Code Switch

sols_6I read Molly Shield’s post this morning. A beautiful slice of life that involves code switching, something I do quite a bit. Being the daughter and then being the parent, and back again. Where do I belong?

Saturday morning, it is 1:20 am. I am loading my daughter with crutches, her friend and their luggage into my car. It’s not an emergency. This is a planned trip to meet up with over 200 high schoolers who are going by bus up the coast to a YMCA-sponsored Youth and Government camp. The streets are surprisingly busy. I think, could all these people be taking their high schoolers to Albertson’s, the designated drop off spot.

We pull into the lot; it is difficult to find a space. Picture this rather zombiesque moment: masses of youth, their luggage, followed by sleepy disheveled parents. All trudging toward the waiting buses.

I find a spot up close. In my opinion (and in every other sane parent’s opinion), this child should stay home. She’s still fragile after knee surgery, on crutches and has missed a day and a half of school due to a cold. She has no business (as my mother would say) going.

I have already mapped out in my mind the most likely scenario when she returns: sicker, more school lost, getting behind in classes, up late trying to catch up, all coinciding with a relapse in progress made in her knee rehab efforts. Doom and gloom.

But she’s determined. It will take severe pain or delusion-invoking fever to stop my daughter. I know this inside and out and there is no stopping it. I am this person. I moderate only when stronger forces prevail.

I open the trunk. Pull out the bags, pillows, and blankets they have packed for the ride. She calls a 17-year old young man over to help with the bags. He’s our neighbor. I’ve seen him grow up. Love that kid.

I say, “Have a good time; call us if you need anything.”

She says, “Ok bye.”

“Love you,” I call out.

They come home tonight. I fear the possibilities, but at the same time (code switch for a moment) I am hopeful that she’s as strong as she thinks she is and will “be fine.”


The second part of my post is my attempt at erasure poetry demonstrated beautifully by Dana Murphy in her most recent post.  Poetry is a scary thing for me. In my mind it takes an otherworldly kind of craftsmanship. But in this attempt, it feels like a personal journey to finding more in my own writing. This feels less risky. I’m not calling myself a poet or this a poem, I’m just digging into my writing a little more than before to see what’s there.

Code Switch

Being the daughter
being the parent
and back again.

Where do I belong? 

It’s difficult to find a space.
Youth followed by sleepy disheveled parents.
All trudging toward the waiting buses.

I find a spot up close.

This child should stay home,
she’s still fragile.
She has no business going.

But she’s determined, 

I know this
inside and out.
There is no stopping it.

I am this.

It moderates only
when stronger forces prevail.
“Have a good time, call us if you need anything”

Love you.

I fear the possibilities, but at the same time, 
–code switch–
I am hopeful.

She’s as strong as she thinks and will “be fine.” 


13 thoughts on “Code Switch

  1. I read your post and thought, “That’s what parents think and do.” I read some more and thought, “That’s what writers do – experiment.” Your slice together with the poem makes a perfect combination. Your last line is a mantra for all mothers with daughters.

  2. What an awesome post! I love how you wrote the slice of life then created the poem by erasure. You have inspired me to give this a try (someday). Your poem cuts right to what is in your heart and mind. I hope your daughter had a great experience and returned healthy.

  3. I think I should have tried a little erasure myself in my post today, Julieanne-so many things piled into it! I love hearing the story, the code-switching of our lives. I hope by now you know that all went well, and your daughter came back with a lot of info plus good memories! Thanks for sharing that you tried the erasing!

  4. Love this, Julieanne. Your poem was the essence of the experience – that push pull that we experience, wanting our kids to be independent and strong, and yet wanting to protect them. You have inspired me to try my hand at erasure poetry.

  5. Oh, the push-pull of parent-child relationships. Like you, I probably would’ve wanted her to stay home. BUT, like you, I’m also aware of the potential benefits.

    LOVED the erasure poetry you tried. Both the prose and the poem are beautiful.

  6. Parenting is so hard at times! You have captured the emotional uneasiness of those times. I love your poem too. This might be a great idea for the March challenge…post one day…poem the next!

  7. It is so hard to let go as our kids start to spread their wings, but as you say, you know your daughter and all will be fine. I LOVE that you turned this post into a poem. I haven’t had a chance to read Dana’s post yet, but now I’m inspired. Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. have been rehabbing my knee for 7 months…so I truly understand the imaging perils of the high school halls.. I loved how you invoked code switching and then applied the erasure process to reveal a poem…

  9. It would be interesting to know how many of us “slicers” would describe ourselves similarly – only moderating when stronger forces prevail.” That phrase totally resonated with me and I can see it in my daughters too. Your poem was the essence.

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