Friday, April 13, 2012

When All Hell Breaks Loose, or It's OK To Ask For Help

Dogs that are trained for military or police work are often trained with hand and vocal signals.  The theory is that if you are working with your dog at a long distance, or are in a dangerous situation and cannot use a vocal command, then the dog can still follow commands given with a hand signal.  When the shit is hitting the fan, you can still maintain some control over your dog.  Theoretically.  In reality, it is best to have a back-up in place.

Sometimes I think of parenting the same way: you want your parenting to be multi-pronged and have multiple lines of communication to your children.  You want conversations to be logical and consistent so that they become deeply ingrained.  So that when all hell breaks loose you can ask your child to do something and they will remember the conversation and help you out by respecting you.  So that they will not hit you while you are throwing up or steal grapes from you when you are too weak to resist their freakish toddler strength.

And when that fails, you need to be strong enough to ask for help.

I was pondering the theory of this approach to training/ parenting on Tuesday morning, when I woke up with the stomach flu that has been circulating and re-circulating in Rochester for about two months now.  I thought we lucked out when we missed it the last couple of times our friends came down with it.  I thought my regime of retreating into our home like hermits for a few days until the danger passed had paid off, and that we were in the clear.  Instead, the bug just waited around until I was lulled into a false sense of security, and then it struck.

Well, either that, or it was just food poisoning (not pregnancy), since neither Don nor Lucy got sick.  In any case, I will not be eating eggplant parmesan or pesto sauce for a long time.  A really, really long time.

I knew things were going to be bad when I got out of bed to throw up around 6am.  Don had to leave early for a meeting before his conference, and I thought I would have until 7:30am or so to wallow in misery until Lucy got up.  Of course, as soon as Don walked out the door at 6:40am I heard the gentle, lilting strains of Lucy beckoning to me from her room.  “Mama.  MAMA!  MAMA!!  MOMMY!!  I WAKE UP!!  I CLIMBING OUT NOW!!!”  In order to prevent any immediate injuries I stumbled my way to her room, heaved her up, and enticed her into my bed with promises of a video and some snuggles.  Please, child, just sit quietly and rot your brain so I can lay down and pretend that my stomach isn’t tying itself into a Gordian knot.  And while you are about it, can you climb onto the bed yourself, because I suddenly find that I can’t really lift you again, per se.

I stopped feeling guilty about that about twenty minutes later when the fascinating story of Little Bear and his Birthday Soup kept Lucy abed while I pondered some more philosophical lines of thought in the bathroom.  I climbed back in bed, teeth brushed and face washed, again, hoping for another thirty minutes of TV coma bliss when suddenly Lucy did a complicated break dance maneuver on my stomach announcing “I’m all done!  I’m hungry!”

Oh God.  I have to feed you.  Food.  That is a hideous thought.

“OK my love.  Ok.  Cereal it is.”

I made the trek down the one flight of stairs and somehow hoist her into her high chair, pour her a bowl of cereal, throw her some grapes, slosh in some milk and pull her into the living room so she can eat while watching me lie on the couch.  Lucy, thank God, thinks this is a hilarious game.  Breakfast in the living room?  Now that’s fine dining!  The high chair, I have learned, also makes a fine child restraint device should you need to throw up during a meal.  However, you must learn to give answers to frequent inquiries of “Whatcha doin’ mama??!!  Whatcha doin’?!” while retching.  I have found that it’s best to respond quickly in between heaves.  If you wait too long, say until you are washed up, then your child will become hysterical and try to claw their way out of the high chair to check on you, and this is not good.

After breakfast was over, I gave her a cleaning with a wet nap, and enticed her into the guest room to watch Ratatouille with me so I could lay down again, laying down seeming to be the position that offered the least amount of offense to my stomach.  At this point I felt a lot like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, but with TV and videos instead of candy.  Come here little girl…watch my TV!  Or maybe it was because I was wearing the loosest pajamas I could find so nothing touched my stomach, my hair was doing a really respectable cat lady from the Simpson impersonation, and I generally was giving off an evil witch vibe.  The Ratatouille ploy worked for about…20 minutes.  Lucy is not the kind of kid who is able to sit still for very long.  I suppose this is a good thing, and means she will not fall into the evil abyss of network television worship as she grows older just out of sheer physical need to move, but at this point it was proving a challenge to me.  Especially as she demonstrated her need to move by performing more break-dance moves on my stomach and then sitting full on my stomach to look at my face in concern when I groaned in pain.

I thought briefly about just letting her go play by herself, but then remembering her new tendency toward jumping off of furniture, I followed her into the living room.  I set her loose at her play table to engage in a stamp/marker frenzy, keeping some grapes at hand in case she got peckish so I didn’t have to get up again.  I tucked myself into the couch with a blanket, and commenced watching Lucy play while pretending I wasn’t about to throw up again.

This is the point in the day; the point in your illness, when those conversations you have with your child really come into play.  This is the point where your past performance as a parent is tested…and unfortunately it was the point where mine was found wanting.  It came for me when Lucy asked me for some grapes.  “Sure, here they are!  Let me break off a few for you and you can carry them back to your table…no Lu, not the whole bag, just take this bunch here.  No, Lucy not the whole bag.  If you get hungry for more you can come back and I will give you more, but just take this bunch for now…no, sweetheart I said not the whole bag please, you can leave it right here.  Here is a bunch for you.  Lucy.  Lucy, please listen to me…Lucy you can have this bunch now, and…Lucy.  Lucy you can…Lucy.  Lucy, please…oh God.  Lucy stop pulling…Lucy!  Lucy Jane!!  Oh God.  Fine.  Take the bag.  Just take it.  God, help me.”

I will spare you Lucy’s part in that conversation, but suffice it to say that the words “need,” “NO,” “mine,” and “Ahhhhhh Ahhhh whaaaaa!” occurred with nauseating repetition.  I can say nauseating with a certain amount of authority, because I was in fact getting more and more nauseous throughout the exchange.

This was also the point in the day when I realized I could not do this by myself for another three hours until Don got home from conference.  This was not an easy realization to come to, as you will see in the text conversation depicted below.  As a stay at home wife and mother, and especially one to a doctor, I feel a lot of expectation to deal with things by myself.  Not by my husband, or by my friends, who are mostly also stay at home wives or mothers.  By the nefarious, proverbial, ethereal they.  I stay at home all day, with just one child.  What else do I have to do with my time but keep the house clean, cook gourmet meals, keep fit, teach our child how to be a model human being, and deal with any accidents or other circumstances that arise?  Not a damn thing, apparently.  And what is an illness other than an extenuating circumstance?  The house is full of toys and games and videos.  There is a park right outside.  I can surely take care of one child for a few hours even when I am not feeling well.  I do NOT need any help.

That is the mentality I was battling against while my daughter was pulling at me with one hand to come help her color, stuffing grapes into her mouth with the other hand, and I was contemplating whether I could make it to the bathroom again or would need to throw up into the kitchen sink.  OK.  Maybe I could ask for a little help.  Not too much.  And certainly not if it would, you know, put anyone out or inconvenience anyone.

My friends were either sick, out of town, or already at a play date that we had had to miss.  I did not have the strength to drive Lucy to the backup childcare center, even if they did have such a last minute opening.  I needed to see if the heavy artillery was available.  I needed Don.  

So I asked my beloved for help in the straight forward, confident manner any resident’s wife would ask.  I texted him:
            How late does your conference go today?
                        Noon thirty.
            Oh.  Ok.
                        U any better?  Need me home?
No.  Just really nauseated with stomach cramps all the time.  Is conference important?
I can leave, get Lu and come back if you need me to.  There is a break soon.  Just let me know what you need.
I feel terrible asking you to leave.  I just think I need help.  She doesn’t want to watch any more videos, she stole grapes, and she keeps stepping on my stomach.  And we’re out of milk.
            But if it’s important I can deal.  I am tough.
                        Just say the word and I’ll come home.
            Please help me.  Come home at the break.
                        On my way.

Note: it took me 20 minutes from the first text to actually ask him to come home and help.  And I didn’t even come out and say it directly, I pretended like I was just checking to see if he was available.  Lame.  When you are too weak to prevent your toddler from physically taking a bag of grapes from you, ask someone for help, because you need to lie down.

Thank God.  Reinforcements.  And it was only 9:30am.  Suddenly, the joy I felt at the possibility of a reprieve was stunted by a wave of hideous, gut churning nausea.  Oh God.  “OK, stay here and color something for me Lu, I will be right back.  I need some personal space in the bathroom.”  I was sure this would work.  We have been working a lot on the whole “personal space” concept, because Lucy keeps trying to follow people into the bathroom, or climb into my lap in the bathroom, or generally be unaware that the bathroom is a place where people need personal space and not a place to cuddle or play.

This is where we met the second failure of the day, as Lucy came skipping along after me into the bathroom asking in sing song if I was going to pee pee and would I get a jelly bean.  I had a stroke of genius then.  “Lucy, I am going to give you a jelly bean, and I would like you to go get Green Eggs and Ham, and read it on your chair in the living room.  Alright?” I clung to this idea desperately as I fished several jelly beans out of our potty training jelly bean stash.  This idea was met with absolutely ecstasy by Lucy, who took the jelly beans and ran from the bathroom.  I then closed the door, and proceeded to attend to more pressing matters.

One minute later, mid heave, I feel a small book sized missile strike my back with the force only a toddler on a sugar high can muster.  “Back away!” I gasp, “personal…….space!”  Lucy retreats exactly six inches away from me to sit on her training potty, and watch me throw up, which is the most insanely hilarious thing she has ever witnessed.  So hilarious, in fact, that her maniacal laughter is not an adequate expression of how funny she finds me at this moment, so to punctuate her laughter she returns to my side to strike me with her Dr. Seuss every few moments.  She only pauses to scream at Boss to back away and stop licking her, which he is not doing intentionally.  He is just accidentally licking her because her arm occasionally gets in the way of him licking me when she hits me.  I am completely helpless to resist either attack.

This is the state in which my husband finds me, two minutes later.  Collapsed into the toilet, struggling to breathe, besieged by a toddler and a Labrador.  I have to say, had I designed the tableau myself, I could not have arranged a more pathetic picture more worthy of saving.

“Whoa, whoa.  Come here Lucy.  OK.  Love, do you need me to stay and take care of you, or just get Lucy out of here so you can rest?”

“Just.  Need to rest.”

“OK.  I am going to take Lucy to conference, and I will be back.  With some medicine.  Apparently this is going around and everyone either had had it, or has it now, but it passes pretty quickly ok?  Just get some rest love.”  Don made sure I was washed up and tucked into bed before he took Lucy back to his morning conference with him.

So, when all hell breaks loose, and your multiple lines of communication and training and preparation all break down, don’t dilly dally or let your children assault you while you are too weak to resist them.  Call in your back-up.  Just ask for help!  My lady back-ups were all out of commission that day, but thank God my super back-up was available.  And double thank God he is a super awesome doctor, because he came back two hours later with Gatorade, crackers, milk, and anti-nausea medication.

Note: since Tuesday Lucy and I have had many, many conversations about personal space, feeling sick, sharing, and hitting with books.  I only hope that I won’t have to test this training out again for a very long time.

1 comment:

  1. Crystal,
    I love reading your blogs! You are such a talented writer and your blogs bring back memories of being a stay at home mom. One time I was not feeling well and put the boys in front of a video to have private time in the bathroom. They were old enough to trust alone for a few minutes so I locked the bathroom door. Two minutes later I hear the kitchen chair being pushed to the door and Sean's sweet voice telling his brother that the key on the nail outside the bathroom unlocks the door. Needless to say, my private time lasted 5 minutes tops! You are an amazing mom and Don is an amazing dad and Lucy will grow up to be an amazing woman! Hang in there!