The old saying goes…

Back home we have a saying “a quien no le gusta el caldo, que le den dos tazas.”  Loose translation: whoever doesn’t like broth gets two cups.  That having been said, I’m not good with children; I am good with MY children, but that’s because I’ve been instrumental in raising them and I can vouch for their manners, the way they behave and I have the power to give them the “mommy glare.”  Having said this, I spent all day yesterday surrounded by other people’s children…oodles and oodles of them.

Have I mentioned that these children, for some strange reason, LIKE me?  Yes, I am completely stumped as to why, but there you have it…they like me.  They want to come to my house, spend time with me…it’s baffling.  J thinks it’s funny as he sits on the couch and observes the goings-on from a distance.  “Don’t look at me, lady.  They’re obviously not here for me!,” he seems to say, and he smiles like the cat who swallowed the canary…

I was doing one favor.  I ended up doing several.  A one-child situation expanded to (at one given moment) a five-child situation.  These are not the kind of children who sit idly and watch the clock tick…these kids are the kind that run all over the neighborhood playing highly-imaginative games and have so much energy that I’m pretty sure they’re asleep by eight o’clock.  TGG was like that; TGG plays with them and he, too, ends up ready for bed at an early hour.  These kids actually run, jump, leap, bounce, chase, climb…

I was like that as a child.  If you ever see my knees you will be sure that I was anything but a sit-down-and-be-quiet kind of girl.  I have what we like to refer to as Franken-knees, criss-crossed with scars so old that you’d think I don’t remember how I got each and every one of them.  I do.  Some of them were pretty mild accidents.  Others were so spectacular that there’s a long, convoluted, exciting story behind them.  Both sorts of stories end with “and then they took out the iodine spray.”  That I have aged to be the person who has on-hand a lifetime supply of antibiotic ointment, assorted bandages, isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, etc., etc., etc. is not surprising…the moment TGG was born and I saw him vigorously pee on the obstetrician I was sure I’d spend a lot of time mending him.  I wasn’t wrong.

But, again, the only children I’m good with are my sons.  My nieces and nephews never really had a chance to experience me as an aunt.  They either lived too far or they preferred my more outgoing sister.  I couldn’t compete with her bubbly disposition because I was more of a “hey, wanna play pirates?” as opposed to “hey, here’s an action figure.”  I never have done the baby-talk thing; I’m famous for talking to children like they’re capable of understanding complex concepts, and I don’t do the diminutive thing “do you want a bookie?  Do you like your blankie?”  I might refer to things as blankies and such, but I don’t do the sing-song thing unless I’m trying to make TGG laugh his head off.

I was never Mommy.  I’m not even Mom.  The children (yes, even J) call me by my name.  My mother was horrified by this and she tried to correct it, but the kids have done it for so long that to them my name is more an affectionate term than a title.  I get Mothers’ Day e-mail from TGG where he expresses how much he loves “his L—” or J writes (with someone’s supervision, of course,) Happy L—‘s Day.  This is such a deeply ingrained thing that if TGG is ever in trouble, he is to call us and say “Mom, Dad…” and we’ll call 9-1-1.  That’s our “secret code” for trouble…parental titles…

Anyway…I was kid-sitting and I kept my young charge occupied by putting together a puzzle (Disney Princesses,) doing dishes, baking scones, coloring with crayons and doing a couple of crafts.  I also sat through Team Oomisomething, Victorious and then we went outside.  J, smiling like the Cheshire Cat throughout, came in and out of the room, asked for his snacks, interacted briefly with our guest, and then proceeded to observe the activities from the safe haven of the couch.  The kids (who are like nuts and bolts to a magnet) started gathering on our deck and ended up in our dining room, quietly working on some crafts.  The dining room floor was littered with plastic guns, Ninja swords, and so forth…

I mediated three arguments that started with the expression “shut up!”  I called everyone by their full first name, and asked the guilty parties to sit with me for a moment.  There were tears.  There were apologies.  There were moments when I wondered WHY I was in charge of the kids.  When TGG and my husband came home at five, they were greeted by what my husband now calls Troop 466.  Many years ago he was a member of Pack 466 with the Cub Scouts; he claims they ate a lot of Oreos and watched Batman on TV.  The man doesn’t know one single complex knot, but he speaks wistfully of those days sitting in someone’s basement with legs dangling from the couch.

This morning the doorbell rang while I was putting groceries away and my husband went to answer it; he then came downstairs and said “a deputation representing Troop 466 has come to ask if you will be available to play later.”  He was in earnest.  I bit my tongue.  He thinks this is funny because he knows I’m not good with children.  I told him to convey my regrets and that I had many errands to run.  The kids, or so I’ve been told, slunk away looking depressed.  TGG thinks this is hilarious; he says I’m stealing his friends.  I told him if he doesn’t quit joking about this I will scratch his car as soon as he brings it from the lot next Saturday…

I didn’t get two cups.  I got a whole stock pot.  It is official: I am the cranky lady that the kids love to hang out with for some strange reason.  Mothers of the neighborhood rejoice!

Go forth, my children…and, please, come back in one piece…

I am going to try humor here, but I don’t know if I have it in me today.  If you’ve read the news you might have heard about Stuart Chaifetz putting a wire on his autistic child and discovering how the boy was being treated at school.  If you haven’t read the story, here is the link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/stuart-chaifetz-father-wire-son-records-teacher-abuse_n_1447330.html

Of all the things we do day after day, the -quite possibly- most difficult one is sending J out into the Big Bad World.  This is an exercise in trust; we trust that J will meet with kind, or at least not horrible, people out there.  The same can be said of parents of neuro-typical children, and there is always the concern that a “normal” (I hate that word) child will be bullied or mistreated and won’t speak about it out of fear.  When your child cannot communicate effectively the sinking feeling can be similar to Indiana Jones’ when he discovers the Well of Souls is full of, of all things, snakes!

The general idea is to send our children (neuro-typical and not) into the world and let them learn to fend for themselves.  This, preferably, happens in phases and not all in one day.  You don’t want to send your kid out to kindergarten and have him return with a pack of cigarettes, a condom in his wallet, a mental map of the “bad” neighborhoods and how to avoid them, cussing like a sailor (or a Catholic school girl,) and saying things like “we’re all gonna die, man!  We live to die…it’s all bleak!”  You want them to learn, little by little, that the courtesies, rules, regulations, negotiations and lines-in-the-sand they’ve been introduced to at home apply elsewhere.

That our children cannot always be within the protective embrace of our love and acceptance is obvious.  At one point or another the children have to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world, which may or may not be prepared to deal with them, and -possibly much to our chagrin- we have to learn to let go.  With TGG I had the option of asking how his day went and hoping he’d talk about it.  With J I’ve been flying blind for a long time…

A few years back, when J started behaving erratically, we had our concerns about what went on at school.  His one-on-one aide wasn’t formally trained to work with developmentally-disabled individuals, but the school thought it was a good fit and we trusted that they were right.  In hindsight, we were pretty stupid.  The person in question ultimately did more damage than good and manipulated J and us in ways that now make us feel ashamed for the time we lost in the process.  We don’t think she was evil, but we think she knew she was getting away with a lot, and she was looking out for herself first and foremost.

Since we are not in the habit of placing blame to make ourselves feel better or to remove any responsibility from our own shoulder, I will admit -hand over heart- that we unintentionally engaged in lazy parenting and allowed the co-dependence between J and this person to escalate until we realized that it was more noxious than we suspected originally.  By then, when we tried to pull back and redirect, a point had been reached where drastic measures were absolutely necessary, a crisis had to ensue and we had to, ultimately, resolve it…and we have.  WE had to learn the lesson, and WE had to mature beyond the point we had reached…for J’s good, WE had to take the bull (in this case, flower-loving, gentle until riled up Ferdinand the Bull.)

Stories like the Chaifetz’s make us realize how lucky and how foolish we have been; trust is a necessity that is forced upon us because, as parents, it is part of our role, but at one point we were so trusting that we didn’t realize our son was conflicted because someone was taking advantage of his affection.  We were involved parents, but we were too trusting in all the wrong ways, and we were -ultimately- responsible for our child’s situation at school.

Fast-forward to now: we still are the same parents who want to help and participate, but we hold ourselves even more accountable for what goes on in J’s life outside of this house.  Every time we start to work with a new team, I put in writing what I know J can do, what I expect him to achieve and what I’m willing to do to achieve this; the whole team at school gets a copy and when we go into IEP all my concerns have been addressed.  I don’t leave everything to the school, and the school staff know it and feel they can come to me with any concerns they have.  Our comm book goes back and forth every day, and I am on everyone’s speed-dial.

But I still have to trust that J is holding up ok when he’s away from home, and I have to learn to be ready for whatever develops.  Have you ever tried to be ready for whatever develops when the questions marks are more abundant than any other punctuation?  Yeah…I feel like that.  My father teaches all the kids in the family to play chess when they’re about five years old; he puts emphasis on thinking of all the possible scenarios.  The clue, he tells us all, is to take the time to think, to anticipate but wisely…I feel like I’m playing chess every single day.  Of course, there are times when it feels more like I’m playing the chess version that C3PO and Chewbacca are playing in Star Wars.  Yes, I hear a voice that says “let the Wookie win” in my head.

As the family van pulls out of the garage and I wave J goodbye, I always say a quiet prayer.  It is not particularly reverent, but it’s heartfelt: please, please, please God…don’t let this be a fucked-up day.   Mind you, it’s ok if it’s a bad day, a difficult day, a moody-J day, an exhausting day, a complicated day, a busy day.  I just don’t want it to be fucked-up because that would mean that something has gone beyond what we (meaning J and us) can properly handle in the short-term.  I say the same when anyone leaves the house and I won’t see them for hours…

The people I send out are not perfect, of course, but the one-piece I want back is both physical and emotional…it’s not about having a perfect life; it’s about having the life that is perfect for each of us within what is possible, and that means *sigh* “letting the Wookie win” from time to time, but not ALL the time.

Mr. Chaifetz, I think, knows exactly what I mean.

Please pardon the interruption…

I am trying to understand why our smoke detector sounds like a sex kitten.  No, we didn’t have a fire.  We did, however, have one of those in-hindsight-it’s-funny incidents when all NINE smoke detectors went off screeching and beeping loudly until we managed to disable them.  In the middle of all the attention-getting noise, the running around and climbing on things to reach the equipment, the keeping J focused and calm while we figured this out, a Marilyn-Monroe-like voice whispered seductively: “Fire!!!  Fire!!!  Fire!!!”  The only thing missing was the pink strapless gown and all the male back-up dancers.

We fried fish.  We had turned off the stove.  There was NO SMOKE anywhere in the house.  J had gone downstairs to watch TV and TGG was trying to sleep because it was a day of constant interruptions and he had the 10:45 P.M. shift.  And no sooner had my husband and I settled in to enjoy our fish…

I’ve had military training.  Believe me, it kicks in rather quickly.  My kids are well aware of what’s next, and everyone gathered for a headcount.  Since there was no fire…or smoke…or even warmth in the whole house, we opened doors and windows, turned on fans and worked our way around the house trying to turn off the smoke detectors.  J, squinting while he covered his ears, but impressively calm, stood in the dining room waiting for the traumatic experience to be over.

We’ve had fire before.  A few years back, the apartment next to ours caught fire and J and I were alone at home.  This was…oh..ten years ago?  He was easy to carry then, and I dashed out the door without once thinking about anything else.  TGG was at school, my husband was at work and J had come home early because he was upset over other kids in class doing the “autistic dolphin screech.”  That’s what we call the high-pitched squeal that one of his classmates made…like Daryl Hannah trying to say her name in Splash; once he started -much like the smoke detector- it became a chain reaction of dolphin-screeching that hurt J’s ears.  We’d been home for about twenty minutes (long enough for my child to disrobe and get comfortable) when someone ran by yelling -in a most non-Marilyn-Monroe-like way- FIRE!  FIRE!  FIRE!  The appearance of large, bright, rather sudden flames through the neighbors’ bedroom window as I looked out of mine proved that action was necessary.

While, on that occasion, we stayed behind and dealt with smoke and the stench of charred wood, the neighbors moved away.  As it turned out, the fire had started PRECISELY in the corner where the rent money due mere days later had been stored.  Go figure!  The way the tenants emoted in front of their burning unit (which was curiously devoid of all valuables, pets and humans at the time this happened) and announced that the very corner where their cash rent money was stored was where the fire started, we always refer to this as The Fire Started By the Self-Immolating Rent Money.  We were grateful it happened during the day, and that the only thing we lost was our ability to breathe clean air for a couple of weeks.

Last night we were prepared to spring into action even though we knew this was no real emergency.  Last night it was a tremendously irritating noise, and -once we knew we had nothing to worry about except tinnitus- we cursed, groaned and grunted our way through the process of finding all the units.  By the time we were done, dinner was cold, TGG was wide awake, the cats were ready for a chamomile tisane and J, now curious about the thick disk that speaks like a sexy lady, went back downstairs to hit the “TEST” button randomly, making us leap into action in case we had missed a sign of doom…

Once the smell of fried fish had dissipated, we went back to closing doors and windows, turning off fans and replacing the smoke detectors in the basement and street levels of our home.  J, after his bath, retired to the family room to watch TV and, as we walked up the stairs to finish cleaning the kitchen, we noticed him lurking under the ceiling-mounted smoke detector with a mischievous smile.  He REALLY liked the reaction he got from pressing that TEST button…we told him it’s not a toy and his parents are now certain of the soundness of their hearts’ health so no need to scare the crap out of them AGAIN.

I decided to re-mount the smoke detectors in the upper level in the morning.  No, this is not one of those “uh-oh, don’t do it!  Don’t do it!” moments in a horror movie…nothing bad happened.  But J was sad.

While my husband drove TGG to work, I heard J sobbing in his room and I went to see what was happening.  He was sitting in bed, his eyes swampy and his nose runny.  He was holding his face in his hands and crying.  That he was wearing both hats, a red turtleneck and his brother’s too-small-for-J pajama pants is beside the point, but I made a mental note to get TGG a new pair of pajamas.  (They both have a red plaid pair…but the only person who ever remembers that J’s is the BIG plaid pattern and TGG’s is the TINY plaid pattern is me.  So J looked like getting-angry-Hulk as he sat on his bed last night…poor guy.)

I asked J what was up, and he said PLEASE with such feeling that I assumed he was uncomfortable with those pants.  (See…I KNEW I’d mentioned it for a reason!)  So I tried to help him change out of them, but J pushed my hands away and kept repeating PLEASE while motioning towards the hallway with his hands.  I asked if he wanted me to turn off the hallway light, and he simply got up and marched out to where the smoke detectors were placed when we’d removed them earlier.  PLEASE.  The request was heartfelt, and I dragged TGG’s desk chair into J’s room and, with J’s close supervision, replaced his smoke detector.  I was then told THANK YOU and BYE.  No more tears; no more suffering; no sadness…just a great deal of what I realized was relief and a too-tight pair of flannel jammy pants.

This morning, as J turned off the ceiling light and walked out of his room to leave for school, he stopped under the smoke detector and made sure the little green light was on…and he smiled.

So, another lesson learned: J WILL keep calm in a chaotic situation, even if the noise involved hurts his ears, AND he knows safety equipment.  I don’t know if he found the sexy fire! fire! fire! announcement unsettling, but he knows that those round things on the ceiling make people move fast, and he knows to come to where we can assist him in getting out of the house.  We are grateful for this…

Now if I could just get my ears to stop ringing!

 

When we talk about the Joneses…do we mean Desmond and Molly?

Does it make a difference which Joneses you’re trying to keep up with?  Someone (maybe Erma Bombeck?) wrote that when we’re keeping up with the Joneses it’s necessary to make sure they’re not trying to keep up with us.  Desmond and Molly, I would hope, are still a couple and are currently happily surrounded by grandchildren equipped with iPods and who play video games.  They would, hopefully, still be singing Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da…even if it’s in the middle of an onion field.  This is what we’ve been trying to do all weekend.

The $8K mistake will be resolved (one way or another) by tomorrow morning.  Mind you, I’m not feeling smarter about it this morning, but my anxiety level has ebbed somewhat.  J made sure he emulated Florence Nightingale during our anxiety-laden weekend, and seeing him so solicitous made us feel better.  Of course, he sort of forced us to spend the morning in bed, lifting our feet back on to the mattress, covering us with blankets and vigorously tucking us in; being strong-armed into a more calm state of mind is an unexpected approach, especially coming from J.  Rather than pick up on the anxiety (which we though we were hiding and handling rather successfully) and exploding, J opted to be helpful, calm and soothing.  I had to wait until he was back in his room to finally dash to the bathroom to pee because if he heard me step off the bed while he was in the hallway he would come in and tut-tut me back to my prescribed “happy place.”

Although the weather threatened snow overnight, we woke up to rain and no delays in the school schedule.  Amen for that!  J had been worried when, due to the distracting financial circumstances, we failed to update the weekly schedule, and the announcement of “tomorrow is a school day” as he stepped into his bath elicited great joy.  J sat in the tub surrounded by bubbles and doing a little dance we call the “I don’t have to stay at home with mother tomorrow” groove.  While I sat sipping coffee, Mr. Nightingale made me go upstairs to find a comfy nightgown and my robe to wear once he had gone to school.  All this love can be overwhelming, but it is appreciated.

Sunday came and went with repeated replays of the scene I’ve described.  We would try to do something and J would send us back to our room.  We felt it necessary to oblige.  OK…it was nice being able to go back to bed and be lazy, even if the sound of J moving up and down the stairs made us wonder if he was re-arranging the pantry, consuming unauthorized snacks or letting the cats out of the house with a steak tied around their necks as bear bait.  We decided to just go with it…

In the evening we had the by-request birthday dinner for TGG.  He doesn’t work on his actual birthday (which is a Wednesday,) but we figured we’d have a nice, elaborate, relaxed dinner.  We also took the opportunity to give TGG his birthday present so he’s been walking around the house with a Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker light saber since last night.  J’s face when he saw it was priceless (yes, it’s been jotted down as a “possible” for Twelve Days) and they even spent time in the under-the-stairs closet turning the thing on and off and on and off while giggling.  I can’t say I blame them…my husband and I had done the same thing when it arrived and we were installing the batteries.  🙂

Look…I admit I wanted to cry on Saturday.  I wanted to cry yesterday, too.  Had I been able to afford it, I’d have bought two gallons of ice cream and you wouldn’t have seen my head out of the containers until I was well and done consuming their contents.  I’m sure my husband was less than pleased with my banking mistake.  I’m sure the kids questioned their parents’ ability to care for themselves if they couldn’t handle one little bank transaction without causing the equivalent of a nuclear meltdown.  If we had ANY OTHER Joneses to keep up with this weekend, we’d have been royally screwed…

And that’s where Desmond and Molly Jones come in.  Life goes on.  It does.  You can throw the bra in or not…but it does go on.  My husband, bless him, put it in perspective by reminding me that, thanks to my hurricane-preparedness mentality, we had everything we could possibly need to make it through the weekend, the gas tank was full and -callooh! callay!!!- we didn’t spend any money this weekend.  When I tried to interject that we COULDN’T because we didn’t HAVE any, I was peremptorily shushed and told “that’s beside the point, my dear!,” but with a wide smile that made me love him all the more…

Is that what Desmond does to Molly?  Does Molly still sing?  Old as they must be by now -in their sixties?  Early seventies?- I’m sure they’ve figured it out because they knew life goes on…in spite of the hiccups, the bumps, the jagged edges, the fraying.  I’m sure their kids must’ve run in from running in the yard and seen the elder Joneses wondering how to tackle life…and then what?  So many ways to lend a hand come to mind, and the kids were always allowed to per the song, right?

So, here we were all weekend…keeping up with THOSE Joneses and realizing that life goes on…even when someone has to put down four boxing gloves and a Slinky to properly tuck you into bed.  Even when the highlight of the weekend is a light saber and a baking pan full of delicious meatballs that suddenly seem like more of a luxury because you made a banking mistake that has rendered you flat-broke until Tuesday morning, mercifully, rolls around…

In this household of Luke Skywalkers, Florence Nightingales and the right kind of Joneses, I guess lunacy is part of what makes ever after happy.  Lest we forget, even unintentionally self-inflicted emotional chaos builds character…  We’ll work on skipping the “unintentionally self-inflicted” part the next time.

The $8K mistake…

Long story short: I somehow managed (according to the bank) to pay the full balance on our credit card bill rather than the piddly amount due…and we’re overdrawn by THOUSANDS of dollars.  It’ll get fixed, they tell me, by Tuesday…I am calling back on Monday and talking to a supervisor.  Hint: “Have a WONDERFUL weekend” is not the way to end a call where the customer is telling you they have no money and this has to be a major mistake on someone’s part…  Never fear, I was polite against every instinct in my body, and if the mistake was indeed mine (which I don’t discount because, well, I’m HUMAN) I am willing to own up to it, but I have realized that there is a huge disconnect between the canned script that customer service reps work from and what you’re telling them.

So…other than the profound humiliation of this financial catastrophe, we’re fine.  The only thing this prevented us from doing was spending $23.16.  That was the extent of our plans for the weekend.  The acid reflux, anxiety and strong desire to cry were a bonus…but we rode it out.

J picked up on the stress, but handled it with a great deal of dignity.  He held my hand, poor baby, as we drove home from our errand, and then did the “sooo sooo sooo” sounds that I usually apply when calming him down.

Yesterday we quietly marked the second anniversary of Risperdal in our lives.  It wasn’t a celebration.  It wasn’t even an observance of the date.  It was an awareness of it, and a realization that -indeed- we went through a terribly bad time that has never quite repeated itself.  We are thankful for this and for there never being a need to increase the dose.  We look ahead, to June, so that maybe we can work backwards and, two years from now, we quietly observe the absence of medication in our lives.  A girl can dream, right?

So, that’s been Saturday.  My husband, who works so hard all week, has managed to be supportive under circumstances when (had the tables been turned and the mistake come from his hands) I would have probably equipped myself with a brown paper bag, a bottle of vodka and a bullhorn to yell my discontent to the world.  I got a hug, a “after thirteen years together, my general clumsiness has rubbed off on you, my love…,” a smile and a quiet, rainy afternoon of laying in bed while he invaded some area of World War II Europe and I read The Last Dickens, and we alternately dozed off.

There’s a saying my aunts used: contigo pan y cebolla.  That is the spirit of marriage, they’d tell me.  With you bread and onions.  Today the onions seemed abundant, but we decided -for the sake of our home’s delicate balance and peace- to just classify the disaster as a minor one (as my husband said: the gas tank is full, we have plenty of food and we are HOME, and not traveling) and move forward towards Tuesday morning.  Yes, this thing will not be fully resolved until TUESDAY…we have plenty of change in a tin can we keep in the dining room and some money in my husband’s wallet, but we are poor as dirt until Tuesday morning.

J, taking advantage of the stormy weather, has been in his room listening to music and giggling.  TGG, thank goodness, took the financial SNAFU philosophically and maintained the even keel we’ve been working on all day.  I have not been glared at once all day…

I’ve been hugged, kissed, soooo soooo soooo-ed; my hand has been held and I’ve been encouraged and soothed…

Two years and a day of J’s med and we’ve come a long, long way.  Had this happened on the week when all hell seemed to have broken loose in our household, I don’t know how graciously we would have taken it.  I don’t know if we’d been able to allow cooler heads to prevail.  Things happen when they have to happen.  Maybe this is the Universe’s way of saying “you’re going to screw up just so you can see how well you can handle adversity NOW as opposed to THEN.”

I wish the Universe had made sure it wasn’t thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars…

Oh, well…if you get onions, make French onion soup…a crust of bread will turn up somewhere…

Hard won musings

I try to stave off feelings of guilt by actually analyzing my performance as a parent.  Imagine, if you will, a football coach looking at the last game’s film and analyzing how every play affected the outcome.  I sort of do that.  I go back and try to figure out what I did right and wrong in every situation; that I look like Audrey Hepburn, Salma Hayek or Sophia Loren  in these mental re-enactments is completely beside the point.  I am a big believer in performance evaluation, and the person I evaluate most harshly is myself.

I am not proud of the fact that I failed to realize J has a rash.  I lost sleep over this last night.  For starters, I was awakened by the glare of the neighbors’ porch light, and I was kept awake by my feelings of inadequacy.  If only I had peered more closely at J’s crotch as he was getting dressed yesterday morning, right?

An exchange with my husband regarding this matter resulted in an acceptance of partial guilt by the man who supervises J’s bath almost every night.  His defense was that he SHOULD have looked, but that dudes don’t really do that and it’s a skill learned early on in Gym class when they are forced to shower together, quickly and without interacting.  I accept his reasoning…I did basic training and didn’t particularly enjoy the all-girls showering together without anything separating them…call me a prude, but there you have it.

J’s forgiveness came wrapped in James Taylor singing Jellyman Kelly in a Sesame Street DVD.  This was the soundtrack of choice for getting dressed this morning.  With a big smile, J asked me to sing along in spite of the fact that I had just conducted a pretty direct and detailed inspection of his privates.  He stood there, dignified and mortified all rolled into one, while I…well, you get the picture.  Never have I perched my glasses on the tip of my nose for so unsettling a task…I wish my eyes were younger as I wouldn’t be forced to look over the frame, through the glass, sideways and using a flashlight.  Oh, to be 20 again…or even thirty-five…I could still see pretty well when I was thirty-five.

So the diagnosis is that J’s dignity will be slightly bruised while we treat this situation, but we will all survive it.  As I explained last night, I don’t have a penis or a scrotum and my knowledge of their care and maintenance is completely theoretical.  This chapter of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care is not one I thought I’d have to re-visit this late in life; the parts of it that I had to convey and reinforce were properly conveyed and reinforced when the children were learning about personal hygiene.  By now, I had hoped, this point would be moot for me…

In the meantime, I’m determined to address the issue and, in conjunction with the individuals in the household who share this particular anatomical distinguishing mark with J, better screening of potential problems will be conducted on a daily basis.  Or, as TGG said, “I guess now they REALLY are family jewels, huh?”  Taking care of J’s privates will be a family affair…

Back when TGG was a newborn and I would pick up Dr. Spock’s magnum opus I didn’t really worry about whether I’d have to carry the darned book around all these years later.  I admit I still remember quite clearly the concept of “topping and tailing” and, in a pinch, I can use a cloth diaper, but that doesn’t mean I WANT to.  Back then all I really had to worry about was baby shampoo, diaper rash ointment, baby wipes, whether or not to use baby powder…now I am putting  things like shaving cream, razors, dandruff shampoo, jock itch cream, athlete’s foot powder, and such on my shopping list.  I am traumatized…  🙂

The “kids” are men.  One of them works at a hospital; he’s changed adult diapers.  He’s told me he will happily change mine when the time for it comes.  I don’t know if I should be happy he’s willing to take care of me or horrified that he already thinks of the words “adult diaper” in the same train of thought as he thinks of me.  I would be consumed by a mid-life crisis at the inception of this idea if I didn’t know that TGG is going through an age crisis of his own: the 21st birthday is almost here!  In recent days he has grown quiet and seems to have realized that the “Wisdom of the Ages” (namely us) has some truth to it; I am personally prone to quote John Lennon (“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans“) and getting a roll of the eyes in response.  The eye roll isn’t happening as often as it used to, and I now find myself saying “but think of how far you’ve come” to TGG.

I will relate to you something that, in the middle of the night, made me realize I haven’t totally screwed up…

TGG shaved his head.  A young cancer patient under his care was experiencing the expected hair loss from the chemotherapy, and TGG -who is a pain in the ass with a huge heart- showed up looking like Kojak.  The kid smiled for the first time since they’d met.  The next day, TGG went to visit him during his “lunch break” at 2 in the morning, and the kid was there, smiling and bald as a bowling ball.  Whenever TGG didn’t have to work with this patient, he’d go to visit with him for a few minutes.  By the time the kid went home, he was firmly pinned to our son’s heart and character.  His supervisor recognized TGG with what they call a Bravo award, and the letter that came with it was spectacular enough to make his parents cry profusely…

This morning, when TGG came home from work, he told me they’d interviewed him for the hospital’s in-house newsletter.   Oh, and he’d asked the nurses about J’s nether regions and a nice soak with oatmeal would help the itching.    “I can give him a bath tonight if you want,” he said, while eating turkey meatballs and spaghetti for breakfast (to him, poor guy, it’s DINNERTIME!)  I was just thinking at that moment how much he’s matured, how much he and J have grown…

And then TGG put his fork down and said “ok, either I eat these meatballs or discuss J’s…em…issues…”

Ah, yes…at least I fostered a good sense of the absurd…

 

 

Sigh…

There are days when it is very difficult not to feel like a complete and utter failure.  Today has been one of those days.  To say that I misread a situation and failed to grasp the enormity of the signs being flashed before my eyes is putting it mildly…

J wants to be naked in his room because he has a rash.  This rash is so uncomfortable that the poor guy has been trying to scratch it, getting scolded for messing with his crotch and -like the idiot that I obviously am- I decided to respect his privacy instead of putting on my spelunking helmet and going in to check why the heck my poor son would be doing such a thing.

Yes…I thought he was being “a guy.”  Yes, I am not very smart.  And if you think I’m not berating myself over this, you are sorely and sadly mistaken.

Of course, I don’t hear the sentence “I think J has a rash” until nine-thirty at night…and that’s when I dash up the stairs and wake the poor dude up to investigate and -amid protests of LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT and what might have been a WHAT THE F*CK MOM- I find that yes, indeed, J was vigorously scratching for a reason.

Any bad mood, discomfort, testiness of temper, sadness, weepiness, irritability…all of it is explained and, hopefully, with proper care and attention, this too shall pass…unless this is some Gandalf-style fungus that yells NONE SHALL PASS and I have to call the doctor.

Over the next few days, perhaps weeks if we are to use the athlete’s foot incident as a benchmark, I will be seeing more of my son than I’ve seen in a long, long time.  We might not hang out together and be all buddy-buddy, but I’ll have to do things that I thought I’d left behind with the last diaper, Pull-Up and baby wipe I used on him…oh…YEARS ago.

The first order of business: new underwear.  I am going out and buying him all new skivvies to wear.  Second order of business: the poor guy will be able to sit comfortably in his room with the curtains drawn and proper ventilation to prevent any flare-ups.  Third order of business: oh, the apologies will be effusive and abundant…and I will make sure he gets a nice warm bath with ground oatmeal to relieve any itching…

These are the circumstances in which I wish my house had concrete walls.  The walls in this townhouse are cheap drywall…if I bang my head against them I will most certainly end up looking in on the neighbors, and that would be more punishment for them than for me.  I wish I could bash my head against a concrete wall for being so dense and so…clueless?  Airheaded?  Distracted?

If only J could talk.  If only J could say “I’m REALLY uncomfortable here!  HELP ME!”  If J could say “excuse me?  Anyone notice anything about how I’m scratching?”  TGG claims that if J could talk, the last thing he’d want to talk about is his precious cargo; he’d avoid the problem like the plague…and he’d “probably google the symptoms to see what he can do.”  I know this is true…not only do I have sons, but I am married to one man and have had another husband before.  I also have had a father, brothers and a rather cantankerous great-grandfather who turned looking surly into an art form…and then the doctor told us he had shingles.  When it’s something serious (or related to the nether regions of their bodies) men won’t say a thing, so J’s scratching was indeed more eloquent than if he’d been able to give a florid speech about his complaints.  My husband says the same thing, and I am inclined to believe them both; in fact, I DO believe them, but I also know that I am not going to feel better about this whole itch-thing in a long, long, long time…

Bad, bad mother…bad, bad, silly mother…

I am in the depths of despair and googling even as I type.