Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Break That Wasn't

Last week, my son was home with me all day every day for spring break. And despite the fact that I knew that would mean I would get a lot less work done (especially since my husband had a Big Work Project planned that would keep him very busy and not so much available on the parenting front), at the beginning of last week, I was very happy about the prospect of hours and hours alone with my kid.

Since he has started full-day school (and moved to a school all the way across town), I've missed having him around. There are days now when I literally don't see him for more than an hour or two before bedtime. I had grand plans for all the wonderful things we would do in a whole week together.

We would go to the zoo! We would have a play date with another blogger and her daughter! We would bake bread, and cookies (all peanut-free) and plant broccoli seedlings in the garden. I would play all of his favorite board games (all the ones I got so sick of before he was in school, that I now sheepishly admit miss).

Yeah, no.

Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. I was awakened by excruciating, burning abdominal pain, from my left hip straight up to my bottom left rib. A few hours later, after various tests and consultations with two doctors, I found out I'd had an abnormal ovarian cyst rupture. (More on the interesting medical saga related to that discovery later, when I feel well enough to write it.)

If you've never had this happen before, either because you are one of my ovary-less readers, or because, unlike unfortunate me, your womanly parts have all always functioned beautifully and harmoniously as nature intended, allow me to describe the pain:

1.) Less painful than natural childbirth.

2.) More painful than anything else that has ever happened to me (besides, of course, the last time I had a dangerously large cyst.)(Oh yes. Did I mention this has happened before?)

3.) If you are still not understanding this description of pain because you're one of those humans who bear their reproductive parts outside the body, just imagine one half of one of your testicles exploding.

(You're welcome.)

So, yeah. That sucked.

Later that same day, as I lay in bed really starting to regret my decision to not take the prescription for heavy narcotics the GYN who confirmed my diagnosis had sympathetically proffered, my son started complaining of a headache.

The next day, he developed a full-blown miserable, snot-nosed head cold from Hades.

And so it came to pass that, instead of "resting for a few days, limiting physical activity and monitoring body temperature for any signs of infection until the pain subsides" as a doctor had oh-so-helpfully suggested, I spent the next few days trying not to yelp in pain every time I hauled my sad sorry, busted-lady-bits-bearing self up off the couch to get my feverish, exhausted, kid with a sinus headache and a hacking cough a cup of water or a tissue or another dose of medicine, while we both sighed and muttered and whined and watched bad TV.

Leaving the house, at all, was pretty much out of the question.

By Monday we were both feeling a bit better. By Tuesday morning, he was well enough to go to school.

And me? Well, I could finally take the stairs down to the basement without wanting to cry.

But I'd caught my son's cold.

I need a vacation.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Conversations with a Five-Year-Old: The Pain and the Pedant

MOTHER: Please go wash your hands before dinner. Your fingers are covered in marker. I don't think you want ink in your food.

CHILD: Aw, man.


CHILD: I have to wash my hands again? I just washed my hands at lunch time.

MOTHER: Yes, you need to wash your hands more than once in a day. Go wash your hands.

CHILD: Hmph.

CHILD stalks slowly off toward the bathroom, muttering to himself.

MOTHER: Oh, there she goes again. Your mother. Always trying to take care of you and keep you safe and healthy. Always trying to keep you from doing things like eating food flavored with ink from a marker. She's such a pain.

CHILD (whispers): In the B-U-T.

MOTHER: What did you just say, young man?

CHILD: Nothing.

MOTHER: You're missing a T.

CHILD: What?

MOTHER: Butt, as in your bottom, rear, posterior, that thing you sit upon, is spelled B-U-T-T. You mean to say I am a pain in the B-U-T-T.

CHILD: Oh, right! I always get those confused.

MOTHER to FATHER: We need to work on his ability to spell insults.

More conversations.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To My Friends Who Work Outside the Home

To my friends who are mothers who work professionally full time (or more than full time), and often must leave their children:

I have told this story before many times in various ways on various comment sections on various working mothers' blogs, so I apologize if you have heard this before, but it I think it bears repeating.

When I was a poor college student putting myself through school, one of my three jobs was being a part-time nanny, for several years, for a busy professional couple with two little girls. The girls' mother, who loved her children deeply, was a professional writer and small business owner. She sometimes worked from home in her office while I watched the kids, but sometimes her business meant she had to leave, for hours, or for whole days at a time.

When the girls' mother had to leave for work, sometimes, they would cry. They would throw their arms around her and beg her not to leave. As they got older, and could articulate their feelings, they would say things like, "Don't leave me Mommy! You leave too much! I miss you when you're gone."

I could see the guilt and longing in their mother's eyes, on those days, as I pulled her tearful, clinging children away, and she walked out the door to the sounds of their sobs. Not yet having a child of my own, I did not then understand her pain as fully as I do now, but so I could sense that these moments weighed on her — that echoes of her daughters' cries would linger somewhere in a corner of her mind all day.

Five or ten minutes after she left, the kids would recover completely, and start laughing and playing with me just as they did on the days when their mother was in the next room.

Sometimes, the older girl would get out a box and pretend to type on it as if it were a computer.

"I'm a Mommy. I'm working," she would say. "I'm a writer writing things."

And that little girl would sound so proud.

Your children miss you when you cannot be with them. Of course they do. And they miss their Dad when he isn't around (or their other Mom, or their Grandma). And when they're home alone with you, I bet they miss their favorite babysitters and teachers, too. All kids would prefer to have all of their favorite people available 24 hours a day, to be summoned or dismissed at childish whim.

But they love you, the whole of you, more than anything, and even at an early age, they understand that your career — your drive to create things of value with your skills and your mind, not just at home, but out in the wider world — is part of who you are.

And because they know that about you, they also know that one day they can also be great parents AND great workers. They are the girls who will play games of "Office" alongside their games of "House." They are the boys who will see no problem with Daddies who push strollers or Mommies who get invited to speak at conferences.

And they will be women and men who, one day, I hope, will come to understand how you felt (how I've sometimes felt, too) about having to walk out the door on those certain hard days, as your children cried. Who will realize that even on those days you walked away, you were doing it, as you did everything, for them — to support them, to build a better life for them, to change the world, for them.

And I do not think they will hold those times against you.