I Got Caught...

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This past week, I got caught by Maddy while sitting ON THE COUNTER talking to my Grandmother. Hands on her hips and fierce eyes matching her tone, she thoughtfully reminded me that “MOM! WE DON’T SIT ON THE COUNTER!”. Apologetic, I got off, thanked her for keeping me in line, and finished the conversation with my grandmother on the floor. The dogs were thrilled, and our cat wandered over to take advantage of the newly available real-estate of my lap.

After finishing the phone call, Maddy came over to elaborate on her “catch”. We talked about how we weren’t USUALLY supposed to sit on the counter… but wondered if perhaps we could make an exception for talking on the phone. Although Maddy usually avoids talking on the phone (to anyone) like the plague, she was surprisingly interested and agreed.

Not very long after, Maddy asked if she could sit on the counter and call Nana and Grand-Nana. AMAZING! To date I haven’t been able to encourage her phone conversations to really engage with distant family… but somehow tossing in the opportunity of doing something otherwise contraband was a hit.

Climbing onto the counter and getting comfortable leaning against the fridge, she called and talked to them. A FIRST! A RECORD! 20 minutes later, she was ready to close the call, hop off the counter and resume her antics but the job was done. Somehow, we’ve opened the door - just a hair - to long-distance communication. It just took relaxing one of our rules to do it. Pick your battles perhaps, but the solution to this problem ended up being the novelty of relaxing a rule, rather than strengthening it. How ‘bout that.

ER Visits, Fear and Mommy Guilt

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So.... it has been an interesting past 4 days.

No parent ever looks forward to the day that they make a visit to the emergency room. A traumatizing experience for all, the combination of small faces and big tears pulls even the coldest heart strings. Unfortunately, we had an opportunity to make our debut to the emergency room after Watson took a fall from his second-story bedroom window.

As we were working in the yard, Watson had disappeared inside - nothing new. After finishing his bathroom break, he climbed up onto his window sill to see his football in the yard. Unfortunately, in his search for his football, he pushed too hard on the screen - launching both himself and the screen out the window.  For Better or Worse, I saw it all happen from the corner of the yard. My heart sank, my stomach flipped, and some of my worst fears and visions came to light. We had locked the windows, put on screens, and even structurally blocked access to his window with a cat tree while talking about how the screens were not strong... But these measures, were inherently insufficient. In classic Watson fashion, we needed to test this mom & dad theory out for our-self. 

As I watched him writhe on the ground in pain, wind knocked out of him and aches all over, the reality and guilt started to set in. With Adam out of town, I was on duty. There was no time for self-pitty, reflection or grief - Watson needed my full attention and support NOW. Just time to muscle up, put emotions aside and manage this crisis. Tasking Maddy with a variety of things to get from inside to keep her busy and less-focused on Watson's pain, we started cleaning him up and trying to isolate ailments. A painful shoulder, sore legs, shortness of breath and full dost of adrenaline paired with a bleeding lip and inability to stand was all extremely disconcerting. We quickly made our way to the car, buckling up, and heading in to the dreaded emergency room. With every car bump, Watson winced and I suspected a broken bone was part of the mix. Which bone, where, and whether there were other internal implications to it, I didn't know. All of this I can describe, but what I can't convey, is the overwhelming guilt I felt personally as we drove in. 

I know kids get banged up, learn hard lessons, and need to realize the recourse of their actions. Similarly, I know that parents have a tendency to over-protect kids from learning hard lessons they ultimately need to understand for themselves. But that awareness seemed unhelpful now. Instead I found my head battling itself - guilt vs. awareness. One second I'd come to terms with the reality of hard lessons, and the next second being revisited by doubt, guilt and grief. All of my efforts to be a "good mom" up to this time seemed pointless. If I can't keep him healthy, how am I not failing entirely in this role of motherhood?

Then we got to the emergency room. Checking in, they escalated our case to top priority, and nurses, doctors and equipment appeared from the woodwork to help diagnose the issues at bay. Crowded out of the room, Maddy and I watched from the hall as they scanned Watson looking for punctured organs, neck and head injuries, and broken bones. Cutting off his clothes, putting neck braces around him and checking for serious ailments my guilt soared.  I scrutinized every tone, inflection and facial reaction from nurses and doctors - further compounding the guilt I already felt seeing him - clothes cut off - in the hospital bed.

Over the next couple of hours, they closely monitored and tested to find only a broken collarbone. With deep bruises, they turned him home with just an arm brace and remaining symptoms to keep monitoring. We were lucky - things could have been MUCH worse. But I couldn't help immediately thinking how things could have been MUCH better. If only I hadn't tried to do yard work, if only we had put in heavy-duty screens when we bought the house, if only I hadn't let Watson out of my sight...

It's all ultimately pointless. As babies, you seem to have a more imminent role in keeping them away from these big hard lessons. Survival, right? Keeping them alive is your ultimate job. But as they grow, they NEED to start operating more autonomously - understanding the limitations and implications of the world around them, understanding not just first-order effects but second and third. Without having these crisis situations, their perspective for safety and appreciating boundaries and risks never truly happens. 

Now, I wouldn't recommend or wish this scenario on anyone, obviously. And I'm still not beyond the frustration, guilt and horror. It's horrendous... not to mention embarrassing, frustrating, emotional, sensitive, complicated and socially/ethically polarizing. But it does highlight a couple of really big things I think helpful for y'all. 

1. Parents have underlying fear of these high-risk (high consequence) lessons. Duh. But, in 2018 it's very easy to get carried away with this without it being recognized as a problem. Not letting Watson go inside unattended, putting bars on the windows, or not trusting him to operate autonomously could all have been easily executed prior to this incident to mitigate the effect of the lesson. But then.... chances are... he wouldn't have learned this hard lesson to the same degree. For parents, the key is knowing you have fear of these situations, and similarly knowing it can (and frequently does) change your parenting style. There are a million gadgets, solutions and products to help you diminish this fear - but the core issue you're really trying to solve is your own fear. Once you can label it as such, it's more easy to assess the probability, think through things and better assess a longer-term course of action - not just reactionary.

2. Feeling guilt as a result of your kid learning life lessons is a very real thing. Even in situations where you're not imminently engaged, witnessing and being a part of these lessons is terrible... its incredibly hard NOT to blame yourself. To a degree I still do, but as I watch Watson heal, the guilt dissipates. These lessons are HARD - not just for kids, but possibly harder for parents to watch. But sometimes that's just how they'll learn.

3. Engaging with friends & family following this incident has been... interesting. Although some people took this in stride, others have been quick to judge, morally shun, gossip, or exemplify this incident as cognitive reinforcement for why the world needs to be more "safe". In truth - it's been a roller coaster. Pair this with your own wavering between guilt and strength (while trying to act positive to keep morale up in your kid) and you've got quite the emotional ride. We're forever thankful for our everyone who have been so quick to help out, boost Watson's morale, and help encourage the healing process. These words of encouragement, acts of healing and consolation have really made all the difference. Bringing cookies, coming to visit, making cards, cooking dinner, sending videos, boosting spirits and sharing your time and empathy has meant the world. Thank you all. I forget how important all of this is (and how quickly the judgement can crumble your confidence), but I can definitely say we wouldn't be this far along in the healing process without you.

Something About a Garden...

We had the opportunity to head home this weekend to visit family and return with our grandparents’ piano for our kids to play! Although the trips was planned like a pretty serious coordination gig (bringing a 400lb piano upstairs, loading into a uhaul, driving 200 miles, unloading, and moving into our living room), we had some precious time spent on our home turf. Playing with talking snapdragons, jump ropes and a silly pup who loves anyone throwing her ball, we had a blast. Although, looking at the pictures now it’s easy to see why! Oh it’s a wonderful thing to have kids outside, scouring for bugs, appreciating flowers, being silly in the grass, and climbing trees. I’m ever thankful to have this terrain to do this! Thank you Nana and Tom Tom!

Resiliency Training

When you have it good… You forget how good you have it. Especially when you’re a 4 and 5 year old with a limited perspective of NOT having first order needs met.

That’s why we went for a resilience hike this past weekend. Heading out on a 2000ft incline hike spanning 4 miles, we made it to the base of the saddle with kids. Averaging a record 1mph pace, the trek wasn’t drama free to be sure… but we did it anyways. And the resilience, perseverance and continued determination to “savor the suck” made for a beautiful day of hikes.