If I feel anything, it's more a sense of relief that a person who has that little respect for human life is no longer present in the world that my daughter will grow up in. Quiet satisfaction, maybe, that justice has been done. And it isn't that I don't remember that day in September as clearly as anyone else, sitting there in high school English class, glued to the TV screen with everyone else in silent horror. But I think that actually celebrating anyone's death is wrong and makes all of us less as a society, not more.
I don't want my daughter to learn that any human life is worth less than another. I don't want her to ever believe that it's okay to par-tay because someone else is dead. I don't think it makes our country any greater just because we managed to find and kill some dirtbag mass-murderer. But all the same...
I might not be celebrating, but I'm glad that he's gone. After I heard the news, I went into Caroline's room and leaned over her crib and put my hand on her head and looked at her while she was sleeping, and I felt relieved. I won't rejoice in violence or anyone's death, no matter who they were or what they did. I just won't. But if she sleeps safer tonight, then I won't say I'm sorry for it either.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Caroline doesn't ever want to go see Tyler anymore. He says that once she gets there, they have a great time, and I believe him. But I can't for the life of me get her to go to him when I drop her off at his place. The only way she will go is if he picks her up from daycare and I'm not there.
Yesterday, I was supposed to take her to him for an overnight visit. I told her we were going to daddy's house and she completely freaked. "No! I no want to go to daddy's! I no like daddy! I no like daddy! I want to go home! I stay here with mommy!" She has done this before and then once I got down there, she clung to me and refused to go with him. So I called Tyler and told him about it, and we decided that she would stay with me.
First of all, I'm sure she doesn't actually dislike him. She may not know him very well, because they don't see each other very often. He hasn't been nearly as present in her life as I have (and I'm not just talking about since he moved out), and she's only two. Of course she's going to prefer the parent who she spends 90-95% of her time with. But I know that it breaks his heart. How could it not?
It's hard for me to watch and must be even harder for him to hear. No one wants to hear your child say they don't like you. Especially a two year old who doesn't yet know how to lie.
Still, I don't know what to do. Neither of us wants to force her to go-- that seems cruel and counterproductive. But it will become a vicious cycle if she spends less and less time with him, and they grow further and further apart. So far, all we have come up with is to have Tyler always pick her up from daycare. But she's supposed to go with him for two periods of two weeks each this summer, while he's in North Dakota from the end of May through early September, and I worry about how that will go if she doesn't even want to be away from me for one night.
To be brutally honest, since that's kind of my specialty, the fact that she clearly prefers me makes me feel almost... triumphant. That's not too terrible to say, I hope. I'm only human. I've spent her entire short life devoting myself to her and raising her, while he has been mostly absent, and I am almost relieved to see that that fact hasn't escaped her. And I can't help but think, honestly, what does he expect? You can't spend that little time with a two year old and then be shocked when she doesn't know you that well. She calls you "daddy" because she thinks that's what your name is. She doesn't know what "daddy" is supposed to mean-- you are supposed to teach her that.
But, I have to stop myself from thinking those things, because again, it's all about what's best for her, and she needs him too... and he needs her. I want them to have as full of a relationship as possible, for all of our sakes. Including my own. Because it's hard enough to just be mom. I don't want to have to be dad, too.
I just don't know how to fix it.