Friday, August 8, 2008

I hate the playground

For two years I have been taking Amelia to Bleeker Park, on the corner of Hudson and Bleeker Streets. Two years. And I still only know less than a handful of people. I know Francis and Frank because he is one of Nestor's old buds from his East Village days. I know Tracy and Paul because they used to live downstairs in our building. I know Leona and Max because Nestor and Max are actors. But there are only a couple other Moms I've met in two years. TWO YEARS.

I make a point of taking Amelia there almost everyday -- weather and therapy permitting -- because I know she loves watching all the kids play. If it isn't too crowded I'll get her on a swing or the slide. I'll let her sit or stand on the edge of the sandbox (no hands in the sand because she is still sticking them in her mouth too much for my comfort) and play with the sand in her toes. Recently I've taken up walking her around the playground and jungle gym -- up and down wooden steps and bridges. But so much of the time there's lots of wild kids running around (it is a playground after all) or, believe it or not, clueless Moms on their cellphones barely noticing where they or their toddlers are going. The few times a child has stopped to acknowledge Amelia, it's usually to play with the toys on her stroller or to stare curiously at the little girl leaning forward in her stroller with her head tilted to the side. And moms will acknowledge Amelia and I with that small, polite smile which I have come to loathe.

So many times Amelia and I just park our stroller and sit on a bench and watch the other kids running around. I'll put her on my lap or stand her so she can lean over my legs but mostly, she just watches the others doing what, I'm sure, she wishes she could be doing. It doesn't always get to me, but today it did.

Another Amelia, who we met in the playground awhile ago, turned 2 today. She also has big brown eyes and curly brown hair. Ironically, the first time I spotted her toddling around I thought to myself that this little girl looked like she could be Amelia's sister. When I heard her father call her Amelia, I couldn't believe it! So today was her birthday and as Amelia and I strolled up to the sandbox this evening, they were having her party there. The birthday girl looked adorable in a little pale pink cotton dress. She said hello to my Amelia and then the party left.

What struck me was, all these Moms. They all know each other. I see them everyday striking up easy conversations about eating habits, potty training, how many words their child has, how they run around too much and are always falling down, or climbing up onto everything, can we get together for a playdate? I can't relate! I don't know any of these things.

Ask me how to vent a baby, cauterize a g-tube site, change a g-tube or hook up a g-tube feeding and I'm your gal. How to suction a baby's nose and mouth out so they don't choke on their own saliva. Ask me to show you how to soak all your tubings, syringes and attachments in vinegar and water so you don't have to throw them out after each use. Talk to me about all the specialists your child needs to see because maybe I know an opthamologist, neurologist, ENT, pulminologist, GI, surgeon and of course the pediatrician that you could use. Not to mention a nursing agency, medical supply company and two pharmacies on speed dial because I call them that often. I can show you how to put on AFO's (leg braces), strap a child into a stander, positioning chair or walker. My back is broken from carrying around my 25lb. child and from bending over to support her while trying to let her feel the accomplishments of taking her own steps. When my 2 1/2 yr. old child cries -- I don't even know half of the time if it's a serious internal problem or if I just put the wrong cartoon on because at 2 1/2 -- she still can't tell me!!!! She can't say "Mommy".

So when I see other Moms on the playground, I don't strike up whimsical conversations because there is nothing whimsical about my life right now. And that is why, after two years, I still don't know more than a handful of people at Bleeker Park.


faith said...

Just stopped by to see how Amelia did with her last treatments. My heart broke as I read your post for today. I remember being where you are today but let me tell you that you have those mom's beat. What you have to offer is just so much great.
The love, encouragement, support that we saw you demonstrate to Amelia was beyond words. Don't let them get to you. We are so thankful for the suggestions you gave us for Kate's g-tube. You know you only get the good information from another mom.
If you are ever in the Northern NJ area know that we would love to have a play date with you and Amelia.
Faith (Mom to Kate - we met while at the RMH back in June

Carrie said...

I hear ya sista... But you should really give yourself a big ole pat on the back for at least taking Amelia to the playground. I fear all of the stares and feelings that I feel when I see all of the other kids running around all over the place, so most of the time we just don't go. I really don't think that is best for Sam but its just too hard to take him.

laila said...

Huge Hugs sweetie!!!I think Amelia looks a little like Hannah too- maybe its the brown curly hair and the big bright brown eyes;)Its hard for me too at times, Im always taking my 5year old to typical places like the park and although she has a still breaks my heart to have Hannah sitting on my lap watching kids younger then her running around!It doesn't matter what the world see's when they look at our girls, whats most important is that we know there spectacular!!!

Nestor Serrano said...

It's not easy to walk into an environment, be it a park or otherwise where there are lots of healthy kids running around. Oh, to have a parent innocently look smilingly in the direction of your child's stroller, only to watch that smile go slightly flat. All kinds of things are occurring in the minds of people in those few seconds that their smiles go flat. Love, concern, compassion, prayers, curiosity, empathy, guilt, sympathy and I'm sure there have even been a few "better them than me" thrown in there. But it almost doesn't matter what they're actually thinking. The fact that your child's condition has stopped a person in their smiling tracks is like a small, sharp blow to the solar plexus. Sure we don't want to care. But we do. Of course we do. And anyone who tells me that they don't care is either lying to me or to themselves. A blow like that, on a particular day, when one's over worked, beaten down, stressed, tired or lonely, might suddenly knock the wind out of one's sails..... Anyone's sails ........Even my wife.
Being the parent of a special needs child is not for the faint of heart (wimps need not apply). It requires skills you've not been previously trained for. Nor is there a manual. But certainly as important, if not more important, are the emotional skills that one has to develop. Some of these skills require immediate applications, like trying not to scream "WHY THE F#%#*!!!" while the Doctor is telling you, yet again, that the results of such and such tests on your newborn are inconclusive.
The honing and adjusting of one's existing social skills however, or lack thereof, as the case may be, will be tried and tested in ways, none of us would've imagined. One such example is the "dance of the playground moms", in which certain tribes of moms of certain social classes may look to oust or shun other members of their tribe for various and sundry reasons. Surely they're not doing this on purpose. In fact, it's probably out of a lack for what to say. But sometimes it feel a though they might as well be doing it on purpose. As if this world of parenting a child of special needs isn't lonely enough! It can, indeed, be a jungle at the playground.
So the big question that I ask myself, on a daily basis, is how does she do it. How does she manage all that she manages, everyday, every hour, with that beautiful smile of hers, the wonderful energy, the love and enthusiasim with which does all that she does? I don't know how she does it. All I know is I'm glad she's Amelia's mom and my wife.

Amelia's Titi Terry said...

i hate the playground too!
Crying out loud.

Amelia's Titi Terry

Anonymous said...

Most kids piss in the sand anyway. Let the other kids play in urine while you and Amelia watch.

Sam's Dad.

Jenn said...

Hey Debbie,,, Its Jennifer from Panetta Physical Therapy... Oh my god,, I can't believe therapies 4 kids will not be by us anymore. I was soooo upset when I found out, mainly cause I won't see my little buddy anymore :(
my email is
If you get a chance email me, I will keep checking out the blog as well... Gonna miss my Amelia!!! Talk to ya soon!!!