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The Cowardly Lion and the Mom

Posted Sep 11 2009 10:02pm

I was obsessed with the Wizard of Oz as a child. I couldn't wait til that day, once a year, that the film came on television. It was usually televised on a night that I slept at my grandparents', so after a penny poker tournament we would all gather together to watch. I was terrified of the Wicked Witch of the West, but fascinated by her at the same time. Sofia Madyson has the same reaction, and she always screams for me to sit with her when she appears.

One thing really annoyed me about that film- the character of the Cowardly Lion. Totally an oxymoron, lions are not supposed to be cowardly, they must be kings and roar. I can't remember..what exactly was the Lion's excuse for being cowardly-there's always an excuse? If anything it should have been that ridiculous curly 'do and red bow at the end to make him weak. Instead it made him stronger.

Actually, I could use a new 'do and a red bow right about now. One person who is not at all cowardly is my friend Debbie who wrote a seriously touching post the other day and I haven't stopped thinking about it since I read it. She wrote:

Nestor left this morning to shoot in Puerto Rico for the week. It's always stressful the night before and I usually don't sleep well. He had a car pick him up at 6:30am. Around 6:25am he came into the bedroom, gave me a kiss and hug goodbye, then gave Amelia a kiss and slipped out the front door. It's only a few days, but I always have very mixed emotions about his leaving.

He's going to work and that's always priority around here...it's the leaving. As Mom, I don't get to leave. I'm here...ALWAYS. Day in and day out, that's what I do. It gets to me, because I don't even know how I could separate myself to leave Amelia. Nobody knows her sounds or coughs like I do. Amelia can't tell us when she's not feeling well...but even in my sleep, I can hear her breathing change and I know I need to wake up and give her a breathing treatment.

The thing is, I know for most of my friends and family, who have kids, that this is a temporary setup. There will come a day when you won't need to listen for your baby's breathing patterns, they'll call out to you or get out of bed, walk to your bedside and get you. I pray for the day that this happens with Amelia.

Which leads me to my teary afternoon. Whenever Nestor leaves town, I take a little opportunity to watch a chick flick that I know he would forbade me to even play on our TV. Today it was "Mama Mia" (I live in NYC and am the last person on earth who hasn't seen the B'way version). I was happily watching this flick when it got to the end, where Meryl Streep is singing to her daughter about all the cherished memories she holds as snapshots in her mind. It is here that my floodgates opened up and whoosh...I couldn't stop crying. I tend to not think too much about "what will be" because to be honest, with a special needs kid, you just don't know. The greatest things could be just around the corner for Amelia, but as I watched this mother get her daughter dressed for her wedding I couldn't help being sad. I don't know what lies ahead for my little girl and I want her to know every joy life holds.

On the other hand, being the glutton I am, I am also reading a novel written by one of my all-time favorite authors, Kathryn Harrison (read Poison if you want a really fantastic intro to her writing), called Envy. I haven't read much yet, but it's about a married Psychoanalyst, who is a sex addict and a father of two healthy children(boy & girl), in which the little boy drowned. It's the unthinkable to lose a child. So here I am on the other side of the spectrum, crying while I read my book, thanking my lucky stars for the gift I have, Amelia.

In other words, my child may never live the life that I imagined for my child when I was carrying her in my belly. I don't know if Amelia will walk, talk, eat, go to college, fall in love and get married, have children...but she will live the fullest life we can give her. The roller coaster that is Amelia, is the most exciting, fearful, tearful, exhausting, ecstatic and blessed ride I have ever been on. Ahhh, parenthood...I guess none of us ever get to actually leave it...EVER!!!!!


My experience with Jordan completely wiped out anything remotely cowardly that may have been left over from my childhood days of being terrified by the Wicked Witch of the West- don't mess with me, I'll rip you apart.

However, no matter how many battles we fight and win, or how many professionals we convince and sway...there's always a little bit of insecurity in all of us. And we always run into cowards. See, "coward" is a totally different ballpark. Coward is knowing that you are a lion-the strongest of the entire jungle, who instead of admitting to insecurities and rendering them strengths, abuses others to hide the insecurities.

As moms, it's totally the opposite. We don't realize we're kings of the jungle until we've battled every cough, sore throat, asthma attack, night at the emergency room, science project and peon who messes with our kid's cochlear implant processor. We turn our insecurities and fears into strengths and we make the world a better place for our kids. At least we try.

How do you deal with a coward? You can't because they just run and hide.
How do you deal with the Wicked Witch of the West? Give her an Advil.

And in life...it takes more than a badge that says "courage" to make one courageous, it takes being a mother.
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