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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Dark Side: My Breaking Point

It's been a rough week at my house, we've had two visits for the ER, we've battled croup, had steroids, visited the doctor three times, and are now fighting a nasty virus that has left my house smelling like a fraternity bathroom. I've dealt with anti-vomit drugs that of course aren't working and diarrhea diapers that always happen to explode... on me. 

I vowed to the Social Media Gods that when I became a parent,  I would never post pictures of poop exploded diapers or vomit on walls (and I still haven't) but, this week especially, I've used social media as an outlet as a call for support or ideas on what to do. I've become "the parent" that I so often see mocked or ousted for "over sharing". People who are around kids all day get it, even some friends who aren't parents have offered support (and that's how I know they are true friends) or suggestions, or are even laughing with me when the nurse suggested that I give my almost 20 month old broth to keep him hydrated. 

You see, I've turned to social media because it's my only break in the world of motherhood where I can break free from our quarantined house and "talk" to others about my day, and some of them care, and those that don't just skip over me in the Newsfeed. So here you are, as loyal readers of this blog, either to support or to just find another "over sharer" and laugh, you're reading, so I win, and here we go....

For the last eleven days I've been dealing with sick kids, and for a while, it was lovely. Henrik was the sweetest kid around. He'd say things like, "Theodor, please stop crying I just want to sleep" or "Mommy, can you snuggle me?" And how could I ignore those loving and kind words coming from a kid with a seal like bark and a fever? But as the days went on and Theo got sick too, the attitudes shifted from sweet and pathetic to obnoxious and whiny. I get it, they don't feel well, no one likes to be sick and heck, for a three and 20 month old, one day of feeling sick is enough, let alone eleven. As the days went on, Eric and I just stared at one another and mouthed "OH MY GOD" while secretly laughing at their demanding remarks, their tantrums and fights with their blankets and toys, and even their comments to one another, but as we approached day nine I think I hit phase one of my breaking point.

My status on Facebook was all about puke:

Theo has had 5 coughing attacks that resulted in vomit. I was puked on in each case.

Hank fell and busted open his lip. I was bled on.

We returned our library books and I realized as we walked in that Hank was still in his Pjs and I was wearing slippers and my shirt on inside out.

While we were there, Theo had an exploding diarrhea diaper.

When we left the library Theo was wearing a different outfit and no shoes.

Oops.

You'd think this is a bad day post, but it's not. I'm laughing. It could be because I haven't slept in a week, it could be because I was THAT mom, it could be because its funny. Either way, happy Monday. I hope you laughed today.

See? Can you tell I'm on the verge? It's true I wasn't having a bad day, but I knew I was nearing it and I knew that there was no way I'd win, so just keep on laughing. Right? I spent a lot of the day laughing when I posted again:

Theo is 7 for 6. This time he not only puked on me but also my dinner. Still laughing, hard actually, but, Eric, you should bring home some wine and dark chocolate.

And again a few minutes later when:

Theo just coughed out the remaining puke from dinner and I literally laughed out loud for 2 minutes or so. Best.conversation.of.the.day:

T: Oh no. I puked on the floor.(stomps feet in it, like it's a puddle)

H: I guess I shouldn't have given him all my chicken. (Shakes head)

A: That's why your plate was empty (didn't notice because I was cleaning up the vomit)

H: You just asked if the chicken was gone. It was.

At least Hank got all the wipes and started to pick it up.

You can thank me later for filling your newsfeed with puke updates.

But today, after the laughter, another late night at the ER, and being woken up by a child who, while climbing on you, tries to hold in the vomit as long as possible hoping to beat the odds and swallow it down instead, as he makes the infamous gag/puke noise (God I hope he figures out that puking, while not ideal makes you feel better, before his twenties).  And as I quickly tried to move the comforter out of the way, he finally gives in to his natural reflux and vomits all over me, the quilt and every layer of blanket, all while the three year old screams, "He puked where I was watching my show!" And, as I ask for assistance from the three year old, who says, "I can't carry those things down while I hold my cars! I'll drop them. I just can't handle it, Mom". I knew that today would be more than trying. 

Downstairs, as I'm putting everything in the wash, the boys demand food, and while I know Theo will puke it up, I give in. The kid hasn't eaten in days and I think, maybe if I give him the meds, he'll stop puking and be able to keep down some Cheerios. Wrong. Minutes after he gets his medicine, he pukes all over the table and Henrik demands cereal with milk. I clean up, snap at Henrik to "WAIT and RELAX". After everything is cleaned up, and I put the rags in the wash bin in the laundry room to be rinsed, Theo is happy as can be and asks for breakfast. Sure. Why the bleep Not. I give him crackers and juice. He pukes again before he can even get the food in his mouth. 

Henrik is now screaming and whining about who knows what, I'm cleaning up, again, and trying desperately to get Eric on the phone to come home to help me out. Of course he can't come home because he has to meet a Special Agent today and the FBI reschedules for no one. Not even a desperate military wife and mother who is in tears, exhausted and yelling at her kids in a crazy, manic voice while her three year old just plain cries and the 20 month old is in tears, naked, covered in vomit and asks for her to hold him. 

I ran to the laundry room and shut the door. The boys were just crying, loudly. I tried to calm myself and took a few breaths. I was yelling at my kids from behind a laundry room door. If my neighbors were home I know they would have run in despite the bio hazard of a house and come to help because of the noise coming from inside. I called the doctor again (because I was told that if Theo vomited after taking the anti-nausea drugs that he needed to be seen) and I have to talk to a nurse...

She runs through the series of questions: Do you still live at this address? Is your phone number this? Do you have other insurance? "Look lady, " I snap. "I've been to THIS office three times THIS WEEK. Nothing has changed. I've been to the ER twice THIS WEEK. My kid is vomiting and won't stop. He has the runs and a fever and it's been going on since Friday. I need to see a doctor TODAY. NOW. I CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE." "Mam," she says calmly, "How many times has he puked in the last 24 hours?" "A million." I reply. "Mam, I'm going to need a serious number."  "That is a serious number. I can't count any more. He's puked three or four times since 8 AM and it's 8:43." She's quite for a minute and I can hear her typing. I'm sure she's putting in the computer that I'm a raging crazy woman. "Is that the child crying in the background?" REALLY ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW? "Yes," I reply snidely. "He's naked and covered in vomit and instead of being able to clean him up I'm talking to you." "I can get you in at 9:30, you need to be 10 minutes early, you may not take other children with you, you need to bring your ID card with you..." Instead of fighting with her about taking Henrik with me, I just said "thank you" and hang up. I had no choice but to take Henrik with me, remember? Eric had to meet with the FBI and no one wants to take in the brother of a really sick kid. 

After I hung up and cried for another minute or so, I noticed that I never started the washer. Great. We arrived a little early, I sat in the parking lot drinking my luke-warm coffee and telling myself that it will be okay as I closed my eyes and took deep breaths. I was in shock. I only remember being this mad twice. I only have been this upset with my children two times in three and a half years, and I wasn't even really mad at them. I was just at my breaking point. 

The doctor confirmed that this was a separate virus from the Croup and there was nothing he could do. He offered his sympathy and assured me I wasn't crazy (sure, he didn't see me this morning) and I was doing the right things. He told me this could go on through the weekend and I could expect the exploding diapers another two weeks. I dropped my head. "Really? I'm just sooooo tired." He nodded and said, "You can do it. You're already on top of it: you're keeping him hydrated, your following ALL of the doctor's orders you've been given, and you're kids are quietly drawing on paper in the exam room. Usually it's a disaster in here and kids who are as sick as him are just crying." He smiled. Oddly, at that moment, I felt like despite the morning events, I was doing a good job, I was proud and that maybe I could actually do it. I smiled at my kids, shook his hand and we left. 

I resorted to Facebook again:
Update: Theo is puking up the anti-puke drugs. Went back to see the doc. It could last a while...
#sendtowels #sendcoffee #sendlaundrysoap #findmysanity

Before I put them down for a nap, I took a potty break and of course Henrik barged in, "Mom! Look what I found! It's a cookie and it has paper in it!" "Yes, cool. It's called a fortune cookie." "OPEN IT!!! It has a message for you." He jumped up and down and had a huge smile on his face. I smiled too. I opened it. I read it and smiled again. "What did it say? Did it have a good message?" he asked eagerly with his hands close to his mouth like he was prepared to be shocked. I handed him half of the cookie, "Yes. It says I'll earn a large reward." We did a "Cheers" with our cookies and he ran off. I think I earned my reward right then and there: unconditional love. No matter how crazy or tired or frustrated I get, no matter how many pukes I have to clean up or how many sleepless nights I have, I still have these boys, and the best reward of all is realizing that. 


Even though I totally lost my cool today, and as I sit here and try to type all while holding a puke bucket, and have a 20 month old half sleeping and half puking up hot dogs draped over my arms, I'm realizing that this is NOT over (I'm really not making this up). Thankfully,  I have wonderful friends who have offered to drop food off on the porch so they don't get their kids sick, I've got family sending care packages, and I've got new movies and books from the library. Even though a break and massage would be lovely, I've really got to be the one to take care of the boys because when you're sick, you just need your mom. And all I need is social media, the ability to laugh, wine, good friends and a lot of snuggles. Though more laundry soap and towels could be useful. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

He Was Right... Part II

If you haven't heard the background story, you'll want to read up, because I'm about to admit it, in Boldface Times Font...

Eric was right. 

That evening when Eric got home from work, he made a few comments that indicated that he'd read the blog before coming home. I wasn't sure where our post-kid-bedtime conversation would take us: would he spin around in circles doing a happy dance? Would he sing-songy say, "You were wrooonnnnngggg" over and over again? Or would he just say, "So... I read your blog today."

As we sat down to watch The Big Bang Theory, drink wine and have a cheese and chocolate snack, he said, "So, why did you say 'no' to Henrik at the gym today?" I still didn't have an answer, I admitted that I didn't, but I knew that there was a pretty darn good chance that I was trying to protect him. We kind of left it at that when I told him that I still needed to do some soul searching to find out if I was over parenting or not. 

We left it quiet until Monday, Labor Day, when I announced in bed with the boys climbing all over me, that we still hadn't take our Colorado Adventure Day for the weekend. Eric acknowledged and since we had just bought the boys bike helmets, I suggested we go mountain biking. Eric looked at me, kind of shocked, "Really?" "Yeah," I replied. There was nothing more, nothing less. We got the boys dressed and were on our way out the door in a matter of minutes. Henrik was thrilled that we were actually MOUNTAIN BIKING! I think Eric was too and I, well, I was nervous. 

As we sat on a rock and ate breakfast, it was all we could do to keep the boys off the rocks. Henrik had this grown up, giddy, glow about him that just broke my heart. Not in a bad way, but in a way that I knew that he was ready for bigger and better things and I was actually holding him back when it came to adventuring and discovering the world around him and what his body was capable of doing.  


I'm timid. I'm reserved. I don't like to increase my heart rate through terror, fear or thrill. I pass on Haunted Houses and scary movies. I decline when it comes to skydiving or even things like white water rafting (though I know that one I have to do with my boys per Eric's request). I don't like roller coasters anymore, and I'm not really big on doing things where I know pain could be an option. But Henirk, he's not there yet. He hasn't ever been in pain beyond a scraped knee or a bloody lip (and we've taught him that it just happens), he's full of wonder and discovery and he's on this kick where he's a "big boy" all the time. He's made for adventure. He will sit back and study something forever, but he's also got this active personality that, honestly, I love seeing. I don't want him to be like me. I want him to try everything one time. I want him to learn how to pick himself back up and I want him to have his own experiences, even if it means I have to stand there with a smile on my face, an encouraging voice and butterflies in my stomach. I don't want him to be a dare devil, but an excited outdoors man, absolutely. 

When we finally suited up the boys, Eric showed Henrik how to stop on dirt and how to control the bike on the rocks. Henrik loved it. "I'm drifting, I'M DRIFT-TING!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. He scooted ahead of us and went up and down, the trail with confidence, something I've never seen in him before. It was absolutely an eye opener for me. I was proud. I was happy. I was thrilled that he was doing it all by himself and I was in disbelief that this three year old could do something that I never thought was possible. 


There it is. I didn't believe in him. I didn't think it was age appropriate for a three year old to be doing things like this and therefore I didn't like it. But I was Flat. Out. Wrong. It IS age appropriate. It's not like we were setting him free at the X Games, and we weren't saying, "Here's a cliff and a bungee cord... GO". We gave him safety tools and taught him what to do. We told him to stay on the trail, where he could see us, to avoid all snakes if he saw one, and to absolutely stay away from a cactus. We taught him to to get out from under his bike, how to check and see if the ground or rocks were safe and how to be aware of his surroundings. Henrik had been telling me for months that he was getting bigger, I just didn't hear it. I didn't understand that he was telling me he WAS capable of doing things like this because I don't like to do them and I don't particularly care for adventure like that. But I have a son who does. 

There are no words to describe how happy Henrik was that day. I'm pretty sure it was better than Christmas for him. For me, it was one of the best days in my life. It was humbling, it was so joyful and nerve wrecking. Eric was happy. Really, really happy. I've only seen Eric cry a few times, and I've seen tears in his eyes only three times. Today was the fourth time in almost 12 years he's welled up. He was so proud of his son, so proud of himself for teaching his son how to do something, and, I'd like to believe proud of me for acknowledging that he was right, that Henrik could do it and I have a son, not a baby. 


In the past few days, my boys have done things that I'm not wild about, like climbing on ledges (by ramps or retaining walls) at parks and in our neighborhood between the houses. Typically, I would have said to stop it as soon as I saw it happen, but instead, I let it go. They weren't high ledges (three feet or less), they weren't in danger, they weren't being silly or dangerous as they walked them, and they balanced just fine. Theo fell off today and scraped his body up pretty good, but he didn't cry about it. Instead, he picked himself right back up and started doing it again. I had to catch myself though. I wanted to jump up from my seat and run to him as fast as it happened, but I stopped. I didn't flinch and I bit the inside of my cheek as he dusted himself off. He looked at me like he was OK, and I smiled back at him. 

I had two sisters, we didn't do things like that as pre-school children. We preferred to play quite imagination games outdoors, we liked "house" and "Pilgrims". We preferred to collect butterflies and color. This very active stage that my boys are in is well before my sisters and I discovered the joys of a bike. I just have to get used to it. Maybe boys are different than girls. Maybe it's just that my boys are different than me. 


The point of this isn't to say, "let your kids run wild and do dangerous things" it's an open message to mom's like me. It's a message to myself: Kids are kids. As parents, we are supposed to teach them how to succeed and how to fail. We are supposed to let them get hurt. They should cry and self soothe. We should celebrate them when we are proud, hug them when they need it and kiss them until they push us away. They should see our confidence in them, they should see our pride. They should learn to observe our cautions, but not see our fears. In order for them to grow and become the adults that we want them to be, or actually, the adults that we aspire to be, we have to let them live... even if it's the hardest thing we'll ever have to do.