Wednesday, August 06, 2008

the underbelly

Every time our move comes up someone inevitably asks me one of two questions: 1. what about schooling for M? or 2. aren't you afraid of her getting sick?

I'm not so worried about school, at least not yet. Call me an underachiever, but I hope that the sum of what M will be learning will round out the parts she's not. Besides, she's not even in school yet and from what I recall elementary school is more of an exercise in socialization than getting into Harvard. And to be honest, I'm not sure what getting into Harvard gets you. I mean, I am sure it gets you stuff, but perhaps not the stuff I think is important. But this one is easy, if the local schools aren't giving her what she needs we'll supplement or home school altogether. We are smart people, smart enough at least. We can at least get ourselves to algebra before panic ensues.

Illness is harder. If there is one thought that rattles around in my brain at odd hours of the day it's the fear of actually causing her harm by our actions. That she'll not have access to the care she needs or that she'll get bitten by some mysterious jungle bug that will cause her toe to swell up and pop right off. In my darker moments I am almost paranoid, how will I protect her from all that I do not know? What will I do?

I realize that I've been lulled into complacency, I don't think every time we get into a car that we might get into an accident and I sometimes forget to wash the grapes. I am lulled because I know what to do here, I know those three little numbers to call if I'm in trouble and her insurance card is in my wallet. I know how fast I can get her to the hospital and I've got medicine on my shelf.

I do not know any of those answers for where we are going, not yet anyways. And so the not knowing can be consuming, I try and balance the bits of paranoia and fear that I readily attribute to my constitution no matter the situation and add two parts new experience and four parts there are tons of kids there and expat kids too and can mostly, mostly find my peace.

But I'll never, ever forgive myself should something happen to her, something that happens to her because we chose to do this crazy thing. And conversely, I'll not forgive myself if I let fear settle in at my table and make himself at home and keep us for trying to do this one extraordinary thing. J and I, while celebrating our sixth anniversary the other evening over good pasta and better wine, spent a long while talking about this very thing and his courage in some respects allows me to falter knowing there are two of us, two brains and hearts in one room feeling our way goes a long way.

Fear is a nasty bugger. It can keep us still and small, stuck on status quo. Some fears keep you safer and others can make you crazy. So as we move forward I'll run the gamut, fearing unknown dangers and willing myself to simply leap, hands clasped tightly as we go.

Don't forget to send me your Just Posts for July at girlplustwo@yahoo.com. The Roundtable will be here fresh and perky on the 10th. Join us.


Bookmark and Share

32 comments:

kristen said...

i feel like i'm too motivated by fear, i love that you're doing this and it's fear that would never allow me to be that free.

"Call me an underachiever, but I hope that the sum of what M will be learning will round out the parts she's not."

Dude, that sentence? That's why I love you. xo

Motherhood Uncensored said...

Ah yes, the fears of others projected onto the brave. I suppose it's inevitable, but damn is it annoying.

We lived overseas (in South Africa) for 4 years when I was a kid. My bro was 18 months when we left the States.

We had a few shots, took some Malaria pills (blech) and we're all fine.

And oh the memories...

cinnamon gurl said...

I think it's great that you're doing this. When people do things we admire, things we'd like to do if only we weren't paralyzed by fears, I think it can make some people have to defend our own not doing it. Those responses say more about those people than about you and what you're doing. This is so exciting!!

TZT said...

My brother and SIL have three kids and they live on a farm. There are old silos to fall into and coyotes that kill their baby goats and horses to ride and plenty of big spiders. I am amazed how much they confront about the will of nature and mortality in a given day that I don't have to here in the city, such as it is.

But they do - and they do just confront these things - so the kids possess a different kind of worldliness. They and their parents have developed survival, veterinary medicine and first aid skills, sometimes on the fly. Fear, in the appropriate dose, is their friend. They figure out what they need to. They adapt.

We wake up at dawn when we visit up there and my oldest niece (now 10) tells me how lucky she is to have such an unobstructed view of the sunrise. She can take you for a walk and point out the beauty (and a lot of the science) all around her.

That's definitely a kind of education that can't be bought.

jennifer said...

Go, go go! There is no greater gift you can give than opening your child's mind. The rest is just a toss of the dice wherever you are.

Karen said...

yes, that's what sold Matt on our upcoming move (which involves significantly less risk but is still CHANGE!) - just the idea that what we are experiencing here is the illusion of control, because of its familiarity. to give up a life which is oriented towards simply maintaining itself (and the attached suburban lawn) & go somewhere else and do something altogether different - well, of course, there will be consequences - both positive and negative, but we have limited agency in those consequences. You would never possibly think of taking all the credit in the universe for all the wonderful things Miss M will experience - some of those come from other people, or from things just working out in her favor (like when kids find a friend they get on with so very well) - in the same way, you guys can't take complete responsibility should something go awry (like if she falls at the park or gets sick and you need to find a doctor.) All these things are our common human experience. You are bravely shifting everything around so all the potential good and bad are popping up off the page at you demanding to be evaluated.

As for school, well, I have an elementary age child in public school & believe me if he weren't super social and I didn't have a special needs kid at home, I'd be homeschooling him because there is not tons of learning - unless it is learning how to excuse yourself the bathroom when you are bored. I wish I could say differently, it's just what we are experiencing where we are right now. We're trying to fix it.

mamatulip said...

I love the fact that you're taking this plunge. And being so open with your intimate feelings about it.

Momish said...

Wow Jen, you have so eloquently described a parent's fear in this post. I am moved by it beyond words. It is hard, but you and J as so right to fight it with all your might and not let it keep you at status quo. The lull you speak of is as real as the dangers. You will find your lull there too eventually. Then, if you ever plan on returning to S.F., you will find yourself up all night worrying about the crime and smog. As parents we can't win when it comes to worry. It is not an eternal part of our lives.

Kyla said...

When we were in the hospital, I thought of you, of your move, of your bravery. Even if I had that sort of adventuresome spirit, we never could make that sort of move, we are tethered here to our doctors and medications and hospital trips...but you're doing it. You're giving M and yourselves an amazing experience.

Hold on tight and jump, sister. It will be great.

Mad said...

My teen niece and nephews were recently visiting Sleepy Town: 18, 15 and 15. They refused to do anything on their own in SLEEPY TOWN because everything was unfamiliar and ergo scary for them. I couldn't help but weep for what we have done to our children here in the west and all in a single generation. The truth is M is as likely to get hurt in a motor vehicle accident as develop some form of wasting condition in Belize. Take her away from the culture of fear, Jen. Just do it.

Magpie said...

Fear is a great motivator - and anti-motivator.

I think that you'll be able to navigate the health issues - you'll go equipped, you're capable, you'll figure it out.

CDJ said...

I just started reading your blog and didn't know about the move. Wow! What an adventure.

I think fear motivates every parents. Whether it's fear of screwing your kids up (my biggest fear) or fear of not doing everything you can to keep them safe and healthy or whatever the fear is. It's healthy because it means you're paying attention. But we certainly can't let it overrun us because that wouldn't be any fun at all. If you feel in your heart that what you're doing is the right thing for you and your family, then all you can do is jump and roll with the punches as they come along.

Can't wait to read more about this!

Amy Y said...

I think you're all going to be fine... better than fine, even! This experience will create memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.

QT said...

I feel like its all been said. I guess what I will add is I have complete and total faith that you can do this.

bgirl said...

beautiful, the post, your heart, your mind. sitting here with goosebumps. feeling fortunate to watch this unfold, cheering for you as you overcome the obstacles placed in front of you by others or from within.

meno said...

Huh. The first question i would ask is, "Will you have internet?"

Something could happen to any of you anywhere. There is no "safe" place.

Go.

liv said...

i have no such fears for you. i just hope for your continued good health. remember never to hesitate to ask for an airlift of goods in if you need!

Tabba said...

stir it up, little darling.
and
every little ting is gonna be alright.

Beck said...

I think so long as you're taking reasonable precautions, it's worthwhile, you know?
But I'm an INCREDIBLY risk averse person - with incredibly accident prone kids....

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

You're more brave than I ever could be. M will be stronger because of that bravery.

Ally said...

You speak the truth, sister. There are more important things than Harvard, and the THINGS that that gets you. And what's the point of living if we always have to be afraid? There are things to be really afraid of here, too, but we just rationalize them and move on. I'm sure that will happen once you get to the jungle and make yourself at home. You'll probably find that the things you fear are no big deal and there are other things much scarier.

flutter said...

I have a feeling many children before her have grown there and thrived. I have no doubt she will too

thailandchani said...

Have faith in your path.

Small Change said...

Belikin Stout fixes everything- even in kids - don't worry! In all seriousness though, I think you are making a great decision...fear is natural, but just remember, anything could happen where you are now too. And seriously, as I'm sure you know, those Belizeans have some amazing home remedies..I think I was healthier my two years living there than I ever have been - combination I suppose of laid back attitude of the people, fresh, natural food, and overall happiness of community. Have faith that all you, J and M will gain from this experience far outway the fears! :)
Jill

Gwen said...

I love that you have faith in the virtue of bravery. My parents could take the leap because they were sure God was protecting them (and us). What you're doing is light years harder.

KC said...

It's normal, this fear, and I'm glad you and J can face this together.

I'd bring some antibiotics, get full vaccinations and email me anytime!!!

Janet said...

My husband and I were having a conversation last night about this culture of fear we live in. He mentioned that he had heard something on some radio show about dry drowning. And I mentioned that I had seen a link to a story about that very subject on someone's blog earlier this summer. Then I started relaying the details of the story to him and he looked at me and said, "Well, that's exactly the same story they told on the radio." Then I told him that the words DRY DROWNING were flashing through my head the other night at the pool, when he was repeatedly dunking E. under the water, much to her shrieking, whole body delight. So I didn't say a word, I swallowed my panicky admonishments because, damnit, they were having fun. And how many kids have actually died of dry drowning? The media just uses the same story, over and over, to instill fear in us, to keep us afraid of living, to keep us buying shit that will hopefully protect us from very bad things.

Whew. Sorry for the rant. What I'm trying to say is that I'm glad you're doing this thing that feels so true to your heart. You love your daughter, you will take the necessary precautions and you will give her (and yourselves) the experience of a lifetime.

Mam Kickypants said...

I've just caught myself up on your Upcoming Adventure. Wow! I've been behind reading blogs due to the arrival of my beautiful baby boy. My first thought is - you're so brave. I think there are lots of us out here who would love to do what you are planning, but there are always so many reasons not to, so many things in the way. Go you for realizing those reasons are just excuses. I'm so happy you'll be including us in your journey. I look forward to living vicariously.

I don't have much to say about the fear, you and others here have said it all so eloquently.

The education thing though? Don't sweat it. The only thing M need is to learn how to learn, and to love doing it. I'd say she's already halfway there.

crazymumma said...

M is going to be luckier than most re her education, and her health.

My girlfriend told me today while I was in the midst of agonizing about my younger daughters lack of reading. She said that Mark Twain said 'do not let school ruin your education'.


yeah. sumtin' like dat.

Hetha said...

I've thought it about it much the same way as Kyla, about how we are wholly unable to make a leap like that with our boy of many needs. I'm thrilled for you all, but most of all for M and the memories she'll have later in life. You and J = Dream Team!

painted maypole said...

let me just give you this piece of advice that I learned on the discovery channel: more people die each year from falling coconuts than from shark bites. keep her away from overripe coconuts on trees.

;)

Wayfarer Scientista said...

Have you joined IAMAT (International Association for Medical Assistance to Travlers)??? You can join by sending them a donation - and they will provide you with lists of reliable doctors and health information so you know where to go if she (or you, or J) get sick.