Tag Archives: mother on the edge

Visiting Day

Isabella on Visiting Day

Isabella would be at camp for nearly four weeks when visiting day finally arrived. I had prepared for this day practically from the day that she had left for camp. I marked it in my calendar (paper for me). I started a pile of items to bring to her at camp. I pleaded with Victoria’s conservatory to allow her to leave for the weekend, so she could join use on the visit (The answer was no, unfortunately.) I informed Zachary that he would need to awaken before noon the morning of the visit. I had evidently done everything except read “the literature” thoroughly.

The day prior to the visit, which happened to be 115 with the heat index, I journeyed to Rockaway Beach with my BFF Kathleen. Upon arrival, we ate at Rockaway Taco on the boardwalk and then went in the murky water for a dip. It was surprisingly cool under our Marimeko umbrella, so Kathleen took a nap. I scanned my phone and noticed a missed call from a 570 number. Panic ensued — 570 was the area code of Isabella’s camp. I had had a nightmare that I missed visiting day! Was it happening? My head began to spin.

The message went something like this: “Laura, no emergency. You indicated on the form that you would pick up Isabella at 1 pm and she has been waiting for you.” Click. I called. I had not missed visiting day, but we had indicated on the form that we would pick up Isabella at 1 pm. That was an option? Yes, parents have been picking up their children since 10 am. What? The response went something like this: “You obviously did not read the literature.” If it were a Woody Allen movie, the unspoken would say: “Bad mommy.”

I got on the phone and found a hotel nearby. Kathleen and I quickly packed up our gear. I called my husband Stephen and asked him to call the camp to say that we would pick up Isabella at 9 pm. There was an hour wait at the Hudson River crossings to get home to pick up the rest of the family. Then, I accidentally called the camp. The conversation on the camp’s end went something like this: “I already told Isabella that I made a mistake and that you are coming tomorrow. She’s fine and looking forward to the dance tonight. Why bother if all you are going to do is check into a hotel and go to sleep!” (That was a rhetorical question.)  My response: “But I’m not okay.” The camp director: “Well, that’s your problem.” Ouch.

Next stop: a bottle of Prosecco.

The next day, we were the first family to arrive (that has never happened). We waited for Isabella. When she spotted us, she ran down the steps and cried. I cried. I think my husband may have cried, too. We were happy to see one another and had missed each other a lot. She loved camp. She assured us that she could make it another three weeks.

The four of us got in the car and drove to a nearby lake. Though we are an ocean family, we really did not care where we were. We were happy to be with Isabella — even if only for four short hours. (It felt like a generous prison visit, though I have never visited anyone in the joint.) We gave her a choice between a boat ride or dinner. As she is my child, she chose dinner. We sped 30 minutes away to Bar Louis in Milford. It was a lovely afternoon.

After dropping her off at her cabin, we met with the director. At that point, my tail was no longer between my legs. (I had avoided her on the pick-up.) We were planning to pick up Isabella on the last day of camp. I wrote in my calendar. Just in case, I inquired about the date. It was the day before the date that I had written. Um, once again my mother was right — reading the directions is very important.

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Learning through fear (the parents)

Today marks the fourth time that Isabella has gone off on her own unexpectedly. The first was probably the most serious. She was just four years old and had just learned to use the bathroom. She was with my sister at a street fair. Yes, a street fair — every parent’s nightmare locus for a missing child, perhaps only second to a mall. (Isabella became lost there once several years back while on my watch.) At the street fair, she was looking for a bathrrom. After jumping up onto vendors’ tables and screaming her name, I found Isabella crying in a one of those stinky portable bathrooms. She was wet and very frightened. That was the only time she had any fear when she separated from the adults that accompanied her.

The mall incident was typical. Isabella saw something that she liked in a store, so she went in to check it out. After my panic subsided, I figured which store she would like and found her immediately. She wasn’t gone long enough for me to involve mall cops. The time before today happened while she was scootering. My husband took her out scootering for exercise. They both scootered. Isabella, who once was not able to master the coordination required, has become quite proficient and fast. At some point, she scootered ahead of her father. The police got involved. She was missing for over an hour. She had scootered to the location that was planned. It required no street crossing, but was far from the start point.

Today, was a very different. After occupational therapy each Thursday, Isabella takes the elevator down four floors and meets me in the car. We drive home. This time, her father was picking her up. He wasn’t there after she got outside. She wasn’t there when he arrived. My husband called me. I was out with my older daughter. I called the police and ran home to get my car keys.

Isabella’s school backpack wsa on the kitchen sofa. For a moment, I couldn’t understand how it got there if she was dropped off at occupational theraoy immediately after school. I called her name, she answered and came downstairs. What happened? No one was there to pick her up, so she walked home. Other than walking to the mailbox and grocer around the corner from our home, Isabella has walked no where in our town. This place is really far from our house. I only drive there, espically on very hot days like today.

This means that she had to pass the home of her speech therapist, which is close to our home, requiring her to cross three streets. Today, she crossed many more streets (I do not want to count). We had been considering allowing her to walk home alone from speech. I guess she’s ready.

Just a comment

Over the years, people (mostly friends) have made comments about Isabella. Most of the comments were not solicited and those that I am writing about were all unwelcomed. For example, years ago when Isabella was about 4-years-old, her speech-langauge pathologist (who Isabella still sees) referred to Isabella as “special ed.” What was she talking about? Yes, Isabella received private speech, occupational, and physical therapy, but she wasn’t even a student yet. Or was she? It took that comment to make me realize that I may need to consider an alternative school setting for Zachary’s twin sister. It took me about 4 more years to take action as a result of that comment.

My response is, thankfully, is not always that delayed. More recently a special needs camp director (who my mother worked with in Brooklyn) remarked that perhaps Isabella’s hair should be shorter so she could care for it herself. I did want Isabella to be more independent, but her hair was so beautiful. Her hair stylist, who is a friend of mine, resisted cutting her hair. We left the salon with a trim as Isabella’s stunning locks tangled in the breeze. I said that I’d give it a week to see how are moving went. By day 3, I called the salon.

Though it was probably more about my morning sanity than it was about Isabella’s independence. I couldn’t take it. Isabella’s fine hair ended up as a clump in the back of  her head every morning. Some mornings, I threatened a scissor, but never did it, fearing that child welfare might ring my bell. Also, and this was at the core of not wanting to cut Isabella’s hair, her hair is exquisite. It’s the kind of hair that people notice — rich color, shiny, and with a beautiful bounce. Unlike the other girls in own home, Isabella does not have a single bit of frizz. She never has a bad hair day.

And there was something else that I was thinking. Most women with developmental disabilities have short hair…and it’s not styled well. It makes them look, well, disabled. I was afraid of that. That didn’t happen. People still remark about Isabella’s spectacular hair…and as an added bonus, she cares for it completely by herself. The scissors are in the drawer and I’m happy every morning.

Does whining lead to drinking?

Long day today. Probably too soon. Full day at school and speech therapy afterwards. No, Isabella did not go to bed too late last night. We spent Sunday afternoon at a family birthday party for a one-year-old cousin. It was lovely until the end when some unnecessary whining occurred. Today, after school was unprecedented. The whining went on for a very long time upon arrival home from therapy on this absolutely glorious day. Okay, so the first thing to do is get in the bathtub with lavender and magnesium sulfate (Epson salts). No whining while in the tub, but whining resumed about 10 minutes after dressing. Okay, how about some protein. No whining while eating, but it resumed after the last bite. I’m not drinking…yet.