Midnight Triage Parenting

It was 12:58am when I heard the knock on my bedroom door. I can tell you this with certainty, because I had to hit the “home” button on my phone so I could have a modicum of light as I navigated the dog-filled carpet from my bed to the door. (Only one dog was nearly stepped on.) It was a rushed walk, as my 10-year-old had informed me through the closed-door that his stomach hurt and he thought he was going to throw up. His younger brother had a bout of tummy unease over the weekend, so this was a legit concern.

As I opened my bedroom door, I found my middle child laying in the fetal position, rocking on the floor. “My stomach hurts. My stomach hurts!” He was wailing. I got him up and told him to head to the bathroom. I feared I knew the next act in this nausea play.

And that’s when I noticed my oldest child’s bedroom door was also open. She looked at me from her bed and cried, “Mom, I don’t feel good. I have ninety-six nine.”

What? My midnight brain has no idea what this means. I have to ask her to explain.

“Ninety six nine!” she sobbed, “on the thermometer! I have a fever!”

Oh. 96.9. Okay, brain, let’s do math in the middle of the night, shall we?(I feel like midnight mental math should be deserving of a cookie or at least a sticker or something.) The average body temperature of a human is 98.6, meaning she does not have a fever.

Here comes the midnight triage parenting. I imagine this scenario is a lot like those scenes in the old TV show, MASH. (Awesome show, by the way, I totally loved it. And, a former boss once referred to me as “Radar,” which I definitely took as a compliment.) In MASH, when a chopper would arrive full of injured soldiers, the doctors and nurses had to decide – who needs the most help at that very moment?

So, there I stood at – let’s go with 1:00 am, since it probably took about two minutes to climb over the dogs, open the door, make out what my child was moaning on the floor and head down the hall. It’s 1:00am and I have not one but two kids now telling me “I don’t feel good!” You know what case made it to the top? The potential vomiter. My 10-year-old son was told to head to the bathroom, while my 14-year-old daughter was told to go to bed. I told her (I hope compassionately) that she did not have a fever and that sleep was her best option. And yes I meant it. And yes, she had to go to bed.

Then, I turned my attention to the 10-year-old, got him calmed down, and what felt like nine years later, back in bed. At that point, I was wide awake. Just me and my mom guilt.

I should have tried to treat my daughter, too.

I should have been nicer. What did I say?

I should have patted her head and told her she’d feel better soon.

I should have offered her a cool rag for her head.

So, instead of slipping back to sleep, I laid there thinking of all the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. And then… I tried to shift my thinking to the fact that I needed to count my blessings. My youngest was feeling better, my middle one was falling asleep and my oldest appeared to already be asleep. And, we can check “first back to school illness” off our list.

When it’s midnight and you’ve just woken up by a sick child, you are forced to make decisions. Those decisions grow exponentially with the number of kids that are awake and needing your attention. And boy can those midnight decisions be difficult!

What about you? What do you do during Midnight Triage Parenting? How do you handle it when more than one is sick?

 

 

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The Quitter’s Curse

I remember distinctly my senior year in high school.  The stress. The classes. The homework. The internship. The paying job. The homework. The college application essays. The scholarship applications. The little sleep. And with all the stress and the attempts to keep my grades up, I was eager to sign up for the easy elective. The slight glimmer of hope in my otherwise busy and stress-filled senior schedule. It was the equivalent of underwater basket weaving. It should have been cake. It was pottery.

Those first few classes seemed easy enough. We sat around the wheels as they spun. Our wet hands clasped around mounds of clay. Forming the grey mess, pulling it higher, slowly, and digging our fingers into the top, stretching out, carefully some piece of art to take form. A vase. A plate. A bowl. A cup. Something beautiful would emerge. Those first few days, we watched as our instructor so gracefully drew his hands up around the wet clay, a masterpiece emerging. Then, mimicking his moves, we tried this ourselves. Small, nervous giggles turned to outright laughter as several of us lost control of the wet canvas, the clay becoming quickly lopsided and flinging violently off our wheels. It was funny. At first.

Soon, the rest of my class was excelling, surpassing my still limited skills. Pottery did not come easy for me. I needed easy. While others finished project after project, lining up their As in the shelves for the kiln, where after they’d color them with beautiful designs, my projects had yet to leave the wheel. Not one.

As the stresses of my senior year weighed me down, the nagging applications constantly whispering a reminder of their incomplete state, I found myself more and more frustrated with the demands of what should have been my Easy A. Pottery was supposed to be my outlet. Something to take away the stresses of my daily life. And yet, here it was, reminding me of everything I couldn’t be. Everything I was not.

Maybe it was a rash decision. Maybe I’d thought it through the way a 17-year-old does. I walked down to the office and demanded to speak to my counselor. I’d never sought him out before, seeing him only in passing in the halls and on the days he’d sign off on my schedule for the semester. But now, here I was in front of him, asking, pleading, demanding that I be transferred out of pottery. I didn’t care what class he transferred me into, I only knew I didn’t want to be in this one for one second longer.

What he said at first surprised me. Like pottery I thought, this too, would be easy. Getting out of a class, something I’d heard of but never tried for my self, seemed like it should be a simple matter of paperwork and my life would get easier before I’d even left his office. But, it wasn’t going to be that easy. “Why?” he’d asked. Why did I want out of the seemingly easiest class the school offered? My response started with logic and soon let way to tears. I couldn’t take it. He gave me the speech I’m sure he’d given hundreds of students before me, the “don’t be a quitter” speech. He told me how quitting was a slippery slope, a dangerous path to allow myself down. He said if it started with pottery, where would it end? What if I quit every time something got hard? This logic only enraged me. I was not a quitter. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing and I just needed to make this one really hard thing go away. After a few more canned speeches, he saw the twitch in my eye – the one that was birthed by late nights, little sleep and a pottery wheel that spun out of control in a way that summed up my teenage existence – he finally conceded. I managed an even easier class – late arrival, followed by helping out in the cleanup of a coffee machine. It was bliss.

Years later, at any given hardship in life – be it work related or a chore I really would rather not do, or even a diet, I would recall his words to me. About how becoming a quitter is a curse you set upon yourself. Tonight, I found myself the one handing out the canned speeches, the monologue of “what kind of life will you lead if you quit everything?” This speech is directed at my 6th grade daughter. Her spinning wheel is sports. She thought they’d be easy. She thought they’d be fun. And now, well, now she wants out.

How easily she must forget, it was just two weeks ago, she begged to quit basketball, just as her team was in the final week of the season. Now, she’s berating me with tales of how boring and hard wrestling is. Wrestling, the sport she begged to join. Just a week into practice, she says it’s too hard. Her coach is too stern. She’s not having fun. “But you made a commitment to your teammates,” I tell her. It is to no avail. She doesn’t care. She just wants to quit.

Speech after speech, question after question, she just pulled the covers higher over her shoulder, and rolled in bed away from me. I wasn’t giving her what she wanted. I told her to think about and I left her room.

I see now what my counselor was warning me about – a life filled with the easy way out. The road most traveled. He didn’t want that for me. And I certainly don’t want that for my daughter.

So, now what? What do I do? Let her quit? Let the quitter’s curse take root in her? I tell her about the scripture I have printed out and taped to my desk, “Do everything you do as if you were doing it for the Lord and not the people.” It has no impact on her. She can see no way of honoring God with her wrestling, just as I could find no way of honoring him with pottery, especially given the amount of profanities that typically streamed from my mouth as the unruly clay would fling off my wheel.

Molding another person’s character is a very difficult task. Lots of people quit that, too. But this is a responsibility that I will not falter on. Of this I am sure. What I don’t know, is what to say or do to convince my daughter that quitting is not an option.

Nowhere to hide

There are times when you just need a second. The times when you want maybe a millisecond to yourself. When you sneak away quietly, thinking no one will notice you are gone. You are wrong.

When you are a mom – they always know.

I thought Mother’s Day would be different. I was wrong.

I snuck away midmorning to use the restroom by myself. With the door shut. Rookie mistake.

As if they knew I was gone without even looking – they sensed the absence of my presence. And then they were on the hunt. My youngest found me within about 30 seconds.

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I have a series of photos like this. It’s very reminiscent of that scene in the movie “Signs” – where the alien sticks its fingers out from under the kitchen door and Mel Gibson’s character cuts them off. Of course, I would never do that to my child! But, a flashback to that creepy scene always seems to happen in moments like that. I was coming right out of the bathroom – I swear!

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever tried to take in a moment of peace and been caught by your children?

 

Two Times Two Equals Four

Four years old is an interesting age. It’s funny, scary, adorable, innocent, silly, frustrating, loving…. need I go on?

My four-year old has had a tumultuous last two 24 hours. He had his belated four-year old check up – which led to some interesting results. The two things he remembered most from that appointment?

“They gave me shots and it hurt and there was lots of blood!” (There really was. I’ve never seen an injection site bleed like that!!!)

AND

“Don’t look at ladies’ boobs. The doctor said they don’t like that.”

Yes, indeed. His pediatrician mentioned – to me – how I should stress to my son that he shouldn’t be checking out the lady parts (which he is prone to). I guess if the doctor says it, it must be true. He’s been pretty good about it today, although he did get sent home from school this morning. Not for cat calling… His legs hurt from all those shots!

You have to love the point-blank nature of the four-year old. My eight year old commented on this the other day – after his little brother was sent to his room, mid-tantrum. He said to me, “Why do they call them ‘Terrible Twos?’ Four is much worse! It’s two times two!” How true is that? I’m thinking of making up T-shirts…

What age have you found to be the most challenging  for kids?

 

 

 

Touchy Feely

So… apparently too much love is a bad thing, at least in some settings.

My three-year old got a “yellow light” in school today. (That’s a bad thing.) The teacher said it was because he was, “having a hard time keeping his hands to himself and not on his friends.” She went on to explain, he wasn’t being aggressive, he just wouldn’t keep his hands to himself. When I asked my little one why he got a “yellow light,” he said it was because he “wasn’t listening.” Not listening and keeping his hands to himself are two different things, I told him. He said he got into trouble because he was “snuggling” his friend. I asked if his friend had asked him to stop snuggling him. He said no. “Snuggling” in our house is a full body cuddle. I guess that’s looked down upon in preschool.

The more I think about this, the more questions I have.

Did he get in trouble because they were supposed to be napping and he wouldn’t stop touching his friend?

Did he get in trouble because he was snuggling another little boy?

Did he get in trouble because his friend didn’t want him touching him?

You see, the more I think about it – the more I wonder what really happened. Since when is cuddling a crime? For most “yellow light” offenses, he has some sort of consequence. But, I just can’t punish him for a simple snuggle.

How would you handle this one?

 

My Kid is Special: Perfect Parent Vision

Have you ever watched that video of the toddler making basket after basket? The kid is a basketball superstar. And he’s still in diapers. How about the five-year old piano prodigy? Then there’s the slew of videos of two-year olds singing the alphabet. YouTube is a great bragging ground for parents wanting to shout from the rooftops (or the security of their own homes) how wonderful their kid is.

So… as one of my friends/readers asks, are we blinded by the talent our kids? Do we over inflate their skills because we’re just too close to the situation?

She gives this example:

“Yesterday my baby hit the button in this little music toy that plays classical music….. I saw her start waving her hand like she was conducting the music ie a musical prodigy in the making…….. When really anyone else might have called it “flailing” or just an involuntary baby movement. I have some other momma friends with kids the same age as mine and they are always saying “so and so is doing this or saying this” then I see the kid do it and think ” really???” LoL
We all say that every child is different, learns at their own pace, blah blah blah but secretly we all want our kid to be better, smarter, faster, then the other kids.”

What do you think? Ever examined a finger painting brought home from preschool and thought you had a little Picasso on your hands? Or did your toddler start singing along with the radio and you just knew she’d be the next Adele? Do we over do it when it comes to our perception of our kids talents?

Who Asked You?! The Woes of Unsolicited Parenting Advice

We’ve all been there. You watch a parent struggling with their unruly kid and you think, “Oh man, you are doing that wrong.” But, at what point should you actually open your mouth and say something, especially if it’s a friend?

A friend recently asked me that question. A friend of her’s asked – openly – what he should do differently to tame his “little monster.”

Friends gave the typical advice:

  • Watch Super Nanny
  • Read “The Strong Willed Child”
  • Use reward charts
  • Be consistent

It was that last piece of advice that seems to be the sticking point with this particular parent. It is apparent that this parent is not sticking to his guns. So, my friend asks, should she be blunt with him and tell him that in order to get his kid to listen and behave, he’s going to have to put more effort in, too?

Luckily, I have some pretty too-the-point blunt brutally-honest friends. One caught me in the act once. I was complaining about how my kids just don’t listen when it’s time to leave. She said, “Well, let’s see… you’ve told them five times that it’s time to go and yet, here you stand, talking to me. If it’s time to go, it’s time to go. YOU need to set the stage and be consistent.” It was a tough thing to hear, but I needed to hear it.

What do you think? When should you speak up and give the parenting advice you know your friends really need to hear?

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