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…



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