Parenting Posts

A Downpour: a short, short story

Today, I was alerted to an online publication that is looking for rather short, short stories. The publication Duolingo prefers a 150-250 word count with family friendly content. Heck, I was all over that since I was really unsure what I would be focusing on during my writing time today. So, I worked on a story with 250 words. It’s called: a downpour.  I got to use my Google Form skills because that’s how I submitted it. I thought I would share it with my readers here. I hope you enjoy it.  Remember, it is a work of fiction.

A Downpour

by Jennifer Lee Greene Sullivan 

     The tropical storm rattles windows of the Alabama town. Trees bend and sway as rain batters the hotel’s walls. This weekend was a damp one for our family reunion. My husband, our four children, and I will not be able to drive out of the storm for a few more hours. I drink my coffee and dread packing the van during torrential downpours. I find my mood as dark as the swirling clouds in the Alabama sky. The oldest girls finish dressing, packing, and playing with the baby while Dwayne (my husband) Betsy (our eleven year old), and I say goodbye to Dwayne’s grandparents.

     I find everyone eating bagels in the breakfast area. Betsy immediately runs over to Dwayne’s grandparents and demands to help them pack. Dwayne sends her off with the understanding that she will return as soon as their Explorer is loaded. An hour passes, Dwayne and the older girls have packed the car, yet Betsy has not returned. I walk downstairs to find an empty room with no Explorer in the lot. Terror shoots through my heart: our child is missing.

     My terrified family searches the entire building. Dwayne goes to the front desk. I call his grandparents. They have her. “She belongs to us,” I hear his grandmother say. Her dementia is much worse than we realized. It takes five hours to return to Georgia, and we arrive home to find everyone happy and physically well. Nothing prepares a family for the dangers of dementia. Nothing.

 

 

A College Tour

As I write this post, my eighteen month old is searching for “stuff” to get into as he repeats the words, “Mama, Mama, Mama.” Somewhere on the campus of Valdosta State University, my oldest, Anya, and her dad are taking a tour of my alma mater. I opted out this time as not to detract from Anya’s day. It still seems like yesterday that she was eighteen months old herself, and my mama and daddy were keeping her entertained around the track of VSU’s gym while I graduated on the court. That was 2002, and for me, it seems like yesterday that I finished my undergraduate degree and began my master’s. In reality, flashforward to 2018, and I have been an educated adult for more than sixteen years.

vsu-fountain-e1528139484163.png
Valdosta State University Fountain

Just as Anya rides a bus around campus, looking at the front of West Hall where I spent so many days and nights as a young woman, I am putting Liam down for his afternoon nap inside our camper that poses as a mother-in-law suite, daycare, and writing nook. Bailey and Sophia swim with Aunt DeeAnn and cousin Grady, and I reminiscence about my past. I remember how hard life was during my college years; obstacles and conflicts were so much more difficult than my course load, even when I was a double major (both English and Biology). My own twenty something mind seemed determined to ruin my success.

I learned to compromise, to leave, or to persevere during those years. I wish I could protect Anya from the hardships of young adulthood even as I look forward to her pursuing her undergraduate degree. Why does life have to be so hard, yet so rewarding at the same time? Once I was twenty-one and pregnant, sitting in French history class trying not to regurgitate my breakfast. Now, I am forty and writing a blog entry five minutes after Liam regurgitates his lunch on my new dress. Certainly, I am not middle aged.

ASIDE: Definitely and defiantly, the other Generation Xers and myself will defy aging. Hell, the annals of history can redefine middle age just for us!! Do it now before the Millenials turn forty.

It was just this morning that powder, lipstick, and a little mascara was enough to refresh my look. As long as my grey hair is colored, Sophia swears I can pass for my late thirties. HA…little does she know that I am timeless inside and out. “BLESS it, honey.” I hear my internal critic say to my real self. Denial is not my friend, but neither is time. My motherhood journey will still be going strong as I experience the empty nest syndrome. One section of the nest will be empty while the other three quarters will be full of teenagers and a crying baby. The compromise of motherhood continues just as much as the free radicals attack my cell nuclei. God bless the mothers of this world. God bless us all. Good luck to every high school senior–you’re going to need it.

 

The First Sketch of Esmeralda

Esmeralda's first sketch
This is Clare’s first sketch of Esmeralda. My illustrator has made me a happy writer today!! 

When Anya was a baby, I worked on several children’s books to read to her during our year long “term” as mother and child. The year I stayed home with Anya brought many ups and downs for both of us, yet I am so happy that seventeen years after I first imagined this character I see her in reality.  Esmeralda has had so much to do during her imagined childhood that she should be ancient by now. As her first book is illustrated, I feel that I am few steps closer to seeing her in bookstores for many other children to enjoy. Poor Anya has been my guinea pig for more than just my writing. She had to live through my learning to be her mother.

A Middle Child’s Dilemma: Depression Strikes Twice

Sophia at dance
Sophia’s Middle School Dance 

While I was on my honeymoon in St. Thomas, I remember being so happy and excited. Mark (my first husband) and I were so thrilled to be in our tropical paradise, even the iguanas loved living on island time. Unbeknownst to me, my parents did not fare so well at home. In ’99, I was twenty-one and carefree. Yet, my dad found himself struggling with bipolar depression at forty-four, and he felt that his only way out was to end it all. My mentally stable and long-suffering mother took him to get help the day our plane left for the Caribbean. When we returned from our honeymoon, my daddy had spent a week in a hospital with a diagnosis and a gaggle of pills. I remember visiting him and going to therapy with him the Monday I returned.

He looked forlorn, yet happy to see me. He toted a yellow legal pad with him everywhere, and he randomly took down notes as therapists and doctors informed us of coping skills and symptoms we could expect to face in the upcoming months. I learned that the strongest man I ever knew had lived trapped inside a panic stricken brain for years. He had been striving to hold back the chaos inside his mind since I was a little girl. There was a seriously startling statistic that I remember vividly since Daddy’s great depression of ’99: a child of a bipolar parent could face a seventy five percent chance of also having the disorder. My grandmother had bipolar disorder as well, and her mother before her, and her mother, and so forth. My father had lost the genetic roll of the dice. In just two years, I would learn that I lost statistically as well. How would our genetic loss affect the future of my own children?

When my oldest was in sixth grade, I began to notice serious changes in her moods, and her depression and anxiety negatively influenced her school work and relationships. Additionally, by eighth grade, my middle child also developed depression and anxiety. I learned many facts and factors relating to adolescence and depression while helping Anya, my oldest, deal with depression. I thought I “knew it all.” Certainly, with a family history like mine, I would be an expert. UM…NO!!

Sophia’s symptoms and behaviors stumped me, and I have to admit that I had to rely on the professionals to help with her issues. Her depression was there, yet I noticed risky behaviors and odd decisions that did not seem to fit my previous experiences. We saw two different psychiatrists before the medication affected the depression. Her negative self-esteem and self-worth concerned me the most. How could such a beautiful, talented young woman feel so negative about herself?

In fact, on most days if I felt a little less of myself, I might just fit in better with my peers. A negative self-image has not really been a problem for me. My parents told me that I could do whatever I wanted in life, and obviously, I bought into that mentality hook, line, and sinker. Once Sophia’s new doctor adjusted her meds, I can see the smiles on her face again. Yesterday, I heard her cackle. She cackled for several minutes. She hugged me last night—twice. I believe in my soul that one day she will feel happy and loved. I know the coping skills will come. I understand that this is the beginning of a life-long struggle.

However, I am forty, and I have never been stronger. My daddy made it to sixty two, and not even cancer nor pain could unhinge him emotionally and psychologically. My grandmother made it eighty five years—a fighter. Bipolar disorder may have won a few battles, but not the war. Sophia will overcome. She comes from a long line of overcomers.

 

Endure to Persevere” James Douglas Greene  1/14/54 -12/3/16

This post is dedicated to my father. The man who made me. Time passes yet my love for you remains.

Daddy 1

Jimmy Mac, that’s what I am teaching my girls to do: endure to persevere. Every week I take them by the old home place, and I know one day the Lord will rescue the perishing by taking us to our heavenly home. I love you, Daddy.

Sexting: a Teen’s Rite of Passage

A Serious Dilemma

Jennifer Greene Sullivan

As a parent, you want to protect your child. When she was a babe that toddled, you chased after her and soothed bumps and bruises. Then, you stopped long enough to breathe through parenthood, and now she looks like a grown woman. Yet, she has the brain development of a thirteen year old. You are left to ponder where all the time has gone. Certainly, you believe that you’ve won the hard fight as a parent, yet eighth grade introduces more than physical science and equations to these fledgling adults.

This past Christmas of her eighth grade year, she received a cell phone from her dad as a gift. You suggested that he wait because she is not mature enough for an electronic device. Unfortunately, you could not possibly imagine the issues that would arise in the future. Six months come and go, you trust that her dad monitors her online activity, texting habits, and social media presence. It will be the monitoring of her social media accounts that leads to finding inappropriate Instagram messages on her phone. EXTREMELY inappropriate.

Your precious, yet not so innocent, thirteen year old has been sexting on Instagram. You are shocked. You are devastated. You are disgusted. How do you handle this? How did this happen? What is going on with the world? You’re the kind of mom that researches. You’re the kind of mom that cares and cries and rants. You find in your researched rantings that sextings is a teenage PROBLEM.

You learn that 80 percent of teens send sexts to others before the age of 18 (Sexting Facts and Statistics). You read this quote, and your eyes BULGE:

 “According to research, those teens who are sexting or propositioned to send a sext are more likely than their peers to have sexual intercourse” (Sexting Facts and Statistics).

You read the statement again, and you realize the problem of sexting bleeds over to other concerns. Teen pregnancy in the US may have decreased in the last few years, yet the risky behavior of teenage sexting has increased. Why would they want to do this? Are they pressured? Are they lonely? Are they seeking attention and acceptance? You recognize that these reasons are probably all true. These reasons lead to messages and photos that make teens vulnerable to strangers. Leaked photographs could remain available online indefinitely.

You throw the reasons and the why’s and the how’s in the garbage. Fix the problem. Concentrate. You’re the parent.

But how?

text

To BE CONTINUED…

 

Post-script: I just discovered that even Anne Frank wrote about sex in her diary and  obscured the naughty words with brown paper glued to the pages. Thirteen year olds may have more experience writing about sex than I first thought

Reverie

chestnut hair tangled
around the end of my finger
these moments are hushed
except for the remembering to breathe

the moment explodes into mountains
mountains climb into the sky
sometimes I long to die

water spills from my eyes
slips down the corners of a mouth
without any words to say

wasn’t it just yesterday
that I stood a fresh dug grave
dirt like soot covering my face

wind blows twisted hair free
as it longs to save me
from the memory’s reverie

chestnut hair tangled
around the end of my finger
these moments are hushed
except for the remembering to breathe

Jennifer Greene Sullivan

5.17.18