Friday, June 10, 2011

Mission Aborted

Sorry doesn't begin to describe how I feel about bailing out of my promise to write a post every day this week, but I do have a very good excuse. You see, we must have done something to offend the powers that be recently, because we've had a few really bad days, a few bad weeks in fact. And did I mention there's a typhoon on the way...?

It all started when I left my boys to fend for themselves for a week, and J got a nasty chest infection. This plague upon our house then spread to my husband (man flu deserves a post all its own), and I finally succumbed this week. In an attempt to boost our little man's immune system after all this illness we took him to a homeopath last week. We came home with a bag full of supplements, administered them as per the instructions, and then watched as our child turned into a puffer fish after having an allergic reaction to one of them... He woke up an hour after we put him to bed, screaming the house down. His little face was red and swollen and he was having trouble breathing. We gave him some antihistamines and he quickly started to look more like himself, but he was clearly having stomach cramps. We spent the whole night awake, trying to make him more comfortable. Unfortunately that involved sleeping in his dad's arms, or between us in the bed. At one point D and I were perched on the very edges of our king-sized bed, wrapped around our son like awkwardly shaped bookends, exhausted and demoralised, and feeling certain that we were passing a parenthood rite of passage. Surely it couldn't get any worse than this...

But it did. J was fine after that night of horror, we were shattered, but relieved it hadn't been more serious. With the supplements safely placed in the back of the cupboard to gather dust with the lentils and green tea, we went on with the business of living. We had a great start to the week and all was well until J took a tumble down the stairs yesterday. He's always been fairly confident, but cautious when it comes to our staircase. There's a gate at either end so he can't tackle them boldly on his own, but he always checks to make sure the gate is closed when we're going up or down. It was while I was closing the gate behind us yesterday that J decided to step off the top step on his own and his little hand slipped out of mine. He was at the bottom before I could catch him. I thought I was scared on Friday night, but nothing prepared me for the terror I felt watching helplessly as my son fell down those damn stairs. When I got to the bottom, a split second behind him, I picked him up and checked for damage. Apart from a few bruises he was fine. Hysterical, but fine. We held onto each other as if our lives depended on it and he gently fell asleep on my shoulder. Relief quickly gave way to the guilt that comes with knowing I could've prevented the whole thing, and that it could've been much much worse. It didn't help matters when my husband pointed out that I needed to be more careful...clearly. I sobbed into my little guy's neck and gingerly took him upstairs to bed. Then I made plans to carpet the stairs.

I actually did write something yesterday but it was full of self-pity. I've been feeling very responsible for this run of bad luck, and since I've been back it seems like I've lost my groove. J didn't want anything to do with me on Friday night - his dad was the only one who could comfort him. Not only did I feel responsible for his pain, I felt obsolete as a mother. Then he had an accident on my watch, it was like I failing miserably at the one job I thought I could do. Here is an excerpt from what I wrote yesterday, just to give you a hint of how bad I was feeling...

So, I'm left feeling like the worst mother in the world and wondering if perhaps my boys would be better off, safer even, if I packed my bags and headed for the hills. I've never been a completely confident mother; I question myself a lot and wonder if I'm doing the right thing, and I take even the slightest criticism really personally. But I've always been confident that I was doing the best I could with what I had. The last few weeks I've felt like I've lost my mummy-mojo, and that my best simply won't do anymore. When I was a kid I expected a lot from my parents and I hated it when my mum would say "you'll understand when you have your own kids." One thing I do now understand is that parents are far from perfect, especially at the start, and sometimes no matter how hard we try, we can't stop our kids falling down the stairs. We just have to pray that if and when they do, they'll bounce. I'm taking full responsibility for the recent series of woes that have befallen us and I'm going to go upstairs and watch my beautiful boy sleep until I can figure out how to make my best better. Does anyone else ever have days like this? I'd really like to know.

You'll be happy to know that I didn't pack my bags, but I did go and watch my son sleeping. While I was there I pulled a book off the shelf that some friends gave us before J was born. It's called "1000 Top Tips for Mums and Dads," and it's brilliant. There are lots of great tips on general parenting for kids of all ages. Then at the back there's a chapter simply titled "Wisdom." It was if this chapter had been written for me, and it was exactly what I needed at the time. It talked about not beating yourself up when you have a bad day, but giving yourself credit for all the things that do go right. The book also reminded me that if you treat your kids with love and kindness, they'll love you unconditionally, no matter what (this also made me cry). J didn't blame me for his trip down the stairs. He'd completely forgotten about it by the time he woke up. My little boy wasn't going to forgive me, because there was nothing to forgive in his mind. It was a bit of a revelation! We might be sick and bruised, and our spirits might be slightly broken, but we're all still here, still functioning as a family, and that deserves to be celebrated. So yesterday afternoon I put the pity party away and we spent the gorgeous summer afternoon on the roof in the paddling pool. And that's why there wasn't a post yesterday.

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