Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The low point

We've reached what I'm going to call the low point. Claiming a low point is a hopeful, optimistic thing, because it means you think that things are about to get better. And I do.

This happened at exactly this point with Walter, too, right around the 4 week/one month mark. (Documented here.) It must be a thing.  The thing this time around, in brief: I have bronchitis; Sally and Walter seem to be catching it, too; Sean's had to work from home the past couple of days because I've been so sick, but that's not sustainable; so tomorrow it's probably a feverish, coughing Mama and her sweet, coughing, somewhat cranky baby in the house. Yo.

Also, moments after we got home from our visit to Umma and Baba's house, Walter (who, to be fair, was up way past his bedtime and exhausted from the long ride home) grabbed at Sally's face and inadvertabtly scratched her on her cheek. It was a teeny tiny scratch, but it bled a lot. Sean immediately put Walter in his room for a time out and I worked on getting Sally out of her carseat, getting a clean wet washcloth and applying some gentle pressure to stop the bleeding. I make it sound like we were a calm, collected, parenting machine, and we kind of were, but we were also kind of terrified by the whole thing.  I kept repeating to Sally, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" and Sean kept repeating to me "What am I going to say to him? What am I going to say?" While we panicked verbally we acted efficiently: Sean got the Neosporin and I got to nursing, which is all Sally was interested in, anyway. (Sally: "What are you two mumbling about? I haven't nursed in almost 4 hours! I'M HUNGRY! STOP MESSING WITH MY FACE!")

Sean went in to talk with Walter, and the conversation was good and heartening in some ways and frustrating in others, because even our brilliant, unusually empathetic, kindhearted boy has some developmental limits to what he can understand at this point. And there are limits to his self control, even though, for his age, his self control is very good. For every 100 or so perfectly gentle kisses and hugs there seems to be one incident of being too rough.

What can we do? (Seriously ... I'm asking ... What can we do?!?) I think we'll keep doing what we're doing: making sure to give Walter lots of positive attention for all the good things he does, making sure he gets time with each of us everyday without Sally right there, making sure he keeps his routines and some sense of normalcy and also gets to do fun, active things with us.  And we practically overwhelm him with love, too: unconditional and abundant and clearly communicated as can be.

For the vast majority of the time, that's working out really well. And it's apparent in Walter, whose mood is generally good, whose capacity for joy is greater than ever, and who is progressing in his verbal and comprehension skills in ways that are, frankly, mind-blowing.  And he dances! Oh, how he dances. And he loves his family, including "Baby Tally," and lets us know in countless sweet, wonderful ways.

Still, I can't help but reflect on the fact that "first injury caused by sibling" is a milestone I didn't have growing up, and that I wish Sally and Walter didn't have to have, either. I don't want them to be only children.  I just want them to never, never hurt each other. Or anyone else. Ever. Is that too much to ask?

It is. I was an only child; I don't get into many fistfights. But I hurt plenty of people, and got hurt plenty, too. And I was a brilliant, unusually empathetic, kind-hearted kid.

And that's not even taking into account the many bumps, bruises and mishaps that come our way via completely well-meaning hands.  The morning after the scratch incident I was giving Sally her Vitamin D and mis-aimed the dropper, sending it straight down the wrong tube and initiating a fairly terrifying coughing fit. As I called the pediatrician ("Don't worry about it; she's fine.") I reflected that while I'm worried about protecting my infant from my toddler I might also worry about protecting her from me. And those awful liquid vitamins. I'm still working up the courage to try them again.

I don't know if Walter meant well when he scratched Sally (he might have been trying to gently tickle her) or if he meant ill, or if he didn't mean anything by it at all (this last one seems the most likely.)  I do know that my hope is that, when my kids get hurt, they know that they're still safe.  And I hope that, when my kids hurt each other or other kids, they know that they can and should do better than that. And that they're still safe, too ... secure in our love and God's love most of all.

Anyway ... it's been a rough couple of days, and I'm calling it: Low. Point. We're starting the upswing tomorrow, I can feel it.  Here's some recent evidence I've collected:

Walter: Umma is?
Sean: At Umma and Baba's house.
Walter: Baba is?
Sean: At Umma and Baba's house.
Walter: Hankee is?
Sean: At Umma and Baba's house.
Walter: Walter is?
Sean: Where is Walter?
Walter (dramatic flourish): Right here!

Also:  God Bless prayers tonight included "bugs" and "Mama's car." Sean sang the Fozzie casino song from The Muppets and Walter did the back up vocals, including "not RV's" and "no marriage certificate is needed."

When Sean fell asleep in the middle of praying with Walter, Walter pointed it out, and Sean said: "I'm pretty sleepy." Walter said, "I'm pretty sleepy, too" and laid his head down next to his Dad's. 

At the moment that I am writing this, Sean is using an over-sized beach towel as a burp rag, which is not a great thing (it means Sally is spitting up a lot tonight) but it is a very, very funny thing to see.

I just took another dose of Mucinex. 

Things are looking up.


Arden Ashley said...

I think you're doing things right. Kids will accidentally get hurt. I remember my sister and I playing "escape from kidnappers" and her lowering me through a window, tied up with a jumprope. Your post also reminded me of this video I saw recently:

I don't know if it helps -- for me, it helps to get a little picture of how things can be wonderful long-term, even if day-to-day is hard.

Anonymous said...

On the day my childhood best friend brought her daughter home from the hospital her toddler (he had just turned 2) knelt by the car seat and smiled and said "Baby S, I love you, you're pretty." Then leaned over and said "And now I'm going to hit you." He tried to take a swat at her before her mama stepped in. In the ensuing months and weeks there were a handful of "rough" or not quite gentle enough incidences. Most of which were: he honestly didn't realize he was being so rough or he was just completely unaware that he what he was doing was really not the way to treat a little baby. Like your son, O was (still is) very bright, very vocal for being barely 2, very social, and quite reasonable (again for a 2 year old), but there were still some things that were a little beyond his 2 year old comprehension. I'm happy to report I am going to their birthday party tomorrow, they are 6 and 4 years old now and have really always got along beautifully. My girlfriend and her husband are firm, but gentle with them and really stresses how important it is to love your sibling and protect them, etc. You will do the same and your children will share your goodness, kindness, respect, and gentleness (your husband's too). My girlfriend said the most difficult thing was admonishing O for harming S or being too rough with her. She was the first of our circle of friends to have 2 children, so she has helped the others navigate this well. Another of our friends had twins, prior to S being born, but it is a different dynamic; I'm a twin myself, so it is different when you come into the world and your house together. You know from the moment of conception you are sharing Mom and Dad! :) Feel better and while I don't have kids so I am really in no place to say this, but keep up the good work! I love reading your posts and I would hope someday if I am a parent I will parent as earnestly (prayerfully)and intentionally as you and your husband are!

Pastor Annie said...

Arden and Anonymous, you both made me cry (in a good way!) Thank you for your kind and thoughtful messages. You are part of the upswing!

3d8th said...

You do realize that to and Sean are one of my parenting role models right? Purely for the fact that you are so good and loving and honest about the experience. Speaking as a little sister... they will fight, they will hurt one another, but they will love one another more than they will ever be able to express. I know Kane' injured me, sometimes purposefully, sometimes accidentally. But I don't remember many incidences. However, one of my most treasured possessions is a tape recording of 5 year old Kane' reading me a my little pony book, complete with him whinnying like a pony to indicate it was time to turn the page. Brothers (and sisters, I assume) are you first and best friends and your first and worst enemy, and to love them through all of it. And for me all I wanted was for my big brother to love me and be proud of me. And he does. Walter and Sally are the best gifts to one another that a parent could ever give. Sally won't remember being scratched by her brother, Walter won't remember hurting Sally; but they will both remember how much they love each other. You are doing great with them. Keep up the good work!