07 July 2011

I DO like them, Sam I am!

I didn’t start this blog with the intention of making it all about ‘things that are hard for parents’. But I am a parent and it turns out that lots of things are hard in this role, and so tonight’s notes are again on the ‘tough stuff’ because we have again reached a milestone. And it’s another milestone that no-one but a parent (or perhaps a nurse or a Dr) really understands. So, what is it?
Drum roll please … Tonight our 2-year-old took medicine from a spoon … willingly …

There. One sentence is going to sort the ‘knowing’ from the ‘unknowing’. Because anyone who has tried to force medicine down a small person’s throat will, quite simply, understand that no longer having to force it is a momentous … err… moment.

The thing with medicine is that when your child needs it, they gotta have it. Back to the ‘choice’ thing! No matter how much they cry and then scream and then spit and snarl and struggle and, finally, run and try to hide at the very whiff of a child-resistant cap being twisted, they have to have it and you have to give it to them.

Our eldest is on the verge of turning 5. She is now actually jealous that our youngest had medicine tonight and she didn’t. Oh, how the wheel turns!!! That child was a monster. We tried … boy oh boy we tried. We tried EVERYTHING.

I have, at different times in the first 2 years of her life, found myself using a syringe to put medicine into a Just Juice box (the ‘she likes juice boxes and she can’t see the medicine’ theory). No good. I have mixed antibiotics with honey and made a sandwich with it (the ‘she adores honey and won’t notice the medicine’ theory). Failed. I have mixed it with ice cream. Nope. I have mixed it into a paste with drinking chocolate. Nope. I have mixed it with strawberry yoghurt. Nope. I have bribed her with chocolate. Nope. I have threatened. Nope. I have cajoled. Nope. I have tried cups, special spoons, tiny bottles with a special teat, big syringes, small syringes. I have tried it all and I have failed more times than I care to remember. I have had pamol vomited down my front. I have had painkillers and antibiotics spat in my eye. I have opened my mouth at the wrong time and had antibiotics spat into it. It is evidently possible to spit, scream AND keep your teeth tightly clenched closed at the same time. What I have not yet had is the police turn up at my door to find out who’s being tortured … and THAT I find the hardest to believe.

Eventually, I learned a hold from a pediatric nurse. You sit on the floor with their head between your thighs (the child, not the nurse). Almost from whence they came if you get my drift. You put their arms under your upper thighs and you put their legs under your lower legs. They literally cannot move (I hasten to add that they can still spit, just in case you were inspired to try this one). Then you syringe in the medicine bit by bit, and blow on their nose to force a swallow. However, I must add that they can choke a bit too cos they’re lying flat on their back. Still – it IS a good hold for putting eye medicine in, so don’t completely disregard it.

Two or three weeks ago, I had a mammoth show-down with my youngest. There was howling, there was screaming, there was struggling, there was sobbing (that was me), there was spitting, there was swearing (me again), there was antibiotics in the eye (yep, me again). There was giving up (me), there was running away. Eventually there was story-time followed by an enforced 2-3 mL followed by another story-time followed by 2-3 mL until finally we had 10 mL in the tummy of the one with the chest infection. I think we’d actually gone through 20 mL in the process. It took an hour. We were both exhausted and upset and stressed. There is little more heartbreaking than watching a very sick 2-year-old stand facing the wall (anything to avoid looking at you), while her thin little shoulders shudder and her head tips back to wail like an injured wolf because of something you are doing to her.

And then about 4 hours later, we had to do it all again. The wailing started … and then it stopped. She turned around, took out her dummy and opened her mouth. Accepted the syringe, swallowed the medicine like she’d been doing it all her life, popped her dummy back in and simply wandered away. Leaving me holding an empty syringe in one hand while the other hand collected my jaw up off the floor. What the …?? Did she just decide that the medicine didn’t taste that bad after all? Did she realize after fighting mummy for an hour the previous time that it was inevitable and I wasn’t going to give up so she may as well just do it? Was I being played? Was I (yet again) in the twilight zone (who are you and where is my child?!). Eventually I stopped trying to figure it out and danced a little happy jig and updated my Facebook status instead. Wahoo … took medicine like a lamb.

Tonight I said to her “I think you need some medicine tonight to make you feel better” (thinking, huh, yeah right). She simply said “yes, wiv a poon” (translated, that means “yes, with a spoon” – the nearly-five-year-old translated for me). Okayyyy, I thought – off a spoon huh – I’d like to see this one! So I duly got out a spoon, I measured the medicine, she opened her mouth, I put the spoon in, she swallowed the medicine, had a cuddle and was away to bed. Done. Zip. Sitting next to her later while she dozed off, I suddenly realized – I’m done! I very likely will never have to grit my teeth and force a syringe into a child’s mouth. It is entirely possible I will never again have pamol in my eye. We can quite probably throw away the syringes and just have a couple of spoons. Wow. My girls are growing up.

And best of all, I will never have to sit on the floor and cry like a baby because I just did any of the above to a screaming, sick, upset child.

It’s just occurred to me that Dr Seuss was probably a parent. Green Eggs and Ham, after all, is about Sam mercilessly chasing ‘the other one’ around, suggesting every way in the world to get him to try the aforementioned green eggs and ham. Finally, out of exhaustion, ‘the other one’ gives in and tastes it, and whaddya know? “I do! I do like green eggs and ham! Thank you, Sam I am!”

06 July 2011

You think you're tired?

One of the things I have learned since becoming a parent is this: until I had children I had not experienced tiredness. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely thought I had been tired!

Yes indeedy, I proudly held up my all-nighters on essays as proof of my hardiness.

Once I worked two straight weeks with no weekend because they were paying me good money to. Yip, I was tired then!

I have run camps where I have been busy chasing children, counseling the counselors and getting ready for the next day long past when I should have been and had 3 hours’ sleep before getting up to chase children all over again. Oh boy, I was tired then, that’s for sure!

But I have discovered that one thing holds all those instances apart. Choice. I had a choice. At times I didn’t think I did, but I did. I could have walked away, I could have said “crikey dick, I really need to lie down” and gone and done so.

But as a parent, exhaustion hits a new high (low?). Because there is no choice. You may have worked a 9-hour day. You may have scrubbed two bathrooms. You may have entertained guests for dinner and then stayed up a bit longer reading a good book (verrrry verrrry silly idea, that one!) because you were on a bit of a high because they asked for seconds of dinner and the recipe.

But Murphy’s Law is so very much alive in the world of parenting that this will be the one night in a hundred that your child will develop a tummy bug. And just as your tired eyes gratefully close and you snuggle into your comfy pillow,  you will hear a strange coughing noise that sounds wrong somehow. So you will haul yourself back off your comfy pillow to ‘just go and check’. And you will find they have power-puked … all over the bed and down the wall and somehow into the chest of drawers.

So I’m sorry, you can be as tired as you like, you can be nearly fainting with exhaustion yourself, but there is no choice but to undress (while trying to avoid getting puke in their hair), wash and re-dress that child, strip the bed, wipe down the wall, sort the clean from the grubby clothes (or just grab the lot and fling them all in the machine), find an ice cream container for the next round (there is never only one power-puke), rub their back, cuddle them, convince them to lie down. Then you stand in the hall and try to figure out which is worse – rinsing out the puked-on duvet now when you’re so tired or waking up knowing you have to do it before breakfast.

But you’re tired … so tired … so you sink into your bed … and your eyes float closed … you sigh … you snuggle to get comfy … … and then … you hear a strange coughing noise. (At this point, please re-read the previous paragraph and imagine yourself going through the same routine all over again, only this time you’re digging for blankets because you only had one spare duvet).

Ok, at this point I’ll let you get a little sleep, but only for half an hour at a time because the puker is now in bed with you – it just seems easier that way – but it does mean you’re jumping at every remotely cough-like sound. Oh, but wait – what’s that I hear? Yes! That’s your alarm. It’s time to get up. And go to work.

NOW you’re tired.

((Addendum. It has been pointed out to me that in fact it is not like this in our house. That there are in fact two of us and we in fact work as a team and that in fact my marvelous house-husband in fact washed that puked-on duvet! Indignant yelp! I agree with him. Totally deserved righteousness. But we’re still tired. You know who are REALLY tired? Single parents. I take my hat off to you time and again. Usually when I’m thinking I’m tired.))

03 July 2011

Farewelling history

Tonight my husband and I said goodbye to something that has been a major part of our lives for over 4 years and through two babies. It was time (actually, according to Plunket, it was well past time!). We did it without fanfare and there's no-one who will notice any change in our lives. Tonight, we gathered up our collection of baby bottles and threw them away. Bits of plastic filled with history, fling … gone.
But I’m one of those who firmly believes in the marking of transitions, and those small plastic containers held so many moments for us, so we took one at a time and said our piece over it before flinging it into the recycling bin.
  • For the first time I attached a funnel to my breast and pumped pure love into you so my husband could give you to my tiny baby while I cried upstairs because (a) that tiny stubborn baby wouldn’t accept a bottle if I was in the room but (b) I was going back to work in a week and that stubborn baby needed to learn to drink from it. Ping. Gone.
  • For the hundreds of times after that first time that I attached that same funnel, so that in the end I was like an SAS troop member assembling a gun … click, twist, rustle, snap … pump … done! Ping. Gone.
  • For the many mornings I expressed milk into you, while half dressed in work clothes, one eye on the clock, wishing I was feeding it to my baby myself. Ping. Gone.
  • - For the many times I bared my breast at work to fill you with my body’s love while trying not to freeze to death in the basement sick room. Ping. Gone.
  • For the first time I filled you at work and then, sobbing, had to empty you down the sink because the milk was filled with drugs and I could no longer give it to my baby but my breasts couldn’t understand that they weren’t needed. Ping. Gone.
  • For the first time I filled you with formula and prayed to whoever was listening that I wasn’t the world’s worst mother for resorting to formula in order to save my sanity and loosen the superwoman cape that was threatening to strangle me. Ping. Gone.
  • For the many nights we filled you and gave you to a crying baby in desperate, pleading hope that the screaming was simply hunger. Ping. Gone.
  • For the few and not-very-successful times we mixed antibiotics into milk/formula in you and handed you to a baby … only to have to retrieve it from wherever it was thrown. Ping. Gone.
  • For the hundreds of times we trudged to the kitchen, squinting in the light at 2, 3, 4a.m. to fill you with formula. Ping. Gone.
  • For the many times recently we’ve been asked to go and get you, duly warmed milk and filled you, only to find you still full an hour later, clasped tightly in a toddler’s sleeping hand … quite obviously no longer needed but clung to out of habit and warmth. Ping. Gone.
  • For the many hundreds of times we’ve washed, scrubbed and sterilized you. Ping. Gone.
Dear bottles. We can’t honestly say we’ll miss you, but you kept us company through the rockiest, loveliest, hardest, scariest and most tiring part of our lives (so far). Rest easy as a polyprop jumper somewhere keeping someone else warm … unless, of course, you turn up back on our doorstep on Thursday morning with a notice stuck to you announcing that the Council doesn’t recycle this kind of plastic.