Things Parenting Books Don’t Teach

When you have children, there will be moments during their lives where you are caught completely unprepared. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve thought about the situation you find yourself in, it doesn’t matter how many people have offered you advice, it doesn’t matter what books you’ve read, it doesn’t matter if you’ve even been through it before…

It will catch you off guard.

I’m fairly lucky. While some of my friends have had to deal with illness after illness it seems, my kids have rarely gotten sick – at least, until very recently. R recently spent some time in the emergency room for a high fever, body aches, chills, and general fatigue. Something viral, we were told, most likely the flu.

Tonight, at 2am, I woke up because I noticed one of the lights was on in the bathroom, which was pretty unusual. R still wears pull-ups to bed, but the best I could guess was she had gotten up to use the bathroom at some point. E needed a bottle anyway, as she had just woken up, so I got out of bed to take care of the light, use the bathroom, make a bottle, and turn the heat up.

As I was washing my hands in the bathroom, I heard a little voice at the door. “Mom, what you doing?”

I opened it to find R standing there. I told her I had to go potty and it was time to go back to bed. Just as she was asking me for some water, it happened. My worst nightmare. It was honestly the one thing that I have been dreading since R was born just over four years ago.

She vomited. Everywhere. All over my brand new carpet.

My half-asleep brain started to panic and I called for my husband. My inability to keep calm, of course, upset my daughter too. He came running out into the hallway to find the mess, just in time for me to attempt to get her into the shower, just as she began getting sick again.

More vomit. All over my bathroom.

She was crying, I was panicking, trying to figure out what to clean next. My husband was trying to calm her down and get her cleaned up.

Almost forty minutes later, R had been cleaned up and plopped onto the couch with a bucket, a movie, and a glass of water. I had managed to clean half the bathroom floor and all of the carpet in the hallway. My husband cleaned up the other half of the bathroom and the child, and then threw a bunch of vomit-covered things into the wash.

Nothing prepared me for this. Even arming myself with the knowledge that I would eventually have to deal with a sick child didn’t prepare me for the scene I had to deal with tonight.

As parents, there will always be things we’re good at and things we’re not good at. For me, dealing with projectile vomit at 2am is not exactly something I’m well suited for, but I’m thankful to have a partner who’s willing to spring into action with me and help me clean up some of it too. I’m twenty-nine weeks pregnant, exhausted, and so grateful that I didn’t have to deal with this by myself.

Husband: if you ever read this, know that I love you. Truly. I don’t know how I would have gotten through tonight without you.

Meanwhile, in spite of all of the commotion, somehow my dear, sweet toddler managed to sleep through everything. What a time for her to start sleeping through the night.

When Life Keeps Going and You Don’t Want To

I haven’t blogged much lately. I really want to work on that. To be honest, I haven’t really felt much like writing.

I’m finding that a lot of things are more difficult these days. Sometimes, the only reason I get out of bed in the morning is because someone has to get up to feed the kids. My motivation for everything is lacking and I don’t enjoy things as much as I used to. I didn’t even want to get a Christmas tree this year, but I made myself do it for the kids.

I suppose that’s the nature of depression, though.

When I was a kid, Christmas was always a time that I looked forward to. It was one of my favorite holidays, in large part because it was one of the times of year when my whole family would get together and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. As years pass, things change: people stop getting along, children get older, visits with family members become less frequent. I don’t know how it is for other families, but mine has become a lot more disconnected in recent years than it ever seemed to be growing up.

My grandma was always the common thread between all of us. She was the one who put together the holiday dinners and who wanted to bring us all together. Christmas was her favorite holiday and it was always a grand affair, full of gifts and food throughout my childhood. I spent many Christmases helping her put up and decorate the tree and wrap gifts. My grandpa would decorate the front yard with all sorts of lights and put up my grandma’s nativity scene on the covered bridge that sits on the side of their property. We used to drive around the city and look at other Christmas displays. As I look back on my time as a child, it was time together that I don’t think I appreciated enough.

Last year was the first year of my life that I didn’t spend at my grandparents’ house on Christmas or Christmas Eve and it will forever be something I regret because this year, I won’t get that chance.

In mid-October, my grandma was admitted into the hospital for a fast, irregular heartbeat and a lump in her throat. It turned out to be esophageal cancer, but the doctors suspected that she had it in other parts of her body as well, including her stomach, lungs, and heart. She had a biopsy and two surgeries in the two weeks that she was admitted, but unfortunately, her body wasn’t strong enough to keep going. Just fifteen days after her admittance to the hospital, approximately thirty-six hours after returning home, she passed away.

My grandma was a smoker all her life, and for many years, the possibility of her being diagnosed with cancer was something I had braced myself for. She was in the hospital for a week before the diagnosis came in officially, and until the results, we all knew it was cancer. But I will tell you this: no matter how prepared you think you are to hear news like that, you’re actually not. You never will be. Even when you know, the moment the words hit your ears, your world collapses.

It’s been a month and a half and I struggle daily. When I was growing up, she was the person that I spent the most time with, and someone who I remained close to in adulthood. I regret not seeing her more often this last year. I regret not seeing her last Christmas. I regret a lot of things these days, even though I know I can’t go back and change any of it.

I wish I had been given more time to process everything before she died because I think maybe her death would have been a little easier, but sometimes, that’s just how life works. I’m glad she didn’t have to suffer long.

I’m thankful for the time I got to spend with her, and for the moments that she was able to spend with my children. I’m thankful that before she passed, I was able to sit with her for a few minutes in the hospital and tell her how much she meant to me, and how grateful I was to have her in my life. I’m thankful that in her final hours, I was present, doing what I could to make her more comfortable and to ease her transition. I rubbed her back. I held her hand. I told her I loved her. Watching her take her last breath was difficult and painful, but it was comforting to be there too.

She’s gone, but the world keeps turning and life keeps moving forward and to me, it feels wrong. I still don’t know how to exist in a world where she doesn’t. I have no choice but to wake up each day and keep going, no matter how difficult that seems to be. Sometimes I think if it weren’t for my kids, I wouldn’t be able to keep going some days. Losing her was like losing a second mom. It was a real punch in the gut that I was never ready for.

When she was in the hospital, I told her I was glad that she was able to be here for my kids, and she said, “They’re going to forget me.” I made her a promise that I wouldn’t let them, that they would know who she was, and I intend to keep that promise as they grow older.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to count getting out of bed as an accomplishment. The pain doesn’t seem to be lessening, but maybe it will at least become easier to process.

Are You Sure You Want Kids?

If you were unsure about having kids, let me tell you a story of what it’s like to have a three and a half year old and a five month old.

A couple of days ago, after I was finished with work, I went downstairs to start dinner. Chicken tacos were on the menu, and I put a few chicken breasts in my Instant Pot to get those going. When it came time to shred the chicken, I pulled each one out individually to do so.

Meanwhile, R was keeping herself busy and E was in one of those sit-and-stand toys in the kitchen, keeping herself occupied. R kept asking for “yellow cheese,” which really just means she wanted the Kraft singles that were in the fridge. I told her to wait, dinner would be done soon, but she got into the fridge anyway to grab her cheese.

Fine. Whatever. It’s not worth the fight.

She was on her third slice when she asked if she could go potty – because, no matter how often I tell her she doesn’t need permission, she always has to have my blessing before she uses it. I sent her away, telling her to go ahead and go potty. By then, E started crying, wanting out of her toy. I kept talking to try to distract her until I could finish with the chicken.

R came back into the kitchen a couple of minutes later, asking me about the potty. Then she said cheese. Specifically, it came out, “Cheese potty.” I knew immediately where this was going, yet I still found myself asking…

“What about the cheese and the potty? Did you throw your cheese into the toilet?”

No response from R. I set down my fork and my knife and headed around the corner to the bathroom, which is when E got really upset and wouldn’t calm down. Sure enough, there was the slice of cheese sitting at the top of the water. I sighed. “Why is your cheese in the potty?” I asked.

All R could do was ask me to get it out.

I explained that I couldn’t and tried to flush it, and the toilet was clogged. E was crying so hard that I knew I would need to come back to it in a minute, so I went back to the kitchen to grab her, and she had pooped – and it had gone halfway up her back. (No wonder she was crying!) I panicked for a minute, then went back to the toilet to quickly unclog it.

Then, I went back to clean up E a little so I could pick her up to take her upstairs for a change. R, upon realizing that her cheese was gone forever, began sobbing about the fact that the toilet had essentially eaten the cheese that she had intended to eat herself. There were tears. So, so many tears.

I got E cleaned up, gave her a bath, and put her down for a nap while R continued to be upset about cheese. “Cheese gone, Mom?” Yes, honey; the cheese is gone forever. That’s what happens when we throw it into the toilet.

Chaos. And this was an easy day.

So, just in case you were wondering, this is what parenthood is like.