So… wine explodes

It was National Wine Day – there’s always a “national” day for something. I had been reminded of it several times, and I looked down with a smile at my glass of red on the counter, taking a bite of leftovers….and BOOM! The full glass exploded into a million shards and I promptly choked on the beans I had not yet swallowed.

The kitchen quickly filled with four sets of eyes….wide and staring….waiting for me to finish coughing and spluttering…wondering how I would respond. The fact that pieces of food were in the wrong place within my interior anatomy and I sneezed out tiny fragments of green beans (I know, TMI, but the passages are all connected back there oddly enough…), all that choking made me hesitant to jump into a passionate tirade.

I had a moment to think as I cleared the airways.  I had a chance to compose myself. I had a chance to prevent a human explosion. I had a chance to be calm, cool and collected. But I wasn’t. Instead, I broke into tears and melted…. “It’s just stupid,” I said. “Sometimes, this parenting thing is just stupid.”  Now those inquisitive little boys weren’t expecting that. And I’m pretty sure they had no idea what I was talking about.

I cleared my throat. The culprit looked at me and said, “But, mom, it was an accident.”

“An accident?  An accident?” exclamation, exclamation!!

“Yes”

“Wait….was the pillow in your hands?”

“Yes”

“Did you decide to throw the pillow?”

“Yes”

“Well, let me tell you something. When you came down the hill on the sled and hit into my legs the other day, and I fell into the snow – that, that my dear child was an accident.  But when you run into the kitchen with a pillow in your hands and you throw at your brother….that is NOT an accident!” (I mean, it is…in a way, the whole glass exploding part of it….but that was not my current point!)

I stopped talking. I handed Super Tall Guy a handful of paper towels and was kind enough to pick up the shards of glass for him.th

The other characters slunk off – show’s over – not as exciting as it could have been….not enough power and emotion there….sigh….maybe she’ll do it the next time crazy Super Tall Guy makes his next mess.

Too often I give them the fireworks they are looking for. Too often I pull out the ol’ soap box and climb aboard and give them all the drama of why such and such behavior was (almost) the worse thing that’s ever happened. But that’s not actually the message I want to give them, to be honest. Mistakes will happen. Accidents happen. We all do stupid things (pretty frequently, it turns out). It’s how we respond to the situation that’s important. And I need to watch this and model this a little better myself.

“You make a mess. You clean the mess.” That’s it. Whatever it was.

Drama over. Move on.

Here are the paper towels.

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On Mommying as a Doctor or Mommy Doctoring

It’s not too hard to figure why I might have spent this week contemplating how I handle being a doctor and being a mom when the boys get sick. Fortunately I don’t panic at the sight of blood and am thankful I don’t suffer from sympathetic vomiting, but I certainly don’t like it when the little guys aren’t well.

Naturally, I don’t want any of them to be in pain. I’m quite shocked at the Little Guy’s tolerance of pain. I mean, a split lip should have kept him roaring (or at least whimpering), yet he barely complained. It seems he’s knocked over so many times by older brothers whizzing by that he hardly acknowledges routine bumps and scratches. Yet, I don’t want to see any of them three get hurt and would love to be able to protect them from all the possible injuries and diseases I have learned about and seen in other children over the years.

A few reflections:

  • I am a better pediatrician after becoming a mom. I am much more sympathetic to the seemingly minor worries of a mother knowing that I would have been thinking the same thing. I am also much better about telling moms not to worry – they all get potty-trained before they leave for college and a high percentage of them stop sucking their thumbs by then too.
  • Being a prescribing physician comes in very handy at “inconvenient” times. When the 18-month-old springs an ear infection while in the middle of a week at the beach, I can just call in the antibiotic.  When the daycare requires a “note from the doctor” to be able to give the kid Tylenol, I can write that!
  • Sometimes, however, too much knowledge is a bad thing. I remember the moment I was buckling Super Tall Guy into his carseat when he was probably close to two. I noticed little red dots on his face….petechiae…..and immediately thought of all the likely cancers that he had!  I was ready to rush him to the Emergency Room. My brain was thinking through all the tests and procedures they were going to have to do for him. This is where it helps to work with other pediatricians and be friends with pediatricians – I called a friend and she kept me from heading to the ED by reminding me that petechiae on the face is likely the result of straining or coughing very hard. I’ve decided that my perspective in Mommy Doctoring is that it’s “either nothing….or its death.” There’s no in-between….either brush it off….or do the CT, MRI and CPR now!
  • I’m really good at dosing over the counter medications. When it reads “under two years of age, consult a physician….”…. I can handle that.
  • I’m really (really) bad at remembering to give my kids the full course of antibiotics (which is why it’s spectacular that Mr. Ornery is reminding me to give him his!!). This inability to “do what the doctor says” has made me try to never ever write a prescription that requires a parent to remember to give a kid medicine 3 or 4 times a day. Who has time for those battles and bribes throughout the day for 10 days?!?
  • I try hard not to be the “doctor” when I take my kids in, but to be the “Mommy” and be treated as the Mommy. Though I might have been really close and staring very intently for the Little Guy’s set of stitches and making the poor resident pediatrician nervous, I was just interested. And sometimes I give my “doc” identity away by accidentally slipping in medical jargon, like “wow, that’s from 12 to 3 o’clock” when looking at Mr. Ornery’s corneal abrasion under the fluorescent light. But to me, it’s important that my boys see me as “Mom” and have me there to comfort them during any “scary” moments rather than be the one treating them (and I certainly have no desire to be the one inflicting any pain on them!).
  • Sudden kid illnesses can really mess up your schedule….and if it happens on a day when I’m at my “doctor job,” it means all the patients now have an open morning and have to find another time to schedule their appointments.
  • If my boys are going to expect me to stay home with them, they better be sick-sick….on the couch, can’t move kind of sick. If their fever has broken and they’re bouncing off the couches, they’re going to grandma’s!!
  • And though I have built up a tremendous immune system during my years in doctoring, it is nothing when stricken by the repetitive onslaught of germs from my three. I’m feeling the tickle of the throat tonight….sigh. There’s really no choice when you have 3 snotty noses which are not adequately cleared by 7-, 4- and 2-year olds and require me to run after them with tissues!
  • Overall, I am thankful to be a doctor. I generally know when to call, who to call, and what to call it (or not).  But more so, I am thankful to be a mom (as long as they don’t do anything too crazy!).

When the pain cry doesn’t stop right away….Ahhhh!!

You know the cry of pain. It’s different than the “I’m irritated,” “He just took my toy,” or “I need a nap” type of cry. It is unmistakable and it doesn’t happen all that often. When it does, though, I go running down the stairs, scoop up the two-year-old and give him a hug. It’s never fun, though, to look into the face and see his hand full of blood. So I rush him to the bathroom, wondering how much of it is on my shirt (yes, in the midst of blood I do wonder where it’s all going…), and put the first thing I can find on it – some tissues. When I pull them away, I quickly put them back in place and yell, “Kathy, come here.” “What?” she asks when she enters. “Hold pressure. I’ll get dressed and take him in.”

From that point on….it’s just completely automatic. I get dressed. The Little Guy needs a diaper change. I cut off his inner layer of pajamas and throw them away instead of having to pull the shirt over his head and re-open the split lip which has a fragile clot on it and is for the moment not bleeding. Smooth over the 7-year-old who is begging for attention because he has his first field-trip for school and first playdate at a friend’s and is getting a little off-center by the attention given to the annoying little brother…. Pat the 4-year-old on the head and give him a quick hug. Shove a diaper and some wipes into my purse and off we go.

It’s four hours and four stitches later through the emergency room and Sam at ERwe’re back to the car again. It’s about then that I process the morning and realize that (a) I really need to go to the bathroom (problem with being a single mom in the ER) and (b) I’m pretty tired from the nonstop morning.

The suddenness of a kid’s illness really throws off my day – anyone’s day. And it’s not just the schedule, but the whole emotional tone of it. I’ve thought this weekend what it would be like to have been alone with the boys Thursday morning. I would have had to find someone to quickly watch the older boys or take them along with me (and that would have been just a nightmare in the bustle of an emergency room and an exam room full of fun bits of medical equipment and devices…as well as the ubiquitous and life-threatening wheeled three-legged stool!).

Fortunately, I am an extremely well-supported single mom. My sister was there to hold pressure on The Little Guy’s face. My mother arrived a few minutes later and quickly took over my “morning duties” as I looked for a matching set of little shoes. There were no questions about what needed to be done. No grumpy sighs about how their morning was just altered by the need to run boys into day care or drop off at school. No guilt. Total and complete support as we worked together as a unit – a micro-family immediately morphing into a macro-family to meet the needs of the moment.

I know I don’t tell them often enough – but I am so grateful to these two other women who make it possible for me to parent three boys.

Thank you. And I love you.

Oh…and…um….about the fact that Mr. Ornery just spiked a fever before going to bed tonight….and likely won’t be going to daycare tomorrow….. Anyone? Anyone?

Parenting 101

I was at the older boys’ basketball session the other day and sat near a man that I knew years ago.  We hadn’t seen each other for many years and now were reconnecting with our sons being in the same basketball league. He had brought one of his friends to come watch and I sat beside this man and “eavesdropped” on their conversation about parenting.

Naturally, I was not silent for long before I just “had” to share some of my favorite parenting books (for boys, it’s currently “Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys). This got the conversation going about what does it take to be a good parent.  After realizing that we were clearly depressing the man who was about to become the father of a newborn in a month (you will never get good sleep again, no book could possibly prepare you for this, there’s no guaranteed-to-work discipline technique, we did remember to throw in some of the “good” stuff.

There is a lot of good stuff. And there is a lot of joy in parenting. There’s also some real and natural struggles.  Some of my key points were:where-the-wild-things-are

– Remember to forgive yourself. You are doing your best….and new mercies for the day begin every morning.

– Parenting is an opportunity to see the world again. Things that we have forgotten or have forgotten to look at become brand new through the eyes of a child – the flower, the bee, the sunset, the water droplet…

– Parenting will help you identify all your “faults” and “issues” – just in case you want to work on them for “growth” and “maturation.”

– Baby wipes can clean anything.

– You will never get good sleep again – except for the times when you go away for the night – and it’s really important to do that regularly.

– Most importantly, surround yourself with other parents who are willing to be “real” and not just pretend that it’s the easiest, most wonderful thing they’ve ever done. There are parents who really do experience that….I salute them with one of those fake “good for you” smiles….but really, you need people who will vent and laugh and cry with you.  For you will laugh and cry often at the same time….especially if you have boys….as you try to figure out exactly why he felt the need to kick in the basement window?!?!?!

– Make sure that you laugh more than cry :).