survivingmyboyz

tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

Archive for the tag “parenting”

A son’s pain

As a parent, it is very hard to watch one of your children struggle. You want to somehow fix whatever they are struggling with. While some struggles are good for children to experience and build character, other struggles can feel unnecessary and pull at your heart strings. It is especially hard to watch your child struggle when that struggle is with the relationship with their own dad.
My oldest had a difficult relationship with his dad long before his father and I separated. In fact, I’d say that their relationship began to strain around the time my oldest turned four. I can remember constantly warning my husband that he was going to ruin his relationship with our oldest from early on. He would expect too much of our oldest at an early age, far more than he was developmentally able to handle. My ex expected our son to somehow, be more mature and take on more responsibility because he was the older brother, even though he was only two when he first became an older brother. He was always harsher with our oldest and it was obvious to many who observed them together. It didn’t help that our oldest had behavioral issues and was a lot like his dad.
As my son got older, the relationship between him and his father became more strained. His dad could be very mean to him, yelled at him a lot, and on occasion, would get physically rough with our oldest. When our oldest was about 8 years old, he asked me to write a note to his dad to tell him that he was scared of him. My then husband had a lot of his own issues that spilled over into his relationship with our oldest, who took the brunt of his father’s anger and frustration.
After his dad left the house, my oldest seemed to be more relaxed at home and happy. One day, as we were cleaning out the car, prompted by something my son’s therapist said, I asked my oldest how he felt about his dad not living with us anymore. What my oldest son told me broke my heart in so many ways. He told me that he liked it better because everyone seemed happier and there was less fighting in general in the house. He said that he didn’t really miss his dad because he never really had a good relationship with him and that he really wanted a new, different dad, one who loved him and accepted him for who he is. I sat there next to him, listening stoically, wanting nothing more than to burst into tears at these words. My eleven-year-old son perceived his dad as someone who didn’t love him or support him. He told me he wanted a dad that would play with him and support him and treat him better. How did I ever let things between them get this bad? Why hadn’t these two managed to bond? Why did my son feel so unloved by his own father? I reassured him that his dad did indeed love him, but that sometimes he had a hard time showing it. That didn’t seem to easy my son’s mind.
Yesterday was Father’s Day, the first Father’s Day since my marriage completely fell apart. My children’s father wasn’t sure that he wanted to see them yesterday. I really wanted to hate him for it, but I knew why. Still, I was heartbroken for my boys and decided to not even tell them it was Father’s Day if they weren’t going to get to celebrate with their dad. After some tearful pleading, I convinced their dad to see them for a brief time, knowing my second and fourth child would really want to be with him on this day. What I hadn’t considered was how my oldest would feel about this day in which he was supposed to celebrate the father, who he had a very difficult relationship with. It wasn’t until we reached the restaurant, which we were meeting his dad at, that I realized just how hard it was on my oldest.
My oldest began acting out immediately. He was bothering his brothers and misbehaving, trying to make everyone miserable. Upon looking closer at his behavior, I realized he was feeling miserable and wanted everyone else to feel the way he did. He was angry and confused about his feelings. I asked him about how he was feeling, but he just didn’t know, nor did he know why he was feeling this way. He was visibly upset by the whole situation. After a bit, I pulled him outside to talk about what he might be feeling and why. I talked to him about how I was feeling and reassured him that, even if his dad didn’t know how to show it, he did really love him. I explained to him that, like him, his dad also struggled sometimes. I told him that it was ok to be mad at his dad, and even at me, because I was the one who asked his dad to leave, but what wasn’t ok was how he was dealing with that anger. I told him some ways that I deal with my anger and talked with him about ways that he might want to try to deal with his. In the end, I held him and told him that no matter what, I loved him and would always be there for him. When we were done, we returned to the rest of the family, my oldest son much calmer, but I felt far from calm. My outward appearance may have seemed fine, but inside I was dying. All I wanted to do was go home, lock myself in my room, and sob.
I had to hold back tears as I drove my boys home. I was so heartbroken by the pain that my oldest son was feeling. I was angry and sad and disappointed and was in mama bear mode. I couldn’t protect my son from these feelings or this struggle. I couldn’t take away his pain or change the circumstances. All I could do was be there for my son in his pain and it filled me with pain and sadness.
I don’t know how this story ends. I don’t know what happens from here. I hope and pray that the relationship between my oldest son and his father will be healed eventually, but I honestly don’t know if it will. The only thing that I do know is how painful it is to watch my son experience and navigate his tenuous relationship with his father. This is one struggle that I wish my son did not have.

Advertisements

The curious mind

As I putting my two youngest to bed tonight, we listened to the same collection of music that we have listened to so many nights before to help them drift off to sleep. One of their favorite songs in the collection is “House at a Pooh Corner,” a song I have sung to them and listened to with them since they were babies. They call it the “Winnie the Pooh” song because they know the song is about him, but have never really said much else about it, aside from the fact that they like it. Tonight, however, as my five year old was listening to it for the millionth time as he drifted off into slumber, he suddenly asked, “why?” The question was so out of no where and I thought for sure he was almost asleep, so it took me a moment to understand the question. The lyrics had just sung “Winnie the Pooh doesn’t know what to do, got a honey jar stuck on his nose.” I explained to him that the honey jar was stuck and the the follow up questions began. “Why?” I explained he was trying to eat the honey from the jar. Then came “when? Right now? Is he real?” I looked over and could see by the dim light of the room wheels turning in my littlest one’s brain. Next came questions about bees and honey. It was as though he was listening to the song for the first time, I mean really listening. His little brain was processing all this information and trying to figure out exactly what was going on in this song he had heard so many times before. Then just as suddenly as all the questions started, they stopped. I looked over again and he was passed out asleep, clearly exhausted from his one last burst of curiosity into the world around him. These kids constantly amaze me with the way their minds work and all the connections they are constantly making.

The giant Teddy Bear that ended my marriage

 

Like most people, my wedding day was one of the best days of my life. It was full of hope, magic, and love. My own wedding caused me to cry at all weddings that I attended after that because it brought back the feelings of happiness and love that I felt on that day. Nothing is better than the way you feel on your wedding day. You hope those feeling will last forever. Things change with time, however, and not all marriages last. That is the reality I am currently trying to deal with in my life.

I love my husband, I always have, pretty much since the day I meet him. After 17 years together and 13 years of marriage though, I am no longer in love with my husband. Our years together have not been easy, especially in the last few years. There has been a lot of pain and disappointment that has taken its toll on our marriage. I continued to stick out the relationship for many years, thinking that if I just hung in there and kept loving him that things would change and get better. They never did, at least not for very long. So, when I told my husband last December that I wanted to sperate, it wasn’t me trying to get his attention in a last-ditch effort to save our marriage, it was me telling him that I was finally done with the marriage. The catalyst for this choice all comes down to a giant stuffed bear.

As I said before, things weren’t good for a long time between my husband and I. I had become a single parent despite being married. He was rarely there, and I could never really depend on him. It had gotten to the point where I would just plan life without him and hope that he would choose to show up. It was easier this way, it relieved some of the constant disappointment that I felt. Last December, when I planned a pre-Christmas trip to Portland for the family, I really didn’t expect my husband to join us, but as it got closer, he seemed so excited to go. I began to include him in the plans and the boys were excited to get to spend some time with their dad. However, when the day came to leave for our trip, my husband was not in our car as we pulled out of the driveway. I was sad and disappointed once again, but I was determined to make this an awesome trip with my boys that they would never forget. I think I did just that. They seemed happy and I definitely spoiled them, probably a little too much out of guilt. I figure that kids are resilient and that I’d kept them so busy with fun that their dad not being there wouldn’t affect them much. I was wrong about that though.

While we were I Portland, we visited Santa, and he told me to take the boys to a special toy store to let them pick out anything they wanted from Santa, so we obeyed. My second oldest, who is currently 9, picked out a giant Teddy Bear that was almost as big as him. He was so excited about his Teddy Bear and still sleeps with it in his bed. As we were driving home from Portland, we talked about our favorite parts of the trip and how much fun we had. My 9-year-old commented that he wished his dad had come and that he couldn’t wait to see him when we got home to tell him all about the trip. All the other boys agreed that they had missed their dad and wished that he had joined us on the trip. They were all very excited to see their dad when we got home. After an extra-long weekend away, they were all very eager to get home. My 9-year-old said that all he wanted to do when he got home was to give his dad a big hug with his giant new Teddy Bear and to hold them both. It was such a sweet idea that really showed how much he’d missed his dad. Then we got home.

My husband came down to greet us and help bring in the bags, but within five minutes of us being home, he had returned to his office to play more video games, something he had been doing all weekend long while we were gone. He disappeared into his office for several hours, only reappearing after the two youngest were already sound asleep and I was about to put the two older boys to bed. He didn’t spend anytime with us that evening, he didn’t listen to the stories from our trip, and he didn’t help me bathe or settle children in after a very exhausting weekend. Instead, he did what he always did, he took care of himself and did what he wanted, which didn’t include his family. It broke my heart to know that his boys were so excited to see him and had missed him so much, but that he clearly didn’t feel the same way. I could see the devastation in my 9-year old’s eyes that he didn’t get to share that hug with his day and his giant stuffed Teddy Bear like he had wanted to so badly. That’s when I knew it was time to for things to change and that I finally needed to make the hard call of ending our marriage.

Over the past few years, I felt like my husband was drowning and I was constantly trying to save him, but instead he was pulling me under with him. In those moments, after our Portland trip, I looked around and realized, we weren’t the only two drowning in that pond. Our kids were there too, and they were barely treading water. I knew I had to let my husband go and get my kids and myself back to the safety of the shore. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but I knew it was the right one and felt such relief after I told him.

Now we are in the messy processing of figuring out how to move forward while trying to keep our kids afloat. It is strange that I struggled for so long about what to do with my marriage, how to fix it, and what was best for my kids only to figure out what we all really needed because of a giant Teddy Bear.

And then there were five

I’ve never claimed to be a smart woman and I’m definitely not a sane one, but my heart is bigger than the piles of laundry my kids leave behind for me each week. That’s why when the good lord presented us with the opportunity to expand our family I said yes before ever even asking my husband. I’m just lucky that my husband knows me and loves me anyway, because he fully supported my decision.

It all started a little more than three months ago. I was reading a book called The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands (the words “endless demands” really seemed to sum up my life), when I received an email from a pastor at our church who was looking for some temporary housing for a teenaged boy who was going through the emancipation process. I have always wanted to take in older kids who are aging out or have aged out of foster care and have no family to go to for holidays or to share life celebrations with, but I didn’t expect to do it until my boys were a lot older or possibly out of the house. This opportunity spoke to me though and it was only temporary, so I saw it as God calling me to say yes and make a difference in someone’s life while trying out something I’d thought about doing. I figured we already had 4 boys, what was one more? So I emailed the pastor back and told him our not so ideal situation of too many kids and not enough room, but that we would be happy to help if no one else could. I didn’t really expect that this would work out and hadn’t had time to mention my offer to my husband when I heard back from the pastor the next day that they were happy to take me up on the offer. I was excited, but terrified that my husband would kill me when I told him. You know you’ve found your soul mate though when you tell them about some crazy scheme you’ve committed them to and they just look at you lovingly and say “Ok, I know this is something you’ve always wanted to do.” And with that we welcomed a teenager into our home.

Upon arrive at our home, the goals were to help our new teenager to become emancipated, get a job, and set him up with a place to live. The job thing and emancipation were surprisingly easy, but it isn’t easy to find a place for a 16 year old boy to rent and it become increasingly clear that the bigger problem was that this 16 year old boy wasn’t ready to live on his own. I think the idea of him living on his own really started to scare me when I had to stop him from eating fried chicken that he’d bought half a day earlier and had left out on the counter for multiple hours. I started to picture this boy in his own apartment dead on the floor from food poisoning.  I knew he needed more guidance. Aside from my concern over this boys safety and well being if left on his own, I started to enjoy having him around and really didn’t want him to leave. Behind closed doors, my husband and I would talk about how we really wanted to just keep him. So finally I just asked him if he was happy here and he said yes, so asked if he wanted to stay here and he said yes. I responded “good, you are one of us now.” 

That was more than three months ago and I don’t think any of us regrets the decision. He might not be legally or officially ours, but as far as we are concerned, he is our teenager. So now I have five boys and they continue to keep me as busy and happy as ever.

Mom, her four boys, and the heinous, horrible, no good, very bad day

Of course there is poop on your shorts. Somehow, magically, there is poop on your shorts in my freshly cleaned bathroom, even though you are nearly 7 and haven’t had an accident of any sort in about 4 years. That’s just the kind of day I’m having. The kind of day where everything goes wrong from the moment you wake up. The kind of day in which you question why you had kids, let alone four of them. The kind of day you just want to be over, but everyone refuses to go to sleep despite being beyond tired. The kind of day you want to forget, but feel compelled to write about.

The heinousness of this day had been foreshadowing for at least two days prior to its arrival. That’s not to say that the two days leading up to it were anywhere near as heinous as today was, but it was definitely a “well, what did you expect?! You should have known this was going to happen!” kind of day. I had set my alarm earlish this morning, but it was a rare morning in which the kids didn’t actually both me for the hour leading up to my alarm and I was enjoying a blissful dream in which I had a totally different life, one way less stressful and kidcentric, one in which I actually got to make decisions for myself and eat warm meals. Apparently, immersed in this blissful dream, I’d managed to hit my snooze button not once, but twice, waking me 20 minutes later than I’d planned. I came downstairs to find the mess of toys I’d been yelling about needing to be picked up for two days now, still all over the floor. The boys were in different stages of undress and completely engrossed in a show that had more time left to it than we could sit in watch. They ignored me as I gave them the same two commands over and over while trying to get breakfast made for the four of them (despite the fact that two of them are perfectly capable of making their own). After about the 30th time of being ignored, I flipped the TV off and gave them the same two commands another 30 times. No one was listening and I felt like I was a ghost in the room that they couldn’t see or hear. I had a 10:30 class at the gym this morning and I’d missed every class I tried to get to so far this week because of the kids and last week we were on vacation, so I missed the gym completely, I wasn’t going to miss class today even if I had to leave to kids home to fend for themselves (okay, fine, I couldn’t do that, I’m pretty sure it isn’t legal).  We had about 30 minutes to get those who weren’t dressed yet dressed, brush everyone’s teeth, get the toys picked up enough for the cleaners to come today (yes I have cleaners, I couldn’t possibly keep up with the disastrous mess my four boys make all on my own. Don’t judge!), get four kids and myself fed, load the car for the day, and get out the door. This would be doable if my kids didn’t sabotage my efforts at every turn. There was the kid who didn’t like the breakfast he asked for and wanted something new, that same kid also peed on his shirt while going to the bathroom (personally I’ve never had that problem, but somehow it happened) ,the kid who kept returning to the trampoline to bounce after each toy he picked up, the kid who couldn’t tie his shoes, but wouldn’t wear his flip flops, and the kid who spilled his bag of Kix all over the carpet in front of the door just as I was about to walk out it.

Fortunately, we made it to the gym and I managed to get everyone into day care so that I was only 2 minutes late for class and there was still room in the corner for me to squeeze into class. I thought maybe this meant that my day was going to turn around, but boy was I wrong. After the gym, we had some time to kill before it was our time to swim at the pool. I needed to get the boys lunch, which you’d think would be a nice thing that they’d appreciate, but instead they just whined and complained because two of them wanted Panda Express and two of them wanted Taco Time. I took them to a local sandwich shop I’d been wanting to try. They all whined and complained that they wanted brownies and cookies and chocolate milk. Then the oldest messed with everything he could get his hands on to make a mess while my youngest darted for the open door and attempted to kill himself in the parking lot. We sat outside to eat where it was “too sunny,” “too windy,” and “too cold.” My youngest tried to kill himself in the parking lot again while the older ones chased him and encouraged him to run to his death. There were also food issues, crow issues, and sticky issues. I should’ve just loaded them in the van and taken them home right then, but no, I was determined to make this a better day.

So, stupid me, I took them back to the gym after lunch to get bands so we could swim. I’ve been promising to take them swimming at the gym for two months and we hadn’t gone yet, so today as going to be the day. We had a half hour to kill, so I brought mad libs to do with the boys, only I didn’t have a sharpened pencil with me. So the boys entertained themselves by running around like idiots, climbing on things, and the youngest tried to go up the stairs every time I looked away. When it was finally our time to swim, I told everyone to go to the bathroom before going to the pool. My four year old refused because he had gone after lunch. My two year old attempted to flush himself down the handicap toilet after escaping under the door of the stall I was in. I took the two older boys to do their deep water test so they could go down the water slide and play in the more fun section of the pool. Unfortunately, they wanted to boys to swim a lot further than their swim instructor had made them, so they couldn’t pass the test. I was then informed that you are only allowed to have two kids per adult that are “non-swimmers” and since my older two boys couldn’t pass the test, they really weren’t supposed to let us in the pool (despite the fact that both older boys could touch in all parts of the pool and were going to be required to wear life jackets too – I think it is a racket to get people to sign up for more swim lessons). I must have given her a “you’ve got to be shitting me!” look, so she allowed us to do it just this once, but we had to stay in the toddler section of the pool. Well that went over like a ton of bricks with my older boys who have been eyeing the water slide for two months now. I was instructed to stay within arms-reach of all four boys at all times while in the pool. Let me tell you how easy that wasn’t, especially since I only have two arms. It didn’t help that we had just returned from vacation where the two older boys swam all around the pool at the hotel and went down the waterslide without me needing for be arms-length away. Even my four year old was swimming all around the pool with his life jacket by the end of the trip. So these restrictions naturally lead my oldest to melt down and cry, partly out of frustration and partly out of embarrassment that they didn’t think he was as good a swimmer as we knew him to be (I’m sure he felt disappointed after working so hard at his swim lessons the beginning of the summer too). While he melted down, my two year old decided that he wanted to jump in unassisted, and my four year old decided that he suddenly needed to poop…NOW! I had to get all four boys out of the pool, but couldn’t convince the two older ones to come into the bathroom with me so I told them to wait outside the bathroom and not to go near the water. Of course, none of this was quick enough and my four year old and he crapped himself just before I could get him on the toilet. Luckily, my boys have a fear of wearing swim suits without underwear, so all the crap landed in his underwear, not his bathing suit, so I just threw them out. As I dealt with that crappy situation, my two year old decided that it would be fun to play with the soap dispenser in the bathroom and get it all over himself and wouldn’t stay away from it no matter how many times I pulled him away or yelled at him. When we were finished in the bathroom, I came out to find that my older two hadn’t changed their usual behavior of not listening to me and were in the pool. That was it for me! I told my younger two that they had three minutes and then were out of there, vowing to never bring them back. My oldest ran off to the locker room without his dry clothes, so I had to herd him back out and the three others into a private changing room so I could get them all showered off and changed. That was a fun experience, said no mother ever.

We left the gym all unhappy and angry. I looked at the clock and realized that we still had an hour and a half until the farmer’s market opened and it was too late in the day to drive home without kids falling asleep. I also felt bad that the pool had been such a disaster, so, still determined to turn this day around, I decided to take my kids over to the library for a bit because, you know, that’s where you take four, rowdy, pissed off, tired boys. That went over better than I expected. My oldest was actually good and took a real interest in researching computers and technology, take many books out on the subject. My six year old also found some good books and practiced his reading. I only had to yell at my four year old a handful of times not to run or scream in the library and my two year old only had two or three full on screaming melt downs.

Thinking this might be a turning point, I took the boys to the park for a bit before the farmer’s market opened. I was feeling renewed hope by the time we walked up to the market. “This is it! We are finally going to have the nice day I’ve been striving for all day. We’ll get food, have fun, make good memories that will overshadow the rest of the day, and then head home for an early bedtime.” I mistakenly thought. It quickly became apparent though that these kids desperately needed food because they had only pretend eaten at lunch. So as I waited in line for quesadillas for some of the kids and then walked my six year old to every food stand trying to convince him to pick something, my other kids dug ice cubes out of the drink coolers at the food stands and threw them at people. Once my six year old finally decided to get dumplings (which were only supposed to take 5 minutes, but took 20 to cook), I got my kids seated to eat their quesadillas, only now they all wanted dumplings. As I went back and forth to the various food stands we had bought our food at, picking up the food, my kids sat quietly in the grass. No, that didn’t happen at all. What happened was, they chased each other, threw shoes at each other, and eventually my four year old threw a container of soy sauce at my six year old and got it all in his eye. I’m sure the people who were sitting not so close to us were all thinking that my kids had just escaped from some wild zoo exhibit. My oldest, who ate most of his own quesadilla, then circled the six year old like a vulture once he finally got his dumplings. The cries for dumplings from those who got quesadillas began again, so I ordered more dumplings for them to split. When they were finally finished eating, they all acted surprised and indignant that I wouldn’t let them get some Hawaiian shaved ice, like their shoe and soy sauce throwing behavior shouldn’t be held against them.  Despite everything, I still braved more of the farmer’s market with the goal of being there late enough that it would be okay for the littler ones to fall asleep on the care ride home. So we wandered the venders while the kids touched things they weren’t supposed to, ran off on me, whined more, fought over popcorn (yes I bought more food), and were just generally exhausting and irritating. I knew it was time to go when the two year old melted down for the 97th time that day. We made one last stop at the bathroom, which I had to force my four year old into and good thing too because he clearly needed to pee, braved the gauntlet of the parking lot, and made it to the car. The kids were given strict instructions that it would be a quiet ride home. Knowing I had them all at least temporarily contained, I took the long way hope and silently prayed that at least two would fall asleep and stay asleep once we got home.

Two kids did fall asleep before we got home, but fate was not kind enough to me to allow them to stay asleep for me so we could have an easy bedtime.  Instead, my six year old began talking loudly the minute we got hope and then the UPS truck made a loud noise as it put out a ramp to deliver several packages to a neighbor. I finally managed to get the youngest back to sleep and sneak out of the room so I could deal with the other three, but by then, the other child who was sleeping was awake and hungry. Then the other boys were hungry too despite eating their weight in food from the different food stands at the market! It was as I doled out snacks to those awake that I heard the six year old call me from the bathroom to inform me of the mysterious poop smear on his shorts. At that point I about completely lost it, but I held it together just long enough to herd the boys upstairs and hear the youngest wake up.  Perfect, just perfect!

Parenting my parents

When you are a kid your parents seem invincible. They are like superheroes, always there when you need them, seem to have eyes in the back of their head, have an answer for everything, and are strong enough to help you get through anything life can throw at you. As you get older though, you start to notice the cracks in their armor and begin to realize that your parents are people too. As a teen you might question whether your parents really know what is best and you begin to challenge their authority. When you become a parent, you see your parents in a new light, gaining a new sense of understanding and respect for your parents as well as for all they did for you growing up. Still, your parents seem pretty invincible, like they will always be there. Unfortunately, parents aren’t invincible superheroes and we all learn that at some point. The weight of this truth can feel crushing.

I can still remember the first time I saw my dad as vulnerable. I was in eighth grade, sitting upstairs in my brother’s room attempting to beat one of the early Mario brother games when I heard a strange noise downstairs. My brother and I ran downstairs to the kitchen to find my dad doing something we had never seen before, he was crying. My dad had just learned that his best friend had died of a heart attack and was grieving openly in our kitchen. We had no idea what to do or how to react. Here was our strong, unmovable father, crumpled and heart broken. This was the first time it occurred to me that my dad was human and that he too felt emotions other than joy and anger (the two most commonly expressed by him). It was hard to see and it left me with a deep sadness, but also a new view of my dad.

My view of my dad changed again, many years later, when I was an adult and a parent myself. We were at my grandfather’s wake, my father’s father, and my last living grandparent. I wasn’t super close with my dad’s parent and they had lived very long full lives, so I mostly just felt really sad for my dad because he had lost both of his parents now. The thought that struck me in that moment of standing there, watching my dad grieve again, this time for his own father, was one for panic and sadness. All my life I’d had grandparents around me, growing older, getting sick, and dying, but now there was no longer a generation between my parents and death, they were now the ones that would be getting older, sick, and dying. I felt like a clock had been started, like a countdown to their expiration date. I realized that there was only a finite amount of years left before they would be gone and I’d have to figure out how to live in a world without the two people who had always been a part of my life. This thought formed a pit in my stomach that I pushed deep down inside of me.

Years have passed since my last living grandparent died and my parents have become grandparents several more times since then. There have been health scares with my parents since then, my mom fought breast cancer, dad’s got diabetes and had a pacemaker put in, but nothing that has truly worried us about their age and mortality, until now. At the beginning of this year my dad was diagnosed with esophageal and stomach cancer. He was classified as stage 2-B and had radiation and chemo for a few months. At the beginning of last month he had part of his stomach removed in an attempt to take out whatever cancer was left. He spent two weeks in the hospital and came home on a feeding tube. I flew out to help my mom with caring for him and to give her moral support after he came home. I was able to stay and help out for a week. While I was there they found out that he has been reclassified as stage 3-B and would need to undergo 4 ½ more month of chemo, this time a much heavier duty type of chemo (the killing kind as they call it).

The week I spent at my parent’s house was very different from anything I’d ever experienced, but it seems to be an all too common experience shared by many adults around my age that I know. I was no longer the child my parent’s cared for back for a visit, instead, I had become the care taker. My parents were both in vulnerable positons, my father due to illness and my mother due to stress and exhaustion from caring for my sick father. They both needed me in a way I had never experienced before. My father was physically weak, unable to do much for himself, he was thinner than any recent memory of him, and he expressed his concern over needing more chemo almost the first moment I talked to him. He was not the dad I had known all my life. My mom was emotionally zapped. In the days leading up to my visit, she called multiple times, expressing how anxious she was for me to get there; I felt like the countdown to my arrival couldn’t move fast enough for her. She was so relieved to have help and company when I got there. Her exhaustion showed and the worry was visible on her face. I just hugged her hard and long, wanting to somehow convey that feeling that everything was going to be alright that she used to make me feel during tough situations.

Seeing my father so sick also hit home the mortality of my parents. That pit that first formed at my grandfather’s wake grew larger and began to feel more overwhelming. Despite anything my family may say about my dad and his lack of caring for his own health over the years, no matter how unhealthy or sick he might get, we are not ready to say goodbye to him. Losing a parent just isn’t something I’m ready to deal with yet, I’m not sure I’ll ever be, but it is something we all have to deal with eventually.

As our parents get older our roles tend to switch. We go from our parents caring for us, worrying about our health and safety, and planning for our future, to us being the ones taking caring of our parents in their old age, calling to check-in after ever doctor’s appointment, and worrying about a future without them. We, in a sense, become our parents’ parent.

My dad is doing better now, though still recovering. He recently had his feeding tube out, but is still on a liquid diet and he has been getting out of the house more, though he tires very easily. He has also recently made a decision about his future. After weighing his options and all the possible outcomes with his doctor, my father has made the decision that he will not undergo more chemo. So, like a good parent always does, I am supporting my father’s decision, because I only want what is best for him, but I still worry about his future. For now I will relinquish my role as parent back to him and I pray that we will get many more good years before I have to become my parents’ parent again.

Let’s try this again

Okay, so it has been awhile since I’ve posted and I’ve  totaly slacked off, but raising four boys takes a lot of time and effort and the few hours a day that I’m not doing that, I’m usually sleeping (or trying to). A few months ago, my husband gave me a Surface with a little key board and everything and I thought ” I’m totally going to get back to writing my blog and crank it out with this awesome keyboard!” Except, the Surface doesn’t come with the most important thing I needed, child care. So I wasn’t too successful at getting going on my blog again. I’ve missed writing dearly, just like my sanity, so I decided that, since I can’t do anything to get my sanity back, I’m going to try to get back one of the few hobbies I have and love. I’ve made a New Years resolution (for lack of a better term that doesn’t doom me to failure), I’m going to write at least one blog entry every month (baby steps, I want to succeed after all) and I’m starting with this one.

I figured I should reintroduce myself and update my situation. Hi, I’m Survivingmyboyz (barely). I currently live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband who often widows me for long hours at his big name tech company, our 4 rambunctious boys who are aged 8, 6, 4, and almost 2, and a dog who enjoys eating garbage far more than seems health for any animal other than a goat. I live this way because sanity is over rated.

My youngest was born 9 weeks early and spent 77 days in the NICU, followed by other issues that are all resolved now. He started causing trouble before he was born and hasn’t slowed down since. His main goal in life right now is to fuck up as much shit as he can before bedtime and he is definitely suceeding at that goal.

My four year old has finally successfully potty trained without daily accidents as of last month. I’m so happy. It only took him a year and a half to finally get it, but he no longer stands in front of the toilet and craps his pants as I’m handling raw chicken in attempts to get dinner in the oven. Now if only he would work on his aim, I’m sure my floors, walls, and everything else in the general area of the toilet would appreciate it. Baby steps right?

My six year old is in kindergarten and I’m super proud of how hard he is working and how well he is doing in school. He’s such a sweet, wonderful kid, that I might actually agree to his requests to marry him when he is older. Of course, that is dependent on whether or not he is still most proud of being the best farter  and most gassiest because I kind of feel like a husband should have loftier goals that aren’t related to his farting abilities.

My oldest son is a good kid, but a handful. He is the kid of kid that teachers enjoy when they aren’t in their classroom. If I’d known what we were in for with him, he’d probably have been an only child. However, by the time his true colors shined through, we were already into the making of a third kid, so I just doubled down and went for four. Makes sense right? He was diagnosed with SPD (sensory processing disorder) last summer, so we are learning what the means and how to deal with his issues. It is exhausting dealing with it, but I love him (and not just because I have to).

I spend most of my life running kids where they need to be and arriving late, picking up dirty socks to wash but never pair and put away, making meals that no one will eat, cleaning things that immediately become dirty again, losing my mind in constant chaos, and really enjoy it all (ok, not all, but most of it). 

I guess what I’m saying is, this is why I haven’t written in awhile. But here I am, totally confident that, despite life not getting any easier or slowing down, I’m totally going to be better about writing my blog. I mean, I guess I could always just stay up at night to do my writing like I am now. Besides, five hours of sleep a night was starting feel like too much and I’m sure that just like sanity, sleep is overrated.

a year of health

 

a year ago (2014)

 
A year ago today, I stood in the Children’s Hospital waiting room, a ball of tension and anxiety, and I cried. I cried tears I’d need to cry for months. These weren’t tears of saddeness though, these were tears of joy, and more importantly, relief. We’d had a rough six months. Despite the sun being on the horizon multiple times, it’s rays never seemed to reach us, but that day, the sun finally shone on my family and my sweet littlest boy.

As I stood in that hospital waiting room, preparing for the worst, I heard the doctor speak the words none of us thought we would hear, “it is just a cyst.” And like that, the sun came out, a miracle was grant, and my baby was spared the horrendous picture of his likely future that the doctors had painted. He was healed. It was a night and day difference, like we’d brought in our broken little baby and they had just handed us a brand new healthy one. The docors and nurses couldn’t even believe that it was the same child. Even harder than comprehending the change from the baby who entered to hospital to the baby who left it is comprehending who this child is today compared with a year ago. On occasion, I look back at pictures and videos of my son from the first five months of his life. It is very hard to look at those pictures, but the videos are even worse. I remember his breathing being loud and him struggling with it, but I guess I had forgotten just how bad it was. These videos remind me of just how far he has come and just how lucky I am that he is now healthy. 

This past year has been a year of health for my littlest guy; a year to celebrate. A year ago today he got the all clear from the doctors. Within hours we said goodbye to the feeding tube permanently and he was sucking down bottles faster than I could pump them. It must have been just as amazing to him that he could finally breathe and because of that, he could finally eat and enjoy it. Within a week, he was taking almost all of his milk directly from the breast and within two weeks he had gained almost an entire pound. A month later we got rid of his sleeping wedge and all the equipment for feeding. We began to live normal lives. My littlest guy found his voice (a very loud one), he began eating solid foods, and he had more energy from all the food so he was able to become mobile. Soon he was cruising around the house and into everything he could reach. He was walking just after his first birthday, which he celebrated by eating a giant chunk of cake. Sure there were still reminders of all he’d gone through. There were follow up appointments and multiple shots to prevent RSV, but aside from a nasty stomach bug that hit the whole family, an ear infection, and visit to the ER for a (luckily not broken) finger slammed in the front door, he was healthy and growing. 

Today, my littlest guy still isn’t on the charts for weight, but he certainly eats his fair share. He loves peanutbutter crackers and granola bars and helps himself to them whenever he finds the pantry door left open.  He begrudgingly drinks his milk from a sippy cup, but prefers a lid-free big-kid cup. The same attitude applies to eating in a high-chair versus a normal chair, even more preferred though is to sit directly on the kitchen table, which is where I often find him. If we would let him, he would happily climb up onto the counter or into the sink after eating to clean his own dishes or even assist us in pressing the buttons on the oven to help us prepare the food. He has just changed and grown so much in the past year that it is unbelievable to think that he was that frail, sick little baby a year ago. It is amazing how much of a difference a year of health can make!
 

today (2015)

 

I’m sorry, do I know you?

Have you ever been to a store and pretended that you didn’t know your own kids? That was me today at Costco.

I almost got away with a trip to Costco with just the baby, but I pushed my luck, hoping for a little extra time with my oldest, and convinced him to come. At the last minute my second oldest decided that he would come too. I hadn’t exactly asked him, but I didn’t want him to feel like we were excluding him. I really just wanted to take less kids with me, but I guess technically three out of four kids is less kids. Plus, I thought it might be a good chance for the older two boys to bond more since they will both be going to school together next year. Unfortunately, they bonded in a way I hadn’t really expected.

We started the trip with all three boys in the cart, which I knew wouldn’t last long. I was lucky enough to keep the baby entertained enough to keep him from whining until checkout by giving him a frozen yogurt to make a mess with. The other two, however, found their own form of entertainment and took off running by the time we were past the snack aisles at the front of the store. They devised several games over the course of the trip which included a racing game, chasing game, fighting with bananas and cucumbers game, a rolling on the floor wrestling game, and a punching game. I’m sure there were a few others I didn’t pick up on because once they got to the chasing game I began to pretend I didn’t know them. 

We entered the cold produce area and I began make my way around the square area of vegetables when I heard a mom yell at her child with the dreaded triple name call and scold her for attempting to play chase around and around with my boys who we in full on rambunctious, but not destructive mode. I heard her explain to her child that she was absolutely not allowed to act in such a manner as she looked around for the terrible mother that was doing such a horrible job of being responsible for these out of control children.  I just looked at her, looked at my two boys, and then looked back at my mess, but well behaved baby and pretended like he was the only child I had. I was careful to not yell at the boys until she was well out of earshot so as not to blow my cover. From that point on, I continued to walk through Costco pretending I didn’t know my own children unless one of them was about to run into someone, break something, or they exposed me by addressing me directly.

I really didn’t think I’d spend an afternoon in the same location as my kids pretending I didn’t know them until the were at least Tweens or teenagers and begged me not to acknowledge them so they wouldn’t die of embarrassment. I’m thinking that when the tables are turned, a few years from now, maybe their father and I should run around like idiots as pay back.

Our first Mother’s Day together

Dear Mom with a baby (or babies) in the NICU,

Today is the day in which mothers are doted on by their families. Mom are thanked and loved the way they probably should be everyday. The day is filled with hugs and kisses, cuddles and laughs, hand-made cards and jewelry, flowers and meals cooked by someone else. This is the day moms finally get to relax and enjoy watching their kids be kids, knowing that Dad is on clean up duty. At least that is how today should go, but for you, that is not the case. 

Your day probably looked more like this. You sat in a quiet, sterol room listening to the beeps, buzzs, and whoshes of machines. If you are lucky and your baby is doing well, you got to change a tiny diaper, take baby’s temperature, and enjoy some kangaroo-care with your little one. Maybe today you only got to place a gentle hand through a portal in the isolet for a small amount of time to touch your precious baby and let them know you are there. Maybe today wasn’t even that good of a day and you simply had to watch from outside of the isolet as your tiny little one, attached to a million wires, lay under the blue bili light. Or maybe your day wasn’t  like that at all because, though this might be your first Mother’s Day with your NICU baby, it is not your first Mother’s Day, so you made the painful choice to say home from the hospital today in an attempt to get some much needed rest and spend some time with your other kids. Despite your best intentions, you spent most of the distracted by your guilt over missing a day at the hospital. That choice may have been a hard one, but it was not a selfish one, I know, I made that tough choice last year and spent the whole feeling bad about it, but I’m glad I did.

However you spent this Mother’s Day and whatever mixed emotions you are feeling about this day, just know that you are not alone. Unfortunately, there are many Mamas in the NICU Moms club, the club that no one asks to be in. No two situations are completely the same, but a lot of the experiences and feelings are shared with other members in this club. I was a member last year and it was pure agony, but I wouldn’t change it because it made me stronger and more appreciative. I made it through and so did my little boy. You will also make it through and I pray that your little one(s) will too. Whatever your outcome, on the other side of it, you will find some sense of meaning and peace, though it may take a while.

Today I spent my first Mother’s Day with my littlest guy, after choosing not to spend my Mother’s Day with him last year. The fact that this was my first Mother’s Day with him was not lost on me. I reflexed back on where we were a year ago and what we went through to get to today. Our story last year made our time together today that much sweeter. Sure I was adorned by some of the finest pins and jewelry preschoolers can make, a spectacular breakfast, and I card that I know was a labor of love for my seven year old to write, and I loved it all, but the best present I received today was just the fact that my baby was here with me and I was able to bask in his beautiful smile all day long.

So to you mom’s with little ones in the NICU right now, my message to you this Mother’s Day is this: you aren’t alone no matter how lonely you feel right now. Things are hard, but they will eventually  get easier. Take a little time for yourself every once in a while so you are fresh and present for your baby. And enjoy  any little moments you can get with your precious one. My Mother’s Day wish for you today is, that next year your Mother’s Day will be as wonderful and filled with joy as mine was today.

  

Post Navigation