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.





Disturbances of the peace

I am on my couch with a new laptop…replacement #2.  Somehow my 1-month-old laptop started confusing its numbers with its letters (a feature I found quite annoying) and I returned it and got a smaller, sleeker more fun model :). So I sit reflecting on the week, with a laptop in my hands, an empty ice cream dish beside me (my current concoction is a mix of Edy’s French Silk, Archer Farms Belgium chocolate, and a dash of Ben & Jerry’s VolunTirimisu – don’t even ask!), and a 3-year-old dreaming on the couch nearby.

I glance over at Noah sleeping on the other half of the replacement sofa (courtesy of the foam-hungry police dog’s owner. I’m going to shy away from leather sofas in the future though – they’re ice cold as our temperatures plummet and the boys have noticed – didn’t take long when they plop down in their undies in the morning – and now jump onto the comfy chairs).  Noah looks so peaceful….and I realize I wish I could be in that state – blissful slumber without a care in the world (other than the fact that Micah using the purple lightsaber all day was just “not fair”).

Instead, my peace this past week has been disrupted by too many “incidents” – teen boys in New Jersey who lured and killed a 12-year-old girl, two infants hospitalized here in the city from injuries by their parents, a nanny in New York killing two children in a family.  I feel the pain of these families.  I fear the world in which my boys are growing up.  And I wonder about my ability to prepare them for this world.

It seems parenting is hard enough just taking care of the physical aspects, like

–          Micah throwing up three times on Monday just as I put him to bed…and again and again as soon as I change the sheets

–          Stephen emptying a whole half gallon of milk onto the dining room table and splashing in it in delight as we hurriedly wiped it up with any and all available towels

–          Taxiing Micah to basketball for half a session, rushing by the house to change into soccer gear, and dashing off to stand in the rain for the final game of the season (shhh, don’t mention that we’re missing next week’s make-up game…there’s too much going on as it is already!)

–          Trying with all my will power to breathe quietly and drive safely as the 3 older boys chattered and teased and fought and screamed for an hour and 15 minutes after we left a Halloween party near Cleveland last night – and just as the third one finally drifted off to sleep – the baby awoke and whimpered and cried and spluttered for the rest of the way home.  7 minutes  from the house (according to friendly GPS Jane), the car was quiet….and then we carried them all inside!  (must remember never to do that again!  Or just give in and turn the TV on – who cares if they don’t fall asleep for a while – they didn’t anyway!).  And whose bright idea was it to give the boys tons of dessert and candy and then put them in the back of an enclosed moving vehicle and buckle them up?!?

But it’s more the emotional challenges that drain me, like

–          Trying (unsuccessfully) to stop myself from scolding Micah for soiling his underwear.  I know he didn’t mean it but I keep saying “you’re 6 years old….why do I have to clean you over and over?”  And I know full well that this is not only NOT a useful tirade to be on, but it is not healthy for his emotional state.  Yet, I am frustrated to be dealing with it again.

–          Worrying about whether my boys are in the “right” care settings and how well they’re handling them, especially when Micah states he doesn’t like one of his afterschool teachers because she’s always putting him in “time out.”  And I keep thinking that I don’t want him to develop a construct of being the “bad kid,” but he certainly does pull for a lot of disciplining.

–          And I’ve been very unsettled by an article written by two of our Child Advocacy physicians earlier last week about a recent court decision that would allow people who abuse children (as shown by “substantial evidence”) to not have their names registered as an abuser (because it’s not “clear and convincing” evidence). In which case, even though someone is a known abuser, they may still “clear” the background checks and thus drive my children to school, serve as their sports coach, even teach our children.  I’m pretty frustrated that my state shows so little concern for its children – the future for all of us.  And I realize that I need to be wary and even more protective of my children and yet not wanting them to grow up in fear.  What a balance!

So if you have any of this all sorted out, I’m eager to hear!

Surviving New York City Madness

I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I just survived 3 days in New York City with three young boys (6, 3, and 1).  It’s probably entirely related to the fact that I traveled with a good friend who is very easy-going, her 2-yr-old son and her nanny (whose back should be sore from holding my 1-year-old most of the time in a front-pack!).

I personally only had one minor explosion, I think — trying to navigate a stroller out of a narrow NYC Starbucks doorway on day one — with octopus hands lunging from both sides of the stroller and two boys fighting each other for the right to get through the doorway first, despite the presence of said stroller.  And a very sweet woman holding the door open for me heard me mutter “I can’t do New York City by myself with 3 little boys.”  Without a pause, she affirmed, “no, you can’t.  It’s too hard.”  Fortunately, my friend is wonderful enough that I repeated the same phrase to her shortly afterwards despite my usual hesitancy to ask for help.  From then on, my youngest was graciously strapped to the nanny most of the time and I was able to have hands free for two other boys who liked to dart away.

I was pretty stressed about how Micah would behave during the trip, knowing that triggers for his outbursts include tiredness (how could he not be tired, traveling in a car for 9 hours, getting to bed late in a new environment, walking and sightseeing, pushing past thousands of people….), lack of consistency (every day we visited something different), and hunger (it’s hard to figure out new places and new food, finding food in time before blood sugar crashes, and really, where can you get “chicken nuggets and ketchup” in NY City?).  So the fact that I only had one minor from him when he cut his lip on a water bottle (that he was trying to open with his teeth despite multiple reprimands to “never do that!”) and then again a few minutes later when waiting in the sun in a crowd of hundreds of people trying to get on the ferry leaving the Statue of Liberty island…Wow.  I am impressed with him.

So here’s what I learned from our trip:

  • No matter how impressive the “tourist” sites are in a new city, the most favorite place of all is the local playground.
  • My 3-yr-old will continue to challenge his immune system no matter where we are.  Apparently (according to the nanny), he ran his Hot Wheels pickup truck up and down the benches at the playground, through the sand, across the open rim of a garbage can, and then right into his mouth!
  • Kids six and under have absolutely no concept of how high the Empire State Building is (nor do they care about the history of how it was built), but they sure are impressed by the 10-minute “Sky Movie” ride simulating flying over and around New York City (and bumping into people in Central Park and into a shark in the bay! Who knew there were sharks in the waters of NY City?).
  • Any and all bottles of fluid, no matter how costly (even if $3 for 16 ounces), will be spilled – including red Powerade onto my fresh mozzarella and basil hot Panini sandwich that I was just about to pick up to eat.
  • It is scary to think how easily the one-year-old could fit through the criss-cross wires on the observation deck of the Empire State Building – 86 floors up!
  • It is important to travel with good friends who are comfortable letting each other’s kids take turns having melt-downs….as well as multiple requests to return to the playground.
  • There are a LOT of dogs in New York City and one can get tired of the “can I ask the owner?” question prior to petting each and every one of them.
  • I can see why New York City parents might worry about “nanny stealing” – there was a clear difference in the spectrum of nannies available for observation at the playground.  I wanted to bring one of them home with us!
  • There’s no guarantee of getting good sleep after a long drive. Got home at 1:30 am, tucked in the boys, and my head hit the pillow at 2:00am – and then some alarm on one of my running watches went off at 2:01…. and then the 3-year-old crawled into bed with me at 2:09 after a nightmare…ahhhh!  But the sense of accomplishment this morning made it all worth it.

So, here’s a photo of our “calm and bliss” traveling together…but photos only capture the moments of glory.  This was taken right after Micah’s first melt down and his refusal to accept an ice cream cone.  So I held his which Seth shared with me and his white  T-shirt.  Noah also demolished one but not before it melted into a river dripping down his arms.  Stickiness did not stop him from playing with the “coin” a friend gave him which he dropped over and over, bent down to pick up repetitively, and clearly has his right hand raised, playing with the quarter in his mouth.  Seth was tired of the front pack and being given over to someone “new,” so clung to me.  Micah’s shorts and my pants are red on the front from the Powerade that spilled on my lunch and the backpack holds tiny Statue of Liberty snow globes the boys picked out as souvenirs…among a TON of other heavy stuff.  That’s the story behind this “calm” – and thank goodness there are moments of tenderness like this.  We might even go again some day!