This week has been a challenge for us. I’m getting busier and busier and the bump is making me slower and slower. I feel a small distance from Jack and I’m hoping that after next week, as we prep for baby, we can rekindle our close relationship and prepare for numero dos as a family.
Jack is an amazing kid. Everyone thinks that about their child but I can safely say that he’s never had a temper tantrum and he’s 3 and a half. On Thursday, that changed and by Friday, we knew why. As I said, the week has been crazy and I’m usually pretty in tune with Jack and what he is going through but lately we’ve had a disconnect. After my baby shower on Sunday he was coughing but we thought it was because our closest friend’s son, who was with us all weekend, had a cough and like most 3 year olds, was sympathizing. By Monday, it was forgotten and I quickly submerged myself back into the inky black waters of work.
Tuesday was a repeat of Monday. We dropped Jack off at school after playing the peaceful parenting game all morning and trying to negotiate quicker eating, quicker escape routes out the door, and a quick and successful school drop off that has recently become very difficult. For the last several months he’s been asking to stay home from school. I know that he feels our disconnect and he’s panicking. It makes him nervous and with the impending birth of a sibling that will require much of my time, he’s really starting to struggle with being away from me. It also makes peaceful and respectful parenting a complete challenge because I don’t spend enough time with him to encourage our relationship to grow and bond. When I do have him, it’s a flurry of doctor’s appointments and finishing up blog posts with him in tow. This is what happened Wednesday.
Our family circle is very limited and while we do have close friends that would love to help, they all work so that leaves us with about 2 to 3 options when we’re in a pickle and those options are very rare and unlikely to be able to help us during the week. So this week I had to drag poor Jack to a two hour doctor’s appointment in North Austin. We drove 45 minutes to the appointment and then this amazing little boy sat through a 15 minute wait, a 30 minute ultrasound (yes…the entire time – he even held my hand at one point), then another 15 minute wait for our doctor, and finally a half hour doctor chat. He sat through the entire thing, only to end it with getting his little fingers crushed in the door as it closed behind him. All he wanted was for me to carry him. I did, despite the severe back discomfort and the fact that walking has been such a challenge for me lately. I carried that 30 lb boy (thank god he’s light) all the way to our car while he hid in my neck and held on to his bruised fingers.
When I talk about peaceful or respectful parenting it sometimes elicits eye rolls or the idea that Jack walks all over us. This isn’t so. What I’m practicing is the idea that he’s a human, and a brand new one at that with little to no control of what’s going on in his life because I make all of the decisions for him. I want to be calm and patient and show him respect when he does something I feel is wrong by talking him through it or by distracting him instead of yelling, spanking, or timeouts. This has proven to be very effective with Jack but by Wednesday, that little human had been tugged to school when he just wanted to spend time with his mom. He had played outdoors, alone while I worked on my blog and asked several times if I’d play with him to which I had to reply that I was going to finish an assignment then tend to him. He had to sit in a doctor’s office and deal with the agony of a very boring ultrasound for 2 hours only to end up with crushed fingers, and yet he was still going and still a great kid.
Then there was Thursday. Thursday was a train wreck from the beginning. He got to school late, didn’t want to eat breakfast, hardly touched his lunch, did not nap, and by the time I picked him up, his fuse was short. I had a meeting for work but could not attend as we had no sitter and The Dad would be home too late. Instead I thought I’d take him to Wheatsville to get groceries and to check out all the samples, something he and The Dad love. I should have known something was up when he fell asleep on the short trip to the grocery store and woke up red faced and disoriented but like everything lately, I just wanted to get this trip over with and make it home in time to get more work done.
After filling a tiny green grocery basket with several items and cheerfully trying to get through the trip we started loading up the check out belt with our items. Somewhere in the rush, a lady behind us seemed annoyed with us for allowing Jack to add items slowly to the belt. I hate rushing him and since I’ve been rushing him so much lately I just wanted to calmly and peacefully check out and go home but this was not going to happen today. I felt her eyes bore into me and the cashier had the nervous smile of a young person who doesn’t have children. While she wanted to appease us and make sure our trip was good I could tell she also had little patience for the scene that was unfolding. Through a clouded fog of bad judgement on my part I moved our large cart closer to the belt in an effort to help Jack move things along and I ended up crushing his little head between a meta display and our cart. He immediately started crying. He doesn’t usually cry when he gets hurt but I knew that he was deeply sensitive at the moment so one wrong thing would have ignited his reaction. I’m so glad I had the dad with me because he quickly swooped him up and tried to calm him. Big mistake. Jack immediately tried throwing his body out of The Dad’s arms. Something he hadn’t done since he was about a year old. He thrashed and reached for the cart so The Dad let him down but in that instant it also caused the last of his patience and resilience to diminish and he kicked the cart and buckled over in a scream of pure anger and frustration. Again, something we had never seen before.
I’ll admit, I was surprised with my reaction. I was already checking out and could do little so I just stood there and tried to talk to him while The Dad picked him up again. His little body melted into a puddle of submission while simultaneously yelling, “I just want to put the stuff on the belt!” Around us, people looked panicked. The lady behind us had moved on unnoticed and the cashier’s eyes were huge. Apparently, this display of sheer anger wasn’t often displayed at Wheatsville. The Dad came around and helped load bags while carrying Jack. Jack’s screeches could be heard throughout the store. We probably should have been quicker but I was annoyed that everyone was staring at us, the parents, for allowing our child to behave in such a way. Another worker came by and hollered to no one behind us that other lanes were open which confused me because we were already on our way out.
My anger began to boil and I wanted nothing more than to hold my little boy and help make the sobbing go away. We quickly walked to our car and out of the mass of annoyed hipsters and hippies (If you’ve been to Wheastville, you know what I’m talking about) a gentleman in his 50’s walked up to us.
Now being 8 and a half months pregnant, overworked, tired, and swelling in weird parts makes women act kind of funny. As he walked up I immediately wanted to cry with Jack. I could not handle any of this anymore. He walked up and as Jack cried loudly over The Dad’s shoulder the man reached out and touched his little hand. In an attempt to distract him the man turned around and saw two young boys and their mother quickly walking in to the store. He says, “Hey, are those your friends right there? Did you get some shopping done with them?” Jack, confused by the sudden questioning from a stranger, stopped and shook his head no. “I’m just kidding buddy. I know they aren’t your friends. But I bet that made you feel better for a minute. It looks like you’ve had a rough day.” As he said that Jack’s face once again crumpled. A complete stranger understood his plight. My heart dipped and again the guilt set in but also a feeling of being rescued and understood. Here was a complete stranger, doing what we once used to do.
You’ll hear it said over and over again, the village is gone. The friendly person that will happily hold your child while you calm another has become the child sex trafficker. The neighbor that picks your child up from school because you are running late has become the closet pedophile. Not only that but if you ask for help, it’s seen as a weakness. If you bother to have kids you better be ready to deal with them because fewer and fewer people are having children. It isn’t worth it because it isn’t supported and no one wants to help. We waited until our mid 30’s to have children and because of this my family is tired. I’m the youngest of 7 so any help available has come and gone for the oldest that had children two decades ago. I have one parent in a nursing home and the other in her 70’s. Help is scarce.
I want everyone to know, parts of the village are still out there and sometimes they’ll surprise you in the form of a gentleman. As Jack hiccuped his way through the rest of a silly conversation with the man I looked at him and thanked him genuinely and gratefully. I wanted him to know that what he was doing was welcomed and accepted. That he was helping us. We made it to the car in one piece and Jack easily got into his car seat only to proclaim, “I’m not sad anymore.” Someone had understood his plight and that’s all he needed. As parents, we had missed it.
That evening the real problem was revealed. By bedtime, he had a fever of 101 and it was slowly climbing. Again, I felt guilty for not realizing we had been pushing him too much and for too long. His body made the decision for us and we were forced to pause. He stayed home from school Friday and spent the day sleeping, watching his favorite shows which are limited to about 2 hours a week, and eating carbs all day. By Friday evening he was asking for bedtime at 6 and we allowed it. He slept with us most of the night and this morning woke up fever free, cheerful, and playful.
My mom used to say that when we get sick it’s our body telling us we have to slow down. My entire family is comprised of workaholics. We don’t stop until we’re forced to stop. Without The Dad I don’t know that I’d be feeling this healthy at the end of my pregnancy. Yesterday morning he took care of Jack while I rushed around town getting work and more doctor’s appointments out of the way. By the time I got home I had two other assignments to turn in by 3 and my little nugget just laid out on the couch stewing from a fever too high for comfort. Life is funny in that it sometimes throws hints our way and we ignore them. I feel like Jack getting sick and forced to stop is the universe telling me that if I don’t slow down, the consequences will be similar. I can’t afford that right now. I have another little human to guard and take care of in my body and I’m kind of doing a crap job.
This next week is going to be a whirlwind and I will follow through with all of my appointments and work because I have to. After that though, I’ll slow down and spend as much time with Jack and The Dad as I can. I have to relish these moments because they come and go too quickly and life is only going to throw so many hints my way. I also spoke to The Dad and we made a pact to keep up the idea of “The Village” even when we know that to some it might seem uncomfortable or weird that random strangers are willing to carry their crying child. We need to keep the little bit of The Village that still exists, alive.
I hope everyone has an amazing weekend and that reading this novel doesn’t exhaust you. I hope that many of you can relate to this and will also make the promise to continue the village. We have to. I don’t want my children to feel so isolated and alone when they have their own children. Be the village.