- The Who popped out with a random and detailed memory from Pre-K. Not one I had ever heard, so not one that was recorded or repeated. Just a true, honest memory. This, just hours after having absolutely zero recollection of a movie he watched eight zillion times during the same period. Memories are weird.
- God, I have so much more to talk about and each thing could have its own bulleted post. Politics. Social media. Technology. Working parenthood. Ten years of marriage. Expectations and follow-through and complacency and the new Wawa gas station in my neighborhood.
- I wonder if the local public radio station made its 6pm goal and whether the Astros have it in them to beat the goddamn Yankees.
- These are my big questions.
- It’s raining madly and will rain all night and all day tomorrow. I want to complain about it but I really can’t. Because Harvey. And Irma. But, dammit, I just don’t have the right outerwear for this kind of rain.
- I was a jerk to my kid this afternoon and it took me much too long to apologize. The silver lining of the whole exchange is that I got to witness how good he is at expressing himself and holding his own. I need to do better.
- I spent the evening doing the kind of work that I am really good at but that is super tedious and takes forever. I only got through 12 of the 90-something pages I need to finish by Thursday, which feels impossible because
- Tomorrow is a staff retreat at work, which means I can’t just hunker down and get it done. Which means I’ll be doing it tomorrow night after the retreat and the commute and kid pick-up and back-to-school night.
- I still totally love my job, though. And I have ZERO regrets as my friends begin their teaching years. Seriously zero.
- And speaking of beginnings of years, we have ourselvelves a newly minted third grader. How is it possible that my Who is in his hump-year of elementary school? Wasn’t he just a kindergartener yesterday?
There was a 10-minute period — after 11pm, after the campfire, after we had devoured s’mores enough to hold us until next summer, after we hugged tearful goodbyes and lamented — again — how we live too far away, after we had gotten back to the hotel, after we had gotten into pajamas, after we had exchanged a bunch of angry words over his too-loud whining and my too-stern reprimanding, after we had apologized and hugged, after all of that — there was a 10-minute period in which his stuffed (“She is not stuffed; she’s real!”) dog went missing.
This dog, you have to know, is his sibling, his child, his confidante, his comfort, his best friend, his love, his family. This dog has feelings and thoughts and desires. She is everything he wants her to be, and like the Velveteen Rabbit, she has become Real to The Boy. And to be quite honest, his love for her has made her realish to us, too. Realish enough that in those ten minutes that she was missing, I felt tears well up in my own eyes. The thought of her being alone somewhere in a pile of dirty hotel laundry — the thought of him thinking of her being alone somewhere — brought me real and tangible grief.
We searched together by the light of the phone flashlight in the dark room while my wife slept. Under beds, under pillows, under piles of our own dirty laundry all packed and ready to go home. We pulled back the sheets and covers of both our beds, searched in the bathroom. I even looked in the nightstand drawer and was met with absolute emptiness — not even a bible.
“Please go ask the front desk, Mama,” he pleaded. And then, quietly moaning to himself, “Bella. Where are you?”
After I had walked down to speak to the front desk, after I had determined that there was absolutely nothing to do tonight, after I had firmly demanded that this be handled first thing, after I had come back to the room and had found him asleep in the exact position I had left him, after I sat down at the desk and stared blankly at the closed laptop, after all of that — I turned around to do one more certainly fruitless feel-around at the bottom of the beds.
I found her! Tucked mercifully into a pile of flat sheet excess at the bottom of his rollaway. I fumbled to free her and then roused my boy from sleep because he’d want to know she was with him. A wide smile broke through his grogginess as he embraced her and whispered almost incomprehensibly to her — things about loving her and being so happy she was back.
His ten-minute heartbreak cracked me wide open. A little blue dog and a little sad boy and a late night fraught with goodbyes and the kind of tiredness that comes from jumping on a trampoline in the dark with your cousins — it has cracked all of us wide open.
Tomorrow is Day Three. The third day sitting on the couch all day with the exception of some pacing back and forth every few hours just to move a little. The third day of waiting to heal so that I can feel like the surgery was even worth it. The third day of comparing this surgery to my last two, to childbirth, to recovery from all the illnesses I’ve ever had. The third day of anxiety about steri-strips, about showering, about making it up the stairs. The third day of trying to focus and re-focus my eyes after the anti-nausea patch that they put on me in the OR gave me double vision. The third day of making sure my phone is charged, my sheet is straightened on the couch, my juice is cold.
Day Three of this stuff is always the hardest. I’m the most impatient, the most angry, the most demoralized, the most bitter on the third day. All the anesthesia is fully out of my system and the moment the percocet wears off, it feels like I’ve been repeatedly kicked in the gut and chest. And it all still feels crazy surreal. This wasn’t even remotely on the horizon. It wasn’t even in the back of my head — oh, one of these days I’m going to have to get that appendix out. I never thought that. And now, here we are, day three. Incisions and antibiotics and the lingering sensation that a tube had been shoved down my throat and then violently ripped out.
This is some kind of bullshit.
What I remember from my last abdominal surgery (gallbladder) was that the first two hours of Percocet were bliss and the last two were agony. This abdominal surgery is just the same.
Last time, I had cats I needed to keep off my lap when I got home. This time, it’s a kid and all the flying sports balls.
Last time, it was planned. This time, I drove myself over the ER for a CT scan and ended up staying for three days, leaving one appendix lighter.
I thought emergency appendectomies were for 10-year-olds. It’s apparently also for 43-year-olds. And for the birds. Ow.
- The Who came to work with me today. He was a great cube-mate.
- The Philly double decker bus tour is still interesting, even having done it at least five times.
- It’s hot, but it’s tolerable. Thank you, Universe, for this weekend.
- Tomorrow, Phillies.
- Philly, Philly, Philly, Philly. That’s what you do when you have out-of-town guests.
- We had cheesesteaks for dinner, even.
- The relationship between my nephew and The Who is just a delight to witness.
- Still with the working mom guilt, but getting better. I’ll be happier when he is back in school and the routine is more stable.
- I intended to go to bed at 10, but then I got sucked in by technology.
- The mail chute that leads directly to the post office in my building was one of the highlights of The Who’s day at the office. We didn’t even use it; he just remembered it as being cool.
- I hand-fed him bits of Pirate’s Booty on the bus this afternoon like one would dose a child with medicine. Sometimes, that’s what a snack is with this kid. I think we are all beginning to understand it this way.
It’s hard not to feel like I’m failing at something when my kid behaves in an unattractive way. It’s hard not to fault myself for his shortcomings. It’s hard, in fact, not to see them as shortcomings. I realize that when I’m able to see things neutrally, it gets easier.
I have a kid with some really challenging behaviors. When he is compromised, he is a different person. When he is tired or hungry or overstimulated or struggling with transition, his ability to cope bottoms out. He is not a laid back kid. He’s intense. He has intense feelings, he listens intensely, he thinks hard all the time, he worries. So when he is at all challenged, whatever tiny bit of coping skill he has developed over his short life all but disappears.
And it’s also hard not to compare. Other kids his age can lose a game, get disappointed, and manage chaos with much less fanfare than he. I worry all the time that he is too coddled or too catered to. Worry that he has not had to experience transition or disappointment or chaos enough. And in the moments when he is challenged (which looks so often like whining and complaining and stubbornness and entitlement and brattiness) my embarrassment at what I view as my failure makes me yell at him or threaten him or show frustration, which usually exacerbates it.
“I’m trying as hard as I can!” he will say emphatically — usually through tears. I struggle to understand why, at 8 years old, he can’t just deal with disappointment without whining and crying and carrying on for as long as he does.
It feels like it’s taking me forever to learn him, but maybe I’m starting to get it. Tonight, when he was unable to “be a good sport” as he got further and further behind in a board game, instead of yelling at him, I rubbed his back and told him I understood it was really hard for him. I tried to remember that acknowledging his struggle wasn’t condoning his behavior and also that trying to have a real conversation about it at 7:45pm after an exhausting week of camp and in the middle of his first friend-sleepover wasn’t going to accomplish anything. I suggested putting the game on hold, watching some tv before bed, and then trying it again in the morning, which is when he is historically the most agreeable and rational.
I think, this time, I handled it like a pro. This time, I didn’t ascribe his behavior to my own or his faults. I didn’t worry so much about teaching him a lesson. This time.
But there’s always tomorrow.