My son started a new school this week. After 6 years at the same small town public elementary school, he has moved onto a private preparatory school, a 25 minute drive away from home. We have a lot of new places and rules and situations coming at us pretty fast. Unfortunately, neither one of us do rapid change very well; my son’s nature doesn’t like it and my illness doesn’t allow it.
His new school had an orientation morning wherein parents and students listened to multiple inspirational speeches and received pages of regulations while we toured the campus. I already knew his main academic building was on ok environment for me, I had checked it all out a year ago. But the main meeting with all the students and their families, lasting an hour, took place in the gym. I don’t do gyms. The finish on those gym floors is bad enough, but gym equipment is awful. That rubber smell? That means petrochemical sourced VOCs in my brain. At first I tried to stand by the door hoping some fresh air would help out but of course, I couldn’t prop the door open and so I quickly realized the futility and stepped outside. For this particular event my husband was with us and was able to sit through the meeting with my son and take notes for me. I sat outside feeling like a chump, even though this happens to me all the time and I should be used to it by now.
But it did give me time to reflect on today’s post about all the places I can’t go that my children can and should go. Gyms for sporting events, large meetings or award ceremonies. Department stores for back to school shopping. Marts for all the stuff we think we need but probably don’t. Bowling alleys. Museums. It has broken my heart on many occasions and I have years more of frustration and disappointment to go. When they were infants and with me all the time, I could not have predicted how hard this part would be. Everyone has to let their child go…trust in the world and send them off. I had to start the process earlier than most. And I have developed some MCS parenting tricks for dealing with these situations. Lets’ list them because I love a list.
*I married a fabulous man who knew what he was getting into with me because I was sick beforehand. He appreciates my capabilities but is also very familiar with my limits. When we decided to start a family, we had many conversations about all the places I couldn’t go and all the things I couldn’t do with them; scenarios I would need a substitute for. We only predicted a fraction of it, but at least we knew it was coming.
*I work hard to maintain friendships with other parents in my kids’ peer group. Since I am not able to work outside the home, I try to be the mom who hosts a lot of sleepovers and who picks up extra kids when the school has an early release day. I enjoy that role but it also means I always have a lot of mom favors owed me. I frequently have extra kids at my house and my kids are frequently with other families out in the world.
*I live where it is warm enough to be outside year round. Many social events can take place outside; from restaurant dining to playdates for the kids. I take advantage of that, especially when it comes to meeting new people or large groups so that I don’t have to ask about fragrance avoidance. I don’t want MCS to be the first conversation I have with people. Sometimes it has to be. But if it is a potential friendship, then I prefer to not start with ways they have to accommodate me. Outside public spaces put us on neutral ground.
*We do not try to do it all or be some version of normal. We are homebodies and we are ok with that. We live the less is more mantra.
The guilt over missing events, trivial or special, in my children’s life crushes me. I suspect it is similar to that of a working parent who has scheduling conflicts. Except that I am sitting at home, not otherwise occupied, just …limited. I plan and scheme and organize such that my children are not limited by my illness. Affected yes, but never limited. And it always feels like a bit of a victory when the alternate plan works out. But then I am a mom without her kids, which is yet another way of being on tilt.