Near Death Experiences Really Should be Teachable Moments

It’s crazy how insane the past couple weeks have been. The movers handled the large items and friends carried loads of boxes, but our new townhome sat piled ceiling-high with boxes for a week as we spent time outside with the neighbors and packed up for a beach vacation.

Sand is always good. Sand that has been dredged from the bottom of the ocean is near perfection. There’s not a sharp sea shell in it. You can dig and dig and dig out a hole large enough for boys to jump in and be completely hidden from sight. You can drizzle it into the forest where the trolls live while waiting to save Princess Ana from the accidental strokes of Elsa. You can mold a horse to be galloped upon. You can mold sandballs of wet sand dabbed in hot fine sand to threaten siblings with. You can rest.

There are few things more relaxing than sun and sand and the lap of waves. There are also few things more terrifying than the power and pull of water.

The warm sun was coaxing my eyes to close as I sat upon a boogie board and watched the three boys jump in the surf. After each wave, I would identify them – The First One shakes his head to get the water out of his ears. Super Tall Guy wipes the water from the top of his head to his chin. Mr. Ornery bounces and bounces and bounces. He comes up from under a wave and bounces as he awaits the next. His ringlets bounce. His body bounces. His arms bounce.

And suddenly there was no bounce. I looked again. There was his head very close to Super Tall Guy, but there was no bounce. They were too far out. They were too far out to see their faces, but I was on my feet and headed out there. A glance at the lifeguards on their stand showed that they were not going to be of any help. The panic started to rise as each wave pushed me back from my singular goal – to reach my boys who were being swept out to sea. But I wasn’t getting there fast enough. Do I scream? Yell? The three adults near them were close enough though. One man reached for Mr. Ornery and pushed into shore. One man grabbed Super Tall Guy and guided him in. I watched The First One start to swim.

Mr. Ornery wrapped his arms and legs around me as he clung sobbing in my arms. I tearfully thanked the Helpers. I praised Super Tall Guy for clear attempts to save his younger brother and keep him afloat. Suddenly I panicked again looking for The First One. Where was he? Mom, where is he? Super Tall Guy, where is he? I rushed to the lifeguards and then turned and found him. He had swum beside the current and then into shore. We all hugged.

“Look for the helpers,” I reminded the boys as Mr. Fred Rogers so eloquently stated. Rogers HelpersWhen you are in trouble, look for the helpers. They will be there.

Ask Mr. Ornery how his vacation was and he’ll say “I was almost dead.” We had to talk a lot about it that night. We talked about safety. We talked about the power of water. We talked about the helpers. We talked over and over about how you “NEVER go out past your waist” and you “NEVER swim alone.” We talked about going back in again.

And he did. Right back into the water the next day. I watched much more intensely. And I watched the new day’s lifeguard splash over to him and remind him in words and body language – “NEVER go out past your waist.”

And yet he did. Bouncing along right into the deep. This boy is going to require a whole lot of “teachable moments.” And he’s going to need a whole lot of Helpers!

But I, for one, would like to skip the “near death” moments the next time he needs to learn a lesson.

What Single Parents Dream Of

Every year my sister takes her kids on a “Single Parents Weekend Retreat.” This year my kids begged me to go too with stories of zip lines and giant swings and swimming pools. The place on Lake Erie was packed with kids and many many parents, most of us women. The main speaker was to talk on passing on the “legacy of love” but she was neither a single parent, nor was she even a parent. My mind drifted to wondering how these parents all got to this place.

Did they make a conscious choice to parent through private or foster care adoption? Had they been in relationships that ended with tragedy or separation? Were they stressed by their current situation or had they come to grips with single parenting? Was this just a “phase” of their life with them constantly seeking something different or did they plan to remain a “single parent”?

Most days I realize that I don’t identify myself strongly as a “single parent,” I’m just parenting. And I am thankful every day to have the privilege to be a part of these boys’ lives (even on the days that Mr. Ornery suggests that I go find a new family to join!). I love each boy. I love being a parent in so many ways, but every once in a while I dream of:

  • Someone to jump in at the end of a long day and volunteer to put the kids to bed! Oh, that would be heaven on earth. What would I do with the gift of two free hours that usually entail repetitious phrases such as “pee, wash hands, brush teeth,” “pick 3 books (and not that one again!),” “lay down and go to sleep.” Lay down and go to sleep. Huh – I could probably read a book. I mean, an adult book!
  • The presence of another parent who also had the “responsibility” for the kids and I could leave them while going out with friends, or on a run or doing errands without having to beg my mother or pay a babysitter to keep the kids alive.
  • Knowing there’s another adult in the house who could find a baseball bat and creak downstairs when you hear a noise.
  • Someone who would share in cleaning a few rooms in the house, or take out the trash, or help in shoveling the snow from the driveway.
  • Really just someone who would pack up the car for the road trip and then complete the dreaded unpacking at the end of vacation. Slugging around suitcases is really not my favorite thing at all.
  • An extra chauffeur for the soccer Saturdays when one kid is at one field at 10:00 and the “travel team” boy needs to be 45 minutes away for a 10:30 game. Let’s throw in gymnastics, basketball, flag football, inline hockey….it’s only getting worse. Hence, the poor Little Guy won’t be starting sports until he’s 25!
  • The comfort of knowing that in an emergency, there would be an extra hand or someone to stay home with a couple boys while I ran one of them to the doctor for stitches or a cast! There was a close call when Little Guy sprayed Deet in his eyes, but we survived that one.
  • Having a partner in making a whole host of decisions from where to buy a house for the “right” school district to what to make for dinner (because asking the boys has only resulted in “mac and cheese” and “chicken nuggets” as less-than-desirable answers).
  • Riding in the passenger seat of the car so that I’m not breaking up fights or switching DVDs or handing out food to quiet the backseat wolves at the same time as trying not to run off the road or into another moving target.
  • Someone to pamper and take care of me. I spend all day giving of myself to others at work and then at home, constantly making sure the kids are safe and relatively comfortable. I spend more time on their social life than I do my own. I worry more about what they’re doing and how they’re feeling than I think about myself. It sure would be nice to have someone pay attention to me (other than to ask for a glass of cold water!).
  • A nice warm stretch of sand without a single human being under the age of 24 in sight and a cool drink in one hand and a mindless novel in the other. That’s what single parents dream of!beach footprints

 

Name change

We spent the week at the beach. Little Seth survived this excursion with all remaining teeth intact. He has however developed a much greater vocabulary since the first vacation and is now able to say, “I fell on rock” when you ask, “where’s your tooth?”

It was a very nice week from which I walked away with a few insights.

  • Some people say that they take their kids outside or to a playground or somewhere to let them run around for a couple hours and tire them out so that they sleep better. I realized that to tire out my boys, we have to spend 2 hours on the beach, 2 hours at the pool and hot tub, back for 1.5 hours on the beach and 2.5 hours in the pool/hot tub. Sunshine, sand castles and surf-boards definitely required. Then and only then will they fall asleep.  (In fact, after 3 days of this schedule, Micah fell asleep at 5:12 pm one evening and slept through the night….until 5:30 the next morning!)
  • My mother and sister are fantastic! They let me get out 3 mornings for a run – it was delightful to have a break from the boys (especially the morning that Micah decided to have a fit).
  • In general, I have a rule of “no TV on vacation” – this rule, however, has a couple exceptions, such as “except when you’re really bothering me and I need some quiet” and “except when we’re staying in a small condo with glass furniture and you are really being a pest to the other boys,” and naturally “except when it’s a continuous rain day.”
  • I spent one of my runs pondering names. I realized I have trouble while writing this blog remembering what the boys’ “fictional” names are, so I’ve decided to start using their real names:
    • Little Guy is the tiny little two-year-old. He gets that name because he really is very small….in comparison to the rest of the boys around him. He probably looks quite huge, though, if you’re a long-haired teddy bear hamster.
    • Mr. Ornery is the four-year-old, who is actually more impish (mischievous) than he is ornery (ill-tempered), but let’s face it – “Mr. Ornery” has a better ring than “Mr. Imp” so I plan to use it despite Merriam-Webster’s definitive definition.  Mr. Ornery likes to run around in cahoots with my sister’s 3-year-old son, henceforth to be referred to as “The Rascal.” The Rascal is really a mix of Dennis the Menace, Curious George and Tansmanian Devil. He is brilliant and knows exactly what he should and shouldn’t do….and therefore does all the “shouldn’t do’s” in as rapid a sequence as possible. I have often said that The Rascal has a “two minute leash” – if you can’t see where he is and what he’s doing within 2 minutes, you better get off your bum and go find him. Of late, I’ve noted that Mr. Ornery and The Rascal have a “1 minute leash” whenever they disappear together. The Rascal has had 2 haircuts in the past 2 weeks by a Mr. Ornery who denies the very possibility even when the evidence is within his own hands.
    • Super Tall Boy – this is my attempt to be edifying towards the 7-year-old, because I’m more likely to call him “The Grump” than any other descriptor….but that seems a bit judgmental. Actually, I have told Super Tall Boy several (and I mean MANY) times now, that I am going to officially change his name to “One.” Now that he knows my joke, he actually gets grumpy when I say it, but I do remind him that I can call him by his “real” name 4 or 5 times, but I never get a response. However, if I say “O-n-e” in just that tone, I get an immediate “what?” I used to consider this a joke until this afternoon, when The Rascal had disappeared for 117 seconds and I thought I better find him. I called his name 7 or 8 times as I walked around the house. Finally, I said “Rascal, I’m going to put you in time out if you don’t come out……One….”  As soon as the word “one” left my mouth, ST Boy who was playing a video game in the other room said “What?!?”  I laughed – deny it as much as you’d like, but your name is “One.”
  • By an eagle’s flight, the beach is 10 hours from our house. It took us over 15 hours to get home yesterday. We reached our driveway around 1:20 am and I carried the younger two boys up to bed. This woke them up and they chattered and played for a few minutes until getting to sleep. Consequently, I have little alertness tonight and off to bed….hoping for more than 4 hours tonight. I am a night owl….I wish my boys weren’t morning birds!

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    Guess which print is Mr. Ornery’s!