Archive for the 'Loss of patience' Category

Neighborless

March 8, 2011

Andrew Hicks

On several occasions previously, I’ve mentioned my next-door neighbor, the single mom with the four kids. They came over for Sarah’s birthday, and we came over for Super Bowl, but more than that, Miranda and I have been smoke break buddies for three years. I was never much of a smoker, but when I got to drinking, I liked to have a cigarette here and there. Now I don’t drink, and I still have a cigarette here and there. But Miranda just moved away, so the smoke breaks are suddenly a lot quieter.

Miranda knew she was moving a few weeks in advance, but there were never plans for a going-away party. Rather, after her place was cleaned out and her van loaded one last time with stuff, we had one final smoke break in the driveway. I’m a sucker for occasions like this. I use them to rhapsodize and reminisce and express appreciation. In this case, it’s a double rhapsody, because I get to rhapsodize during the final smoke break, then turn around and rhapsodize again when Miranda has her housewarming party at the new place*.

Our ceremonious final smoke break was doomed from the get-go. It was after dark, her four kids were exhausted yet wound up from the big freakin’ deal that is moving out of one house and into another, and no one wanted to just get in the van and let Mommy have a few minutes of grown folks’ time. There was one kid running around the van, one kid honking the horn, one kid climbing, one kid pinching another kid, the other kid screaming about it, at least one kid in a constant state of crying, and one single mother simultaneously trying to manage it yet let it be so she could have a damn cigarette.

Me, I’ve got the failsafe of a wife and co-parent to let me off the Baby-Rearing Express for a morning or evening when I feel burnt out. I only have two kids. Miranda has four kids, and she has them all to herself. At that moment, trying to be the happy but aloof bystander-friend, I got a capsule glimpse into my neighbor’s world. There was frustration and resignation, a feeling of no escape. I know Miranda loves her kids more than anything, but watching her plead for five quick minutes of peace made me wish for a cosmic remote control that could put the offspring on pause just for the length of a cigarette.

Miranda ended up having to intervene with the kids, and that’s when her oldest daughter, who is 8, slid in and took her place.

“Do you see that?” the daughter asked me, pointing at the slow-moving lights of a twin-engine plane in the night sky above. “That’s a UFO.”

“It’s flying pretty low,” I said. “They’re usually not so obvious about showing themselves.”

“I see UFOs every night. One night I saw sixteen.” She pointed to another plane excitedly. “Look, there’s another one.”

“How about that,” I said, not condescending in the least. “They might just be traveling, you know, just taking the spaceship out for a spin after dinner like some people walk their dog.”

“The first UFO is over the high school now.”
“Maybe they need a football field to land in.”
“It’s not landing, it’s still going past the high school. Look, another UFO! Three UFOs!”

I don’t know, it was a simple little moment in the middle of all this chaos, and it made me think, It’s all worth it. When you have kids, there’s lot of stuff you give up, little and big stuff that hits on an everyday basis. But there’s this cute, living, breathing, thinking, talking extension of you that you get to build a family life around, and it’s all worth it.

Miranda drove off a few minutes later, her empty apartment darkened, and I walked back home. Saw my wife and announced, “It’s nice and quiet over here.” Not really, said my wife, and within two minutes, both of my kids were crying and needing parental attention. Full circle, as it were.

*This is why I ate it all up when Conan signed off his NBC late-night show, debuted his “Tonight Show,” signed off the “Tonight Show” and debuted his TBS show all in the span of like 18 months. That’s four different legitimate occasions to wax rhapsodic over the same dude’s body of work. I loved it.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

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Teething fever

December 4, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Silas – who will be 5 months old tomorrow – has had a rough three days, but it’s getting better. He hasn’t cut through any teeth yet, but he’s screaming like he’s got four jagged baby incisors ready to burst through his infant gums simultaneously. And, to up the pain ante even more, Silas got his four-month battery of vaccinations from the doctor on Thursday morning.

The nurse stuck Silas on each side of his Stay-Puft Marshmallow babythighs with inoculations that left him acting more or less normal during the day but staying up through most of the night with a fever and then a weird cold sweat. The symptoms would come and go, and he’d end up sleeping for up to a half-hour before waking back up. He’d finally sleep a couple good four-hour chunks during the morning hours.

A fever during a teething session is a bad situation for baby and dad. Baby’s in pain. Dad doesn’t want baby in pain. Dad does everything he can think of to help make baby feel better. Baby still doesn’t feel better. Dad starts running low on patience. Baby still doesn’t feel better. Dad feels bad about running low on patience, resolves to muster inner reserves, ends up begging an outside source to provide patience. Baby starts feeling better. Dad focuses all his concentration getting baby comfortable and resting. Baby falls asleep. Baby then stays asleep for one minute, ten minutes, maybe 30, and the cycle begins anew.

I’ve looked over the literature handed to us on our way out of the doctor’s, and the fever is normal. The crying is said to be a moderate risk if it’s non-stop for more than three hours. Silas has gone maybe a half-hour at most in serious cry mode, then it calms down for awhile, then it comes back. But his fever’s not that high, and the cold sweat thing only happened once, and briefly.

Baby Silas seems like he’s starting to steadily feel better. Tonight, he fell asleep at 11:30, which is an improvement over 4:30. I like to have my children in bed before the morning farm report airs.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas smiles. And, is that an optical illusion, or is the binkie half the size of his head?

Is this a parenting blog? Nah…

November 24, 2010

Andrew Hicks

This blog is about a parent, but I wouldn’t call it a parenting blog. The term “parenting blog” suggests a general editorial stance of authority or even just familiarity with the ins and outs of raising small children. There are parenting moments that baffle me or seem to require more effort than I give or know how to give.

As a dad, I know and do more with Silas (who just celebrated his 142nd day on planet Earth by pooping) than I did when Sarah was the same age. I’m primary caregiver to both kids now, but for most of Sarah’s first 2 years, I was working the days, evenings and weekends of the restaurant biz. For awhile, it was wake up, leave for work, be gone all day and then often arrive home after Sarah was in bed. We started Sarah in daycare, moved her to a babysitter, then – just a week before The Event – switched to having me watch her and Silas and work nights.

This blog has resulted in wisecracks about me posturing myself as Superdad, but in terms of fathering ability, I’d rank myself about average. I probably care more than most, I put in a lot of hours as daddy, and I give a lot of love to these babies and their wonderful mother, but I know there’s stuff I’m not doing. I know better parents than I are not allowing themselves to be so worn down by the routine of diapering, feeding, bathing, playing with, burping and chasing around that they lazy out when they finally do arrive at a free second. I don’t think a daily nap was granted by the Bill of Rights, but I often act as though it were.

I get tired more easily than I used to. At least a little of that has to do with me still recovering from a compound ankle fracture and surgery. I’m returning to normal but am not all the way back. I’ve recovered enough to tackle this assignment, but it’s obviously more difficult than it would have been minus broken bone.

All that said, I want to be able to use this blog to solicit advice from parents more seasoned than myself. The past week or so, Silas has been a lot fussier during everyday activity, he’s been staying awake longer and later, and he’s had discomfort I haven’t been been able to automatically soothe. He’s been crying more, and my usual tricks for making him happy and calm have seemed to work less and less. Consequently, my reserves of patience have dropped to lower levels than usual.

I have a little mantra when I start to get upset with Silas for crying and fussing. It comes from a Xeroxed, folded newsletter mailed to us by a local parenting organization. There was an article on teething, which – given Silas’s age and lack of signs of cold or flu – probably accounts for the pain he’s experiencing. Among the bulleted advice points on how to make teething easier for your kid was the generic admonition to give the little dude extra “tender loving care” during the teething process.

It was simple, obvious, even cliched, but those three words resonated with me. Tender loving care. When I’m frustrated, when I’m getting short with His Lil’ Screaminess, I softly say those words out loud, and then I put them into practice. Or try my best to. That’s what my baby boy deserves. I have immense love for him, and he’s experiencing pain that he is completely not at fault for. What better time for some TLC, you know? It’s the best thing I’ve found so far for getting my patience back.

What I’d like to know, and maybe this would be a good one to ask the parents from “19 Kids and Counting,” is if there’s a magic, catch-all parenting secret or karmic maturity trick on how to restore and stabilize patience to the adult brain before your emotions succumb to baby stress. Or are baby-stress reactions mostly motivated by selfishness and just something to suck up and deal with?

Probably, the latter is true, but I’d like to hear words of parenting wisdom and sanity-preserving techniques from those with more knowledge and experience than I on the topic at hand. Maybe I can finally get some comments around this blog. That’d be cool.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY