Repaired Windshield, Shattered Relationships: Another Weekend of Tears

The windshield was repaired this past week (review of that story), but I had to make a tough decision that I really didn’t want to. It was the second Friday in a row of kids crying and Mom crying. The second Friday of sobbing on the couch after the boys went to bed. The second week of cycling through shock and numbness and sadness and wondering why this parenting “gig” has to be so hard sometimes.

I had to let the sitter go. She’s been with our family for three years. She’s a part of our family and the kids are a part of hers. But around 3:30 on Friday afternoon I got a call from a friend who asked, “Where is your sitter? Or who is picking up the boys after school? I see the younger two playing here on the school playground, but I don’t see your sitter. I started to drive away with my kids then turned and came right back.” Asking her to stay there and keep an eye on my 7 and 9-year-old boys, I called the sitter. She left the boys at the playground (“there were other people there”) because Super Tall Guy really wanted to be taken home.

She left my boys.

In shock, I said, “You can’t leave the boys alone! Those kids are the most precious things in the world to me. What if one of them fell off the monkey-bars, split his head open and died….alone? What if someone walked by and took off with one of them? What if you got in an accident as you drove and then they are hanging out at the playground for hours wondering where you are?”

She arrived to pick them up as I communicated with the other mom again how I appreciated her taking care of my boys. I got home as soon as I could. I wrote out her weekly check and told the sitter it wasn’t going to work out anymore. She had done this once before a couple months ago. I had talked with her then. Then she had left the 7-year-old at the playground in our community once for a few minutes while she ran to the school to pick up the middle kid because “he was playing with the other kids and wouldn’t listen to me when I called him. What did you want me to do – go over there and drag him to the car?” Yes.

This time, I flipped out. I couldn’t bear the thought of my kids being in danger. She wasn’t intentionally hurting them. She just wasn’t thinking through the potential dangers. And she wasn’t assigning another adult to hold the responsibility of the kids in her absence. She loves the boys. She doesn’t want to make any of them angry or disappointed. Yes, I understand that, I said. But, their safety is first priority. Whether they are “happy” is a bit lower down the line of concern. And trying to protect the boys, mostly from their own rash decisions as well as from other people’s decisions, is a huge challenge as a parent.

Another huge challenge of parenting is managing your own emotions while also scaffolding those of your children. The role is complicated with multiple children who have different personalities, different types of emotional processing, and need different help with managing their emotions based on their developmental stage and individual abilities.

Super Tall Guy doesn’t care. “That was stupid,” he says and walks off. Mr. Ornery says, “Aw, that’s sad. What’s for dinner?” The Little Guy crawls into my arms, shaking as he sobs. I reassure him that we love the sitter, we’re still friends, we can still visit, but it’s Mommy’s job to always, always make sure my boys are safe.

In the past couple of days, the weight has just hung on me and the tears are easily present. The Little Guy asks about her often and before falling asleep the next day, he said to me, “But Mommy, everyone makes mistakes. Why can’t you give her another chance?”  Yes, I replied, we all make many mistakes every single day, but there are some big mistakes that are super important. Keeping you safe is super important.

And we cried together again.

 

 

 

 

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Goodnight Home

The windmill stained glass window caught your eye the moment you walked in the front door. Sure you may have stumbled over the uneven flooring of the front porch, but isuoyn2bqy677e0000000000inside…inside the house was stunning. Over a hundred years old with built-in bookshelves, dark hardwood floors, and a back “secret” staircase, the most important thing about the house was that it first held our boys (and a couple foster girls along the way as well….one dog…countless not very hardy goldfish and a beta named Lightning McQueen who had amazing stamina).

A house is a house. Bricks are bricks. Wood is wood. But when a baby enters, a special kind of mystery takes place and memories are laid down deep within your heart.  The location of the bassinet. The crack of the bathroom stained glass from a well-placed kick. The corners where the boys hid. The games of hide-and-seek and monster’s going to get you! The walls become a home. The ceilings, the skies of your dreams. The kitche, the center of life. The bedrooms, the source of peace.

is6abdz8in5vad0000000000And yet, when a baby enters a dwelling, the world shifts. The priorities change. The once “easy access” street becomes the dreaded high-speed danger trap. The easy to maintain stamp back yard quickly becomes too boring and inadequate. And the worry of school choice and the need for better options gradually stalks close enough to you that you suddenly you wake up to boxes and plastic bins and moving vans and men who don’t really know anything about safe moving except that they needed the job that day.

After years “on the market,” my sister and I closed on the old Victorian house today. The next rambunctious little boy entered tonight. He’ll pick his room. He’ll unpack his “loveys” and his little cars and scatter some Legos across the hardwood floor to help his mom feel right at home. He’ll probably fuss for a bit. He’ll probably need some lights on for the ceilings are high and the shadows are deep. But soon he’ll find the scratches on the doorframe. Soon he’ll hide in the front closet. Soon he’ll wait for the wild raspberries out back to ripen. Soon he’ll know that those walls are his home. Soon he’ll be laying down memories to cherish and share and laugh about with family.

Goodnight great big house.

Goodbye wonderful home.

Thanks for the incredible memories.

On losing our “forever family” pet

“Mom, can Roxy sleep with me tonight?” the six-year-old implored as he climbed into bed. “Honey, Roxy is dead,” I gently reminded him. Tears welled in my eyes as I thought about the afternoon. The wag of the tail as she greeted our visitors. Her disappearance as we talked. The phone call from my sister relaying the message from a sweet man who had found her….and stayed with her so she wouldn’t be alone until we got there. But she was already gone…

…and I was alone. In fact, my whole family was around me, but I was alone as I called the boys together outside and told them she had died. I was alone as I gathered up her food dishes and leftover treats and emptied them into the trash can.

I was alone as I sat on my bed in the quiet of the night, eyes stinging from the tears. I was alone.

Single mom.

Three boys.

No little dog.

Those dark moments are when the world crashes and the weight feels unbearable. When sadness drapes your heart. When guilt condemns you for not having kept her inside, for not keeping a member of your family safe, for failing to be the protector. When you can’t yet see the light even though you know it’s there and will return.

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Super Tall Guy wanted to keep the collar “in our house.”

We have now made it past twenty-four hours. Friends have expressed condolences and texted kind thoughts. “How are the boys doing?” is a recurring question.

The Little Guy in his concrete stage of thinking spent the day telling everyone he met, “Our dog died. Rund over by a car. She didn’t look both ways.”

Super Tall Guy woke this morning and said, “I cried for Roxy while I slept last night. We need another little dog that looks like Roxy and we’ll name her Roxy until we get our big dog.” Emotions generally are not part of his vocabulary (despite recently watching “Inside Out”) but he misses the morning hugs.

Mr. Ornery lay on his bed again tonight and said, “I’m sad Roxy died. Will she come back alive? Will we see her again? Is she alive in Heaven?” and moved on to “When are we going to Kennywood again? I’m only going to ride that circle snow thing ride the whole day.”

Seems to me that they cope better than I. That they don’t know yet the finality of death. That they don’t worry about whether I could have prevented it. Gave Mr. Ornery a hug today and said, “I cried last night when Roxy died.” He paused. “I would cry if you died.” Fair enough.

Roxy & NateI cry. I cried tonight when I peeked into his bedroom as is my nightly habit and miss seeing the white furball cradling his head or sleeping along his back. I miss the dog more than I thought I would. Turns out, I must have actually loved the sometimes trouble but genuinely sweet little girl.

It is a shift in our household, yet we grieve and learn and grow. And I am learning how to handle my own grief as I walk my sons through their first pet loss (Lightning McQueen the beta fish did not have the same effect). Time heals, they say. I wait for time.

Beware the grief
It calls upon the demons
It beckons the darkness
It smothers the flame.

 

Beware the grief
It tarnishes the beauty
It robs the love
It spoils the soul.

 

Beware the grief
It heeds no boundaries
It follows no clock
It finds its own path.

 

Rise up, oh strong one.
Lean in to others
Seek comfort
Accept the balm.

 

Rise up, oh strong one,
Rest the soul
Cry the tears
Let healing begin.

 

Rise up, oh strong one,
The heaviness shifts
The dark shall disperse
The light shall shine.

 

Hold on to joy.
Hold on to memories
And keep the gift alive.

 

Why getting to know each other matters (based on a horrific example)

There is such a sad story from my neighboring community this weekend – a 22-year-old mother was found dead on her bed and her 10-month-old baby dead nearby in the living room. Her cause of death is unknown and his is suspected to be a result of dehydration and starvation. The story is not yet complete and details are still unfolding, but the family and the neighborhood is reeling. And the neighbors who live in the same apartment building are wracked with guilt.

My soul aches since hearing the news. I fall asleep thinking of a little boy crawling around on the floor searching….searching for food….searching for water…searching for his mother….crying out for someone to help him. And though his cries were heard, the incredible weight of them, the life and death significance of them were not known until too late.

“If I took the time to get to know her I probably could have helped her” said a tenant in the same building as quoted in the newspaper story.

His remorse hit me. We have gone too far. We have let too much distance exist between us. When parents are afraid to reach out for help, we are letting them down and we are putting children at risk. When people worry that their neighbor will “call child protective services” against them, we are pitting family against family. When we lose a sense of community and of watching out for one another, we become isolated and lonely and we cannot thrive.

We need to change. We need to reach out to each other. We need to carry each other’s burdens. We need to take the time to get to know each other.

I am parenting three young boys. I’ve made a point of meeting my neighbors. I let a nearby friend know that she’s number one back-up call in emergencies since she’s the one closest to us. I’ve talked to my children about what to do if x, y or z. I sincerely thank friends who offer help whenever needed and I reciprocate the offer, pausing to look them in the eye to solidify our agreement. I frequently think about the community that surrounds my family and whether I’ve built up enough of a buffer base for my children.

Last week, my middle son turned six years old. His birthday party was attended by three

Cupcakes decorated to match my son's typical drawings.

Birthday cupcakes decorated to match my son’s typical drawings.

boys from his day care center, one boy who used to attend day care with him, two boys from his prior kindergarten class, one boy from his new kindergarten class, one boy from the neighborhood, and two boys from friends of the family. I looked around the room with a smile as they sang Happy Birthday To You, off-key. My son’s net is wide. There are many connections. There need to be for him to know that he is loved, that the world is full of good people, and that there are people who will come if he cries.

Every child needs love and protection and a wide, wide net.

Take the time to get to know one another. It just might matter.