Thursday, January 13, 2011

Growing Up is Hard to Do

My son just turned ten. Double digits. A whole decade gone except for the memories. The hype of this significant birthday and the psychic shift in the way he perceives himself and how he needs me now (or doesn’t) is bringing up some difficult stuff for both of us. For me it’s achingly bittersweet. While I'm proud and awed by this older version of my son, I'm also sad. I find myself missing the little guy Zeke was, all wispy haired and milky, running around the house half naked with oversized Tonka trucks, whooping with unadulterated joy as he spies the garbage truck out our living room window. That small, sweet, curious boy who loved his Mama without question, who needed me in very tangible ways that I could easily deliver. He's still his Mama's boy but his life is more complicated. Parenting issues are definitely more intense. We’re heavy into sorting out bullying, stereotyping, what it means to be a good friend, believing in yourself but not being boastful, healthy eating, exercise and body image, taking on more responsibility and finding age appropriate freedom. Some days my heart breaks at how hard it is to grow up.

Zeke is also grappling with all the power struggles of being a fourth grade boy. He’s an athletic kid who likes to get physical and rough and tumble, which used to be plain old fun but now the games are rife with inflated egos, fierce competition and constant comparisons. He’s getting called fat and his friendships aren’t so straightforward any more. Yesterday he cried that deep cry of a small boy who is wounded and overwhelmed by the unfairness of life and I just wanted to go and lambaste the friend who hurt him, who continues to hurt him. But I can’t and he doesn’t want me to any way. So I teeter on that fence of trying to know what is his to work out and when it’s important for me to step in. How to balance holding on and letting go. Creating space for him to figure things out himself so by eighteen Mama can be obsolete. No easy task.

Zeke is a big personality and I’m no shrinking violet so we get into it sometimes. I find myself appalled at some of his opinions and actions. Like the way he lords over his little sister on occasion, puffing himself up and raising his fist at her just for the fun of it. Or how he struts around bragging about his abilities as an athlete. Or makes some rash judgment of a street person, or a guy wearing saggers and a bandana or the latest substitute teacher. It’s tough to like him sometimes and the onslaught of teachable moments is overwhelming. My husband and I are working over time. Half the battle is resisting turning every issue into a teachable moment because it’s suffocating for a kid like mine. Often it is better to let him figure it out; hold my tongue, which isn’t my strong suit and give him the space to keep discovering what he thinks, how much meaning his words have and who he. Coming up under the problem softly instead of going head to head always works best. Remembering to do that in the moment is tricky. It also helps to remind myself that he is ostensibly a great kid.

The pursuit of space and freedom for Zeke eats up a lot of our time these days. How can I let my son manage his time and not micro-manage his every move? What responsibilities can I hand over to him where I do not have to constantly look over his shoulder or give instructions? Where can he go without me? What’s safe and appropriate? Being a city kid who lives in a rental house with a wall of windows and a patio garden for a back yard is tough on an active guy like Zeke. It seems like there are a lot of “No’s” at our house. Plus he has to share a room with his sister and that’s getting old but having his own room can’t happen any time soon. Poor guy. The best I can do right now is to stay on it. Keep the lines of communication open, let him know I love him and will go to bat for him when he needs me to and keep breathing and laughing. Thank god for deep cleansing breaths and for humor. Both go a long way in offsetting the difficulty of growing up.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Purposeful Writing
 a Tool for Coping and Thriving

“The story of our life is the substance of it. And our story is also the cross we bear. It can simultaneously, be both our joy and our suffering, our enlightenment and our ignorance.” 

Deena Metzger
 Author of Writing for Your Life

Beginning the new year is traditionally a time for introspection, a time when many of us look back on the previous year and assess what went well and what was difficult, what we have to be thankful for and what we are happy to let fade into the past. Many of us feel a keen desire to make changes and go deeper into our authentic selves. Deciding what to let go of and what to keep can be a healthy exercise that helps us set our intentions for the year. Purposeful writing is the perfect tool for such a job. You’d be surprised by how simply writing for five minutes a day can unearth your inmost desires, your hidden agendas and your secret dreams and help you to make sense of your life.

Writing about your experience helps you to understand yourself, other people, and gives you more insight into the human condition. And sharing your story connects you to others whose stories offer you comfort in return. You can rejoice in knowing that someone else has been through what you are going through and has survived. You can cry with those who have suffered losses and learned to live with grief. You can laugh with those who see the world with irreverence and humor. The story of your life can be your children’s legacy, pay tribute to someone you admire, organize your memories, illuminate new ideas, and teach others what you know. 

Writing can capture a happy time, soothe an angry heart, or offer clarity in a sticky, overwhelming moment. It becomes a trusted friend who accepts what you’re saying without interrupting you or trying to fix what’s wrong. 

When you write, there can be a release from struggle or uncertainty. Just the act of writing, without over-thinking or judging yourself, allows your brain to empty into your hand and onto the page, where you can see it and experience it as separate from yourself. It can give you clarity and be a record of where you’ve been or a goal for where you need to go. Writing helps to find your way through the morass of everyday existence. It is accessible, inexpensive, and immediate. Paper and pen or an available computer is all you need to get started! 

I teach writing to people from all walks of life, but I especially love my classes for pregnant and new mamas. As a Mom myself, writing has been my lifeline and my children LOVE reading about what they were like inside my belly, how they were born and how they have grown and developed. (And I’d hardly remember a lick of it if I hadn’t written it down.)

Pregnancy, birth and mothering are filled with transformational mythic journeys where you are called out of your ordinary life and into a big, new adventure unlike anything you‘ve ever experienced. The richness, strength, profundity, and perspective that come from writing about this process are awe-inspiring for both the writer and the reader.

So why not start 2011 by writing about your day-to-day experiences? It’ll help you to make sense of what you're going through, navigate toward your goals and keep you sane, centered, and creative. Whether you are a mother or not, purposeful writing is a simple way to stay solidly in touch with yourself while you ride the rollercoaster of life.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mamahood, Middle Age and Menopause

I’ve got two school age kids, a new puppy, a rabbit, a fish, a husband, a part time teaching career, a full time writing career and a 49th birthday coming straight at me like a comet hurtling through space ready to collide with my Capricornian stars and burst into the resplendent colors of a cataclysmic planetary shift. Teetering on the precipice of my 7th 7, I feel the last of my cells regenerating, reconfiguring me into the latest version of myself. On this birthday I officially become Middle Age Suze complete with the Hot Flash, Night Sweat Dream House, and the Midlife Crisis Convertible. (Maybe I’ll be the first to market Middle Age Barbie.) While I agree to succumb to being a middle-aged woman and all that entails, I hate sticking the label on myself. And it’s not because I’m vain. Well, maybe a little. I do get all puffed up when people gasp when I reveal my age. “Oh my God, you don’t look 48 at all! You look amazing!” I know it’s shallow to be proud of holding gravity at bay but any port in a storm. The real reason I don’t want to be middle aged is that I was supposed to be a lot further along in life than I am. I’m supposed to be slowing down and getting ready to retire, learning Spanish and how to play the guitar. I’m not supposed to volunteering in my daughter’s second grade class and wondering where my next job is coming from – that’s for the 30’s!!!!

Math isn’t my strong suit but I do know that I’ve been middle aged since my 39th birthday. I just couldn’t think of myself as that as I was pregnant with my first child. The two didn’t mesh. Then I had my second child at 41 and tandem nursing wasn’t something a matron did so I just wasn’t one. Now that I’m actually on the downside of my mortality, I feel compelled to take on my middle age status. Something to do with claiming the second phase of my life. Second phase - even though living to 98 seems highly unlikely but I entertain the thought because my children are young and I’d get to see their lives unfold. Another 49 years. I don’t know if I have the stamina.

I’ve been awake since 2003. And I don’t mean enlightened. I mean actually awake. My daughter never slept, still doesn’t much and she’s nearly 8 and then I reinvented myself as a freelance writer, a career path I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I’m either up trying to find work, worrying about finding work or working on a deadline. And now I am even more awake from menopausal hormones. I can’t stop thinking of that old joke…”How do you make a hormone? Kick her in the shins.” Someone or something’s kicking me in the shins all night these days. Kids in our bed, finances, obsessive thought loops, a whining puppy, deep questions like, “When will everyone I love in the world die?” “Why aren’t I a better global citizen?” “Why can’t I keep my house as clean as I used to?” I’m dying here. I know, we all are. But really, my eyes are gritty and I had to get reading glasses, and I can’t remember words like refrigerator when it’s right in front of me and I’m a writer! My usual vim and vigor has vacated leaving me with a kind of sloth like quality and a persistent longing for my bed, which is always just around the corner since I work from home. It’s not the vibrant life I envisioned for myself. I mean obsessing about my bed constantly and it’s empty. No hot hunk or husband with a come hither look calling me toward it, just a blistering exhaustion. So there’s that.

And there’s how not asleep at the wheel I am. It’s like I’m on a triple espresso, Red Bull, crystal meth high, I am so awake, uber-conscious of every emotional landscape, every vibe, every buried thought, possible thought, that I swear I can feel a cell divide. I feel the intensity of each moment, every event locally and globally, the plight of the homeless under the overpass, the Mamas and children in Afghanistan, the pain of my aging parents and the elderly neighbor who seems so lonely. Being so awake makes me even more tired. I thought middle age meant letting go easier, not caring so much about what people think or feel, chilling out a little. But my middle age is a kind of revving engine that’s racing towards applying to graduate school, buying a puppy, inventing new classes to teach and planning new exercise strategies for me and my children. On this birthday as I boldly take the throne of middle age, I will say a prayer for myself to embrace all that I am, all I have done and then promptly send myself to bed to get some sleep for god’s sake.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Raising Low-Tech Media Light Children

Lately, my son has been coming home from school, talking in code. All I can decipher are these strange but consistent letter and number combinations: PSP, DS, MP3, Xbox360, Nano, and Wii. I notice that when he speaks this secret language, he is filled with a mixture of longing, excitement, and loathing. I’m not exactly sure but it seems like the loathing is primarily directed at his Dad and me. Whatever he’s talking about has him pretty wound up.


Tuesday at the playground, he got obsessed with two boys his age who were plugged into these tiny electronic boxes. After stalking them for 15 minutes, he finally asked what they were listening to. (I was lurking nearby, picking at my fingernails, trying to look inconspicuous.)



“What?...”WHAT?”, one guy kept yelling in response to his moving lips.


Zeke repeated the question only louder. Finally one of them pulled the plugs out of his ears and said incredulously, “Dude, this is an Ipod Shuffle. What? You never seen one before?”


“Yeah, I used one at the museum one time.” My son seems relieved.


“Oh.” The other boy is unimpressed.


Then the other kid pipes up.


“I got a DS, a PSP, and a Wii at home, too,” he brags.  My son’s face falls. He shoots me a look and heads over to play some basketball. So, yes, it’s true, the loathing is directed at me.


When we get home, I sneak down to the computer and Google the letters. (The irony is not lost on me.) Video games and electronic media sources flood my screen- Sony’s PlayStationPortable, Nintendo DS, Apple’s Ipod Nano, Microsoft’s Xbox360 and Nintendo Wii. My son wants to be plugged in. And oh boy, we are so not plugged in. Yeah, I use the computer to do research and write but my MAC Powerbook is ancient and ostensibly, I am a Luddite. 

And as for media, we only recently got a DVD player, which we thought was faulty because we couldn’t play Disney movies without the screen going from dark to light. I happened to mention it at a soccer practice and a dad told us that if we ran the DVD player through our VCR, Disney set it up that way so someone wouldn’t be able to pirate movies… And to think we spent months fuming about the inadequacy of our machine and almost bought a new one. Of course, we (not Wii) are usually what’s inadequate when it comes to technology.


I’m the “mean mom” who only allows PBS cartoons and Animal Planet and definitely not before or after school. We do family movie night on Fridays and Saturday morning cartoons, and the pajama party or dinner party special movie viewing.


To be sure, I have plugged my children into movies so I can work and honestly, it hasn’t been all that successful. The whine factor increases 90% and their ability to transition or find things to do that are unrelated to “watching something” diminishes. I also notice that when I have succumbed to a faster paced kind of cartoon like “Phineas and Ferb”, my son gets all wound up with a spastic kind of unfocused energy that usually leads to no good.



I want my children to run and play and touch things and make things and talk to their friends and to communicate with my husband and me. I want them to hang out in their imaginations for as long as I can hold out. I don’t want to give in to the peer pressure of the tenacious 8 year old. But that’s what I want…


As my son’s ninth birthday fast approaches, I am forced to revisit what’s appropriate for him, now. He uses computers at school and wants to play computer games. But I love to hear him in his room after school setting up Lego forts and aircrafts and making his guys talk. I know that won’t last forever so I’m holding on. For now.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oh Those Yahoooos!

Yahoooo for Yahoo?
by Suze Allen 955 Words

When I log onto my computer every morning, copious emails from my yahoo groups have flooded my inbox overnight. I belong to five. There’s one for my daughter’s preschool, one for my homebirth collective, one for the theatre board I work with, another for a literary committee I serve on and one from my neighborhood parenting group. It’s this last one that’s especially intriguing, informative, and drives me absolutely crazy. It is a world unto itself with a fascinating cast of characters; a culture of parents that I live among but hardly know. And when I’m cruising Cortland for errands or hanging out with my kids at Holly Park, I can’t help but wonder if the other Mom’s and Dad’s are Mac whose son is older and attends surf camp, Sally whose daughter won’t nap anymore, Caitlin who is building an eco-friendly house or Dr. Rapine whose fierce political take on car emissions and “no praise” for children stirs the group to near riot.

There is one person on the listserve who I am obsessed with. Her name’s Rianna and she knows something about everything! Seriously, she weighs in on sleep training, the right stroller for cobblestone sidewalks in Europe, kid friendly brunch places, organic bedding, financial planners, nipple confusion, local merchants going out of business, car seats on airplanes, where to get knives sharpened, how to choose a preschool, whether to buy a Peg-Perego highchair or a Svan, where to find a cool hair colorist, a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, how fast plastic bottles break down and become hazardous to your child and even where you can go for a cheap cocktail. Rianna’s emails are well researched, impeccably written and she is not prone to brevity.

Although, I’ve never met her, I see her in my mind. She is tall and willowy because she’s found the perfect Pilates teacher and takes yoga classes daily at a local studio. Her haircut is fabulous and her daughter speaks Spanish and French and goes to all the most popular music and toddler observation classes. Rianna’s husband adores her and they have a loving nanny who watches little Zinnia late on Thursdays so she and her husband can have date night at various expensive restaurants throughout the city and take in a play at ACT or some music at The Fillmore. Rianna is “Super Perfect Mom”. So up on everything that she makes me feel like a country bumpkin. I imagine that before she had Zinnia and stayed at home she was a high-powered executive in a Fortune 500 company working 80-hour weeks. Now that it’s just her and Zinnia, Rianna has so much time on her hands she manages her neighborhood parenting group with all the fervor that she used to use to seal a five million dollar deal.

I, on the other hand, have written in to sell my “gently used” Ergo backpack, tell how my daughter potty trained at 18 months, share my rainy day kid activities and tell everyone on the list why they should take my writing classes and get massages from my husband. I am “Super Dud Mom”. I really couldn’t tell you about family friendly vacation spots in Mexico or how to get your kids to sleep anywhere but in your own bed. I have never hired a financial planner, a gardener, a knife sharpener, or bought furniture that wasn’t from Ikea. But I think my kids like me. And I have a few friends who are Moms. We mostly talk about how exhausted we are, how sorting through your children’s clothes is so time consuming and how much we despise playgrounds. When I compare my life with those in my neighborhood parent group, I feel dull and listless. Like I’ve never really lived. The polar opposite of Rianna.
I don’t know how my mother raised me without all of this input. I know I am chock full of petroleum products and unorganic beef but I feel pretty well adjusted. My brain seems to function at a normal level and I used to think that I was fairly well read, but a lot of the information I find in my parenting yahoo group just makes me feel like I haven’t done my research. Why don’t I know more about the speed at which plastic breaks down in the microwave or what month to sign my son up for T-ball or how I could have hired a sleep trainer for my daughter before my personality changed from sleep deprivation? Just reading the neighborhood yahoo group is making me feel like a bad parent.

A few days ago, I even got reprimanded from the moderator for sending too many emails about my husband’s massage business. She told me that if I sent one more email trying to sell the group something that I would be labeled a “spammer” and asked to leave. Ouch!

I keep thinking that I’m going to unsubscribe but it’s become a guilty pleasure, like tuning into daytime television. Will Sally rally enough Moms to make new baby meals for Kennet? Can baby Jessie transition into her crib and finally sleep through the night, giving her poor parents their life back? Will Jack’s cross-country movers treat his stuff well? Where is the best sushi in the city? Will Dr. Rapine rail against the capitalist system again? And is there a good book on grieving for a pet?

I don’t actually know many people in my neighborhood but I know what they are thinking about. I know what their young children are up to and I know that most of them seem to have a lot more money than I do. Isn’t that weird?

Having a Baby Means Having a Baby

Having a Baby Means Having a Baby
by Suze Allen

It happened to me. I’ve watched it happen to my friends, too. A fog comes over you somewhere in your thirties and you start wandering around and wondering, “Is this it? This is my life? That’s all?” And far away in your brain, you hear a voice; faint at first but growing ever louder, “You should have a baby. Yeah, a baby. Why not just go ahead and have a baby?” And it makes so much sense. Something bigger than yourself. So you try and try and you try to get pregnant and it doesn’t happen and at first you’re glad it’s not happening yet because maybe you’re not ready or your relationship is not ready or your bank account is not ready, and then you’re freaked out because it’s not happening because now you are ready or if you aren’t ready it doesn’t matter because all you’ve ever wanted to be is a mother and then you’re desperate for it to happen so you seek medical attention because it’s not happening and you can’t relax and it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever happen so there must be a medical explanation or remedy that can help you make it happen because suddenly you want to procreate more than anything you’ve ever wanted in your life.
Your existence becomes about sperm meeting egg. And you are going nuts because you don’t know when or even IF conception is in your future. And you start thinking about adopting but you really want to have the experience of birthing and every time your period shows up you feel like a failure. The lack of control is frustrating, anguished and the perfect way the process prepares you for life as a parent. In the age of planning, of five-year goals and career timelines, you just can’t schedule your pregnancy.
Children are Zen teachers, whether they show up in your womb or not. Just the act of trying to get pregnant teaches you that control is an illusion. You cannot know anything.
I know, I know, we live in an amazing age where you can choose a sperm donor. You can decide when to have your c-section; what astrological sign your baby will be. So why can’t you decide to be a parent, get knocked up and pop one out? Then you can check it off and be on your merry way. “Check. Had the baby. Great! Got her. But honey, now what the hell do we do with her? She doesn’t seem to be going away. I don’t have a minute to myself. I want my life back.” But this is your life. Let the longing and the whining begin.

But when you have your own child, there is no getting your life back. Parenting is your life now. And just out of curiosity why have children if you’re intending to rush back into the life you had before they were born? Wouldn’t it be more rewarding if the life you knew pre-child died to you and reincarnated into something else? Possibly something better; something you could never have imagined?

Children demand that you sharpen your intuitive skills. They insist that you prioritize your life to cull out the madness. They give you a deep purpose. Hey, sure, child rearing is hard and harder for some of us than others. But I believe it is no more difficult than deciding what you want to be when you grow up or how to love your partner and make a life together or how to lead a fulfilling life.

The biggest problem is that children are messy. They come in with their little souls and their needs and ideas. Yeah, we’re responsible for them but we don’t own them and they are citizens of their community and their world. I think the pressure of Good Parent /Bad parent sends even a lackadaisical personality over the edge with a mix of extreme guilt and undying honorable intentions. I want to put a stop to the questions we ask new parents, like. “Does she sleep through the night, yet?” That is a loaded question and implies that your baby is bad or you’re not doing something right if that is not the case. I’m sick to death of hearing about “sleep training” and “potty training. If a child is three and still wearing diapers you can get that askance look and the scarlet letters -BP – Bad Parent appears on your chest!
The American culture urges Moms and Dads to parent our children like the public schools teach; everyone matriculating with their chronological age group and not advancing until they have completed the required curriculum. Sleeps independently – 0-10 days. Sleeps through the night- three months. Solid Food - 6 months. Speaking clearly -1 year. Potty trained -2 years. Attending pre-school- 3 years. Doing absolutely everything on their own – 4 years old. Good-bye and Good Riddance!!!
In the America’s, a culture founded on independence, there is no room for personality and freedom and difference. I have been looked at askance because my children nurse through toddlerdom and they sleep with my husband and I. We hear how “dysfunctional” they will become from nightlife in our big bed. That makes me laugh because this penchant for independence our culture propagates is nefarious. Like the race has evolved from the very separateness we insist is healthy and right. Young men can build arsenals in their bedrooms and predators can stalk our children on computers and we may never suspect a thing until something horrible happens

I think it all starts with The Crib. You get ready to have a baby and you decorate a nursery and set up a crib. A completely separate place for your baby to dwell. And I wonder? Why would a tiny creature who spent 9 months in an insularly tight, warm womb listening to the sound of her Mommy’s heartbeat want to be thrust into her own sleeping quarters as soon as she is pushed through the ring of fire? Evolution says babies need to stay with the Mom to survive unless you are a reptile. And most adults sleep with their partners. We like sleeping with people we love and even sleep with people whom we don’t love just to feel some sort of connection. The whole – “You’ll roll over your baby,” “We all seep better for the those ten minutes when we aren’t hurtling ourselves down the hallway to a hungry or in need of some snuggling in the dark, little being. Oh, I understand the implication of co-sleeping. SEX How can a couple have sex with THE BABY IN THE BED!!! She’ll be scarred for life. What if she is scarred for life from crying and screaming alone in a dark room and no one coming to comfort her? What if she swallows her needs because her cries mean nothing?

I do understand boundaries and I understand that as parents we need to put the oxygen mask on first but I wonder why we push our little ones from the nest so quickly. It all goes so fast anyway and so slow. Once we have ‘em, we got ‘em. We wanted them more than anything so now here they are and they are our lives.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weaning My Toddler, Weaning Myself

Today’s the day. Zeke and I are saying good-bye to amma. I think we mean it this time. I’m at my wit’s end.

Last night while he and Hattie were tandem nursing, his teeth began their usual descent into my nipple, at first irritating and then excruciating.

“Zekie, teeth!” He switched positions – but no relief. I got supremely disgruntled.

“Zekie, teeth, one more minute and then done.” I pop him off.

“Honey, this is crazy, why don’t you just stop having amma, okay? Tomorrow morning we can have a good-bye to amma party.”
“Okay” he says and seems fine with it.

“We’ll make a cake.” We fall asleep.

This morning when I refuse Zeke his transitional amma it becomes clear that he thought I was talking about an amma party last night. I can just imagine his dreams. Giant, milk-engorged breasts-fat dripping nipples just for him. An endless breast-feeding orgy with breaks for chocolate cake.

He tries to latch on anyway but makes it a joke. “Ammeenah” he says in his best baby voice. He’s not quite joking anymore but he doesn’t seem devastated when I say, “No.” I talk to him about his friends, Charlie and Riley and Derek who don’t have amma anymore. I explain how his classmates at School Around Us don’t nurse. How he is so lucky that he nursed longer than all his friends. Giving up amma makes him an even bigger boy. As I say all that, I don’t feel remotely sure that I am doing the right thing. Comparing and contrasting. Equating amma with being babyish. But of course being a Mom means always second-guessing yourself.

Making the cake is annoying. Instead of mixing the ingredients with love, I’m cranky. I want my coffee. I want more sleep. I want not to bake before 10am. And both kids insist on helping. When Michael finally sends me to the couch with my coffee, I am a mess. I try to concentrate on Sesame Street. It’s the episode where Big Bird’s nest has been destroyed by a hurricane. The metaphor is not lost on me.

I want to renege but it’s party time. Cake and candles. Michael frosts each piece with whipped cream from a can. He does beautiful little flower designs. We all keep saying “good-bye amma” while I choke back tears. Michael tells Zeke that he is glad for almost four years of amma. He says that it has made Zeke tall and strong and healthy.
I recount how Zekie latched right on in the birthing tub and never let go.

The cake is moist and chocolaty. Hattie Rose leads the bye, bye amma dance party. While I videotape them, I can’t help but notice how tall Zeke is. Another transition to the big boy. Already, I miss his almost four- year -old face becoming like that newborn as he takes my breast in his mouth. How he cups his hand around it so sweetly and looks supremely content. And I know I will miss The Power of the breast! I could lure him home from playgrounds and the children’s museum with the promise of amma and reading books on the big bed.

As bedtime approaches, I wonder if I can hold firm. I’m not sure if I can say good-bye to amma. I don’t know what else I can give him or do for him to make him that happy.