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After squirming and whimpering and squeezing her eyes shut as best she could while the nurse attempted to pry them open to apply three sets of eye drops, Zoe earned a lollipop from said very persistent nurse. We were out in the hall and Zoe was marveling at her lollipop. “That was fun!” she said. “Getting the eye drops?” I asked. “Yes!” she said. I guess the reward of the lollipop was so incredibly exciting that it erased entirely her memory of the eyedrops. The miracle of candy.

We spent nearly two hours today at the Children’s Hospital outpatient center for opthalmology and other specialities for a consultation with an eye surgeon about the next step toward treating Zoe’s ptosis (droopy eyelid). She was born with ptosis in both eyes, but it is most severe in her left. Her father was born with the same condition and had two surgeries of his own as a child to repair it.

I was disappointed (but not as much as Zoe) at the lack of toys in the waiting room. I had (naively) promised toys because I expected Children’s Hospital would furnish them in a room full of waiting children. There were books and tvs, but no toys. Luckily I had brought some of ours, but someone else’s toys are always more intriguing, especially when you’re waiting.

Overall Zoe was very cooperative and patient, the eye drop incident notwithstanding. She did a great job with the vision tests, and impressed the doctors because she knew all her letters. She has long since graduated from using the picture vision test. The doctors were great with her, and were extremely gentle, patient, and soothing. That certainly helped.

We’ve been seeing an eye doctor since Zoe was a baby to monitor the condition to make sure it hasn’t impaired her vision or development, and to watch for strabismus, the other (and more serious) eye condition that Randy has. So far no sign of strabismus, which is great. So we’ve known since the beginning that Zoe would one day have to have surgery.

Apparently that day is upon us, or at least will be on April 23. The surgeon will be someone we met with last week, who is affiliated with Children’s and comes highly recommended by the doctor we saw today. The surgery will be at Children’s.

I have been reminded by dozens of people–strangers and friends–who have offered their advice on how to prepare a child for surgery, that we are not alone. I am thankful that Zoe’s condition is easily treatable and correctable and hopefully will have no lingering effects. But of course it is still scary. I have three kids books on the way, including Curious George Goes to the Hospital, to help introduce the topic. Zoe loves loves loves to read and I believe that slipping these books in our regular reading rotation will make it easier when we have to talk with her about her own surgery.

I’ve heard from a couple parents that the hardest part is when your child wakes up from the anesthesia and completely freaks out and screams and cries for 45 minutes. At least we’ll be prepared. I’ve also heard about the merits of focusing with the child on all the treats she’ll get after the surgery, like ice cream. A little ice cream goes a long way with Zoe. Hopefully that will help.

We had been thinking, at the suggestion of Zoe’s regular eye doctor, that the surgery would be in the summer so she wouldn’t have to miss school (not as if she falls behind if she skips a few days of preschool), but the surgeon we saw last week encouraged us to have it done sooner rather than later so we wouldn’t have to keep Zoe away from the pool or the beach this summer as she recovers. So suddenly it is scheduled, one month from today. Zoe will be three by then and I will have just turned 36. Hopefully my present will be a healthy little girl who can see just a little better.

I realized recently that I have long felt like I need to be anxious or stressed about something to demonstrate, to myself or to others, that I care about it. I worried somehow that if I didn’t worry, it meant I was shallow or uncaring.

This idea is something that had been slowly emerging from the sand in my brain for many months. It became more apparent during Zoe’s recent spate of separation anxiety, which manifested itself in her crying every day when I left her at school or day care. The freaking out at school particularly unnerved me because she had been happily scampering off to play in her classroom every school day for two years, and the reluctance to unglue herself from my leg seemed rather sudden and confusing. Of course many many moms and even the director of the preschool assured me that this behavior was perfectly normal and that kids who are almost three can go through a new phase of separation anxiety, even though I might have thought we were long done with all that.

But none of the consolation consoled me. For several weeks after I dropped Zoe off and she was crying I felt like my day (or at least my morning) was wrecked. I couldn’t concentrate. I just worried that she was unhappy, that I had made a bad decision somehow (for working? for not staying at home with her, which is completely financially implausible for our family? by choosing the wrong daycare provider or preschool? by saying or doing the wrong thing when I left her?) None of these things seemed likely or accurate. I knew I hadn’t actually done something wrong. I knew that typically after I left she was fine within minutes or seconds. But I couldn’t shake this overdeveloped feeling of worry/guilt/concern. Somehow I felt like if I wasn’t upset about Zoe getting upset, I wasn’t a good mom, or I didn’t love her enough. Which is absurd. I know I’m a great mom and I know I love my daughter with all my heart. So who am I trying to impress by worrying?

I don’t think anyone will think better of me for feeling wrecked. I know I don’t feel any better. So I’m done with that. I’m leaving it behind. I have other things to worry about.

Last weekend my husband took me away to Wintergreen, a winter sports resort in central Virginia. The trip was his Christmas present to me, including the part where he arranged with my parents to babysit Zoe for the weekend. We’ve had overnights away from Zoe before, but I don’t think (or at least can’t remember) a whole weekend away. It was time.

It was time especially because lately I had begun to forget what our marriage was. Lately it’s seemed more like a parenting partnership or occasionally encounters between business people. Sure we love each other, and I would venture to say that we’re still in love with each other. But when do you have time to be in love?

Zoe is a wonderful little girl. With a lot of energy. Who demands a lot of attention. I have my own business. Randy has a job that has steadily increased in responsibility and that expects employees to work no matter how much snow is on the ground. And then there’s all that other stuff, like finding food to eat and cooking it. Washing and putting away clothes. Paying the overdue bills. So what’s left?

Little time to take care of oneself, much less of one’s partner. And really if you’re doing triage, you know you HAVE to take care of your child, and you HAVE to feed and clothe your family and prevent foreclosure.

So when we went to Wintergreen it was bliss. On the way there I was still kind of tense, having trouble separating myself from everyday stress. Randy was checking email on his phone and returning calls to discuss the details of a possible business trip. It was hard to imagine the weekend would be much different from regular life.

Thankfully cellphone reception on the mountain is very spotty. 🙂

We arrived and checked in and spent 20 absurd minutes trying to get our card key to open the ski locker closet adjacent to our condo, not realizing the front door was 10 feet away. We unpacked and went to dinner at one of the nicer restaurants on the mountain. The kind where they bring you wine and ask who will be tasting. I realize for most grown-ups this is not so unusual, but we don’t get out that much, especially to fancy restaurants. And, being lightweights, we’ve learned that we shouldn’t drink a bottle of wine and dinner and drive home. The waitress kindly informed us when we hesitated over the wine list that we were allowed to order a bottle and bring it home with us. Ah, the joy of sharing a bottle of wine and not having to drive and not having to worry about taking care of a small person after drinking a few glasses. We also enjoyed ordering whatever food we wanted, not having to think about whether it was appropriate to share with Zoe. And most of all, we savored the opportunity to have a long, philosophical conversation without giving a thought to chores we had to do, the possibility that anyone would get impatient or ask to play with us, or work. Oh yeah, this was what dating was like. When you get to spend all this time with someone you love and not think about anything else. I remember now.

We spent the rest of the weekend exploring the resort. We went tubing (hurtling down a mountain in an innertube) Saturday night, luxuriated in massages at the spa, and had a ski lesson. But mostly we walked around holding hands, shared relaxing meals together, and giggled a lot.

Of course there were lots of little kids there who reminded me of Zoe and made me miss her. We called once to check in and she was having a fabulous time with Fuzzy and Poppy, still in her pajamas mid-afternoon. We looked forward to seeing her on Sunday evening, knowing she would run and jump into our arms.

But in the meantime, I was so happy to be with my husband and just have him to myself. To delight in each other’s company and remember all the reasons we wanted to be together in the first place. With a small child and challenging careers and all the rest of what life throws at you, it’s easy to put your marriage on hold. We’ve known each other for seven years now. It was such a great reminder to know the good stuff is still there. You just have to move everything out of the way to find it.

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