Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Most Important Part of My Village

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  I know, I can't believe it either.  Earlier this year I had the opportunity to present at an early childhood conference on a topic I am quite passionate about- improving communication between working parents and those who care for our children.  I partnered with the Director of our childcare center and we delivered a presentation that sought to build empathy for both groups and relay best practices for communication.  We ended the presentation by reading a thank you note each of us wrote to the other person.  In this season of gratitude, I am sharing this letter on the blog.  I hope it reaches every single person who cares for young children.  Your parents may not always articulate what you mean to them, but I know I speak on behalf of so many.  From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

Dear Caregiver,

You didn’t see me the other day as I stood outside the door.  As I was leaving that morning, I heard my son crying.  I peered through the glass as I saw him sitting at a table while you, hands gently on his arms, knelt down to look right into his eyes.  As he told you about the problem he had encountered you never lost his gaze.  You talked to him and listened.  To almost anyone else in the world his problem would have been the smallest, most insignificant issue.  Maybe he didn’t get to play with his favorite truck.  Maybe he had trouble sharing.  But you listened as if it was the biggest problem because you know that for him, they’re all big problems.

I held back every motherly instinct to rush in and rescue him.  I didn’t need to.  I have you.

I have you to listen to my children every day about the big problems, the little discoveries and the joyful celebrations.  I have you to hug them when it seems like their tears will never stop falling.  I have you to help us teach them how to be responsible, loving citizens of the world who realize that sharing means twice as much fun, twice as many friends and twice as much happiness.

Each day when I’m at work I am surrounded by photos of my family in colorful frames.  Their smiling faces remind me that the hard work I do provides them with opportunities for a wonderful life.  But it’s hard and I feel guilty for the time when I’m not near them.  And that’s why I’m so grateful I have you.  You have become part of the fabric of their lives.  You are my village and I am so honored that you chose children as your life’s calling.  I don’t know how you do it.  How you smile when I’m sure your head is throbbing, how you listen to the little things like they’re big things all day long.  You deal with the messiest of human beings and you wake up every day to do it all over again.  You are amazing.

And last week, you didn’t see me again.  I came in to pick up my son and peeked around a corner to see you sitting outside of a bathroom stall.  Inside was my precocious, wonderful son trying to use the potty.  And knowing that those things take time, you sat outside reading his favorite book while he giggled.  And I giggled.  Because that is the kind of loving act that only a parent could possibly have the patience for.  But you’re not a parent yet and yet here you are in the very trenches with us.  Thank you for every book, every dance, every song, and every hug.  My children are better people because you’re in their lives.  We are better parents for the information you give us every day.  And the world is a better place because people like you care so much for the very smallest of us.

Thank you so very much,

Love, a Working Parent

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2,000 Pieces Later

The story of the 2,000 piece puzzle took some unexpected turns, but we finished it with a trip to the emergency room.  But I'm getting a little ahead of myself...

Last fall, fearing we had fallen into a helpless rut of a routine, we decided to dust off a 2,000 piece puzzle that we had been meaning to assemble but never got around to.  I've heard that any project you don't complete in the 6 months following the purchase of a new home will never be accomplished.  I sort of feel that way about the plans we had before kids.  Be they as big as that trip to Europe or as small as a puzzle, the dreams and plans you make before kids can be pretty tough to realize once they're here.  You just learn to replace them with new dreams.

We were making great progress on that puzzle until Will decided to stop sleeping start teething.  So the puzzle sat on top of our bar in the basement until he was feeling more amenable to sleep.  The bar of which I speak is one that Trevor built years ago in the basement of his college house.  It was a gathering place for all of our friends.  He hosted parties regularly and we have hundreds of photos of us at T's Bar as evidence for our boys that, once upon a time, their parents were cool...and sometimes made questionable choices.  Now the infamous T's Bar was a dusty ghost of its former self.  Toys were scattered all over it and on top of the toys was our puzzle.  A perfect metaphor for the passing of time and the changing of seasons.

Ye Olde T's Bar

We had completed roughly 75% of the puzzle before putting it to rest for a few months.   Once Will started sleeping through the night again we found we had fallen back into the same routine that sent us digging out that puzzle in the first place.  But by late June we decided to give it the old college try and bang that puzzle out once and for all.  The fact that I just used the expression "old college try" means that we truly are not cool anymore.  But we were!  I promise!

Our brand of "cool"
July 3rd, 2014.  Trevor was set to fly to San Francisco early the following morning to attend one of his best friend's wedding.  We were having a family night watching movies- The Great Muppet Caper to be exact (how weird is it that Charles Grodin is in love with Miss Piggy in that movie?) It was right around the time when Charles was framing Miss Piggy that Trevor started feeling incredibly sick.  I even happened to capture a photo of Jack's shock and awe.

Trevor was suffering from horrible abdominal pains that were unrelenting.  They lasted long after the popcorn had been eaten and the boys went to bed.  A quick trip to WebMD and Trevor diagnosed himself as possibly having gallstones.  Oh boy. He was scheduled to leave at 5am to catch his flight to California and the panic set in.

Based on more Dr. Internet advice, Trevor drank a potion concocted of a spare apple juice box from a Happy Meal and some apple cider vinegar.  It did calm the pangs long enough for him to get a nap in before he took off for the trip.  I don't think I got much more sleep than he did.  It's so scary to see someone you love so much in pain.  Later, I told him that I now know how he must have felt to see me in labor- helpless, scared, and trying to stay calm for the both of us.  He had another attack the night after the wedding and I met him at the airport the following Monday to take him to the ER.  Do you know what the ER is like on the Monday after the 4th of July?  Absolutely, freaking crazy, that's what!  He ended up going home without being seen, but was able to schedule an ultrasound with his doctor for that Friday.  The ultrasound confirmed that he had many, many gallstones and his gall bladder would need to be removed.  An appointment with a surgeon would be made that following week.

Saturday night.  Trevor and I felt motivated to finish that puzzle.  The boys went to bed and we started a movie.  For the last time, Trevor brought that massive puzzle out from on top of the bar and we sorted pieces.  I tried to make conversation but I noticed him growing quieter and quieter as the minutes went by.  We had finally reached the very last piece of the puzzle.  We both put our fingers on the piece and together, dragged it across the puzzle into its spot.  "We did it!" I exclaimed.  Trevor's level of enthusiasm didn't rise to the occasion and I just knew.  I just knew he was having another attack.  And it was the worst one he'd had yet.

Let me summarize the next 48 hours-

Panic, worry, late night call to brother-in-law to take Trevor to the ER, sleeplessness, multiple text messages to brother-in-law for updates, early morning phone calls to parents, lots of goooood drugs for Trevor, meeting with surgeon, emergency laproscopic gall bladder removal, home again, deep sigh of relief.

I think back to that crazy weekend.  And I'm incredibly grateful that Trevor had something that was very easily treatable.  But I also think about how we barely finished that puzzle before he was being taken to the emergency room.  There was a moment in the waiting room while he was in surgery that I thought about how much we take for granted.  

We'll finish that puzzle someday.  
We'll have that important conversation someday.  
We'll make those plans someday.

Someday is nothing more than a cruel myth designed to keep us all stuck in our own fear and laziness.  Someday is a unicorn farting glitter into a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  

What if he hadn't recovered?  What if it was something much more serious?  How could I ever stand the sight of that unfinished puzzle knowing that we passed over 100 opportunities to complete it together?  I think there was a part of me that was reluctant to finish it.  While it lay there unfinished it carried with it all the hope and promise for more togetherness. Would we still have anything to look forward to if we completed it?  2,000 pieces later I can tell you that we do.

There is another puzzle in our future.  We've set our sites smaller- 1,000 pieces.  And there will be one less gall bladder to help us complete it.  We can live without that gall bladder, but it's much harder to think about living without each other.  Some people worry too much about that, but others don't worry enough.  My advice?  Kick someday to the curb. Whatever it is you've been thinking of doing or saying, do it today.  Now is the perfect time.

I think it's worth mentioning that after posting the original puzzle blog, I got the most amazing messages from people sharing with me their own version of "puzzle night".  Some chose puzzles, others chose cards or board games.  Others took long walks or watched a movie while their cell phones and laptops were tucked away.  

Our puzzle became our way of saying, "I don't know how long we're on this crazy spinning globe together, but I know it won't be forever.  So while we have this time together, let's not waste it."

Earlier this month we had an absolute blast at the wedding of a good friend.  The wedding was in a museum that had a carousel going all night long.  Spinning around on that carousel, laughing and taking #carouselfies reminded me of the days long ago when we were just Trevor and Nancy and not someone's parents.  And looking at these photos, I have to say...

I think we're still cool.