Tag Archives: parenting

A Cat and Her Boy

lunaface

This critter staring at you from the screen is named Luna. Feel free to extend her birthday greetings, as she is fifteen years old this month. She’s been a member of our household from the age of eight weeks, coming to us about the time my youngest kid was turning four. The two of them bonded immediately. She’s supposed to be my cat, but I’m the only one who signed that contract; she never agreed to the terms and conditions. As far as Luna is concerned, she has one human — the boy she helped raise.

Both of my children are good with animals, and even at such a young age, my son showed a remarkable gentleness with our tiny kitten. The two of them spent many hours playing and snuggling. It wasn’t uncommon for my son to fall asleep with the cat wrapped in his arms.

For a few months last year, Luna’s boy moved away, and I could tell she was looking for him, going to his room repeatedly. Since he returned home in late December, she’s been dogging his footsteps, so to speak. Sometimes I wonder about cat brains and what they remember. Does she know the big, gangly human she loves now is the same person as the little guy who used to drive his Hot Wheels cars around her? I think she must. But I’m sure neither of them remembers a time before the other.

The boy is considering moving away again in the fall. I hope it doesn’t break either of their hearts too much.

IMG_2496

She still likes to sleep in his bed. 

 

Full House Again

Everything old is new again. So much for the empty nest. A couple of months after the first kid boomeranged, the second one came back.

funny-graph-happened-planned-favim-com-2288542

We brought the 18-year-old home from college for Christmas break and he decided to stay. He had an unfortunate first semester as a freshman, with all sorts of problems, from the college bookstore messing up his textbook order to a bicycle accident that resulted in a fractured wrist. And he discovered he really didn’t like dorm life.

I went with him yesterday to sign up for classes at the local community college. He plans to get a few gen ed credits there this semester and possibly transfer somewhere else in the fall. He and some friends are talking about getting an apartment together. They held a discussion session at our house the other evening. It was interesting listening to 18 & 19-year-old young men discuss the virtues of slow cookers. We shall see what actually happens.

For now it’s back to a heaping cart full of groceries every week. Back to tracking four different schedules and parceling out car use — who has to be where when and what family member might have to give another one a ride. Back to more dishes to wash, to negotiating who has the most pressing need to get their laundry done and thus dibs on the washer, who is showering when. Back to sending shushing text messages to my kids in the middle of the night if they’re being too loud, and nagging about chores. But also back to enjoying their company a lot of the time and the comfort of being an eye-witness to food consumption, so I don’t worry about them starving.

I confess to mixed feelings. I liked having more time and freedom the few weeks they both were gone and I was getting a rhythm to what I thought was going to be my life now. But it’s also comforting seeing them a lot and feeling needed.

My firstborn is working at a small retail store and has already been promoted to assistant manager. This is a pleasing turn of events, after a long period of, uh, I guess I could phrase it as floundering or way finding or struggle or waiting for some brain synapses to do their thing with maturity.

Now I can focus on helping the younger sibling with his…way finding.

 

Emotional Whiplash

I’ve been afraid of changin’
Cause I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older, too
(From the Stevie Nicks song, “Landslide”)

Two weeks ago, we had a plan, or so I thought. My 21-year-old (who prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them”) would continue to live with us for at least several weeks, while continuing college. Their significant other would move into the house as well, temporarily, from the small town where they can’t find work. The S.O. would seek employment here and the two of them would eventually get an apartment in our city, maybe in two to three months.

Eight days ago, I was helping my college junior collect bugs for an entomology lab. The next day — one week ago tonight — the offspring announced that friends in Colorado had a room open and said both of them could move in there. In fact, it would happen over the coming weekend. Both of them would look for jobs once they got to the new place. Friday, my kid withdrew from college and started packing. Sunday night the abductors new roommates arrived and slept at our house, while I spent a sleepless night stalking them on-line. Early Monday morning, they packed what they could fit into a Mazda hatchback and drove off to collect my child’s S.O. before continuing to Colorado.

IMG_2049

Sigh.

This is what young adults will do to their parents. Their life plans change so suddenly and drastically, they leave us with emotional whiplash. I said, “I brought you a stink bug from the garden and this is the thanks I get?”

I had a vision in my mind of getting to know their partner better, helping the young couple furnish their first apartment together, being close enough to have them over for dinner once a week. Calling up occasionally and saying, “Hey, let’s go to a movie, my treat.” Something gradual. Something that would give me time to prepare mentally and emotionally. A bachelor’s degree was in the vision somewhere, too.

I cried real tears. A lot of them, to be honest. My husband even had a little weeping the morning they left. But I suppose the joy of being twenty-one years old lies in being old enough to make your own decisions, but young enough not to be bogged down with worries of everything that could go wrong. The world is out there waiting for you to discover it. $700 in the bank, no car and no job lined up? Eh, it’ll work out.

I spent so many years immersed in the lives and needs of my two children and my mother. Adding in the job I do for a paycheck, I had little time for anything else. Now I suddenly find myself with only my husband and a houseful of pets. In a short period of time, my mom passed away and both kids moved out. At least the 18-year-old will be home for holidays, school breaks and some weekends. He’s doing it the correct way, in other words.

Since I often cope with anxiety and sadness through the use of humor, I gave my firstborn about ten minutes after pulling out of our driveway (roommate driving) then sent a text saying “We rented your room.” A few hours later, I followed up with “I sold the rest of your stuff on Ebay.” I suppose it’s not exactly like sending your kid off on a ship to America from the Irish shore in the 19th century, expecting never to see them again and not even to know for several months whether they arrived safely.

When this child was six, they promised to live with me forever. Liar. Or maybe they simply meant in my heart and mind. I admit, the former feels as if it has a big hole in the middle right now and the latter is still spinning.

 

 

 

 

We All Need Help Sometimes

If you’ve been on social media at all the past couple of weeks, I’m sure you’ve seen this photo by now:

30720-c196a38ecdd51c31213e1f320d1f9b69

The sign posted in a private boys’ school in Arkansas. I don’t remember the name. Bootstrap High or something.

Let me tell a story on myself. One day last week, I was checking out at the store with more than $100 worth of groceries when I realized I didn’t have my wallet. Everything had been rung up and bagged already. Thinking back through my day I had a pretty good idea where my wallet might be. I called my 21-year-old, who was home at the time, and asked them to find it and bring it to me. My offspring came through immediately and without complaint, saving my bacon. I suppose they could have said, “Well, Mom, this is really your problem to solve…”

The best part of the story is that the store employees didn’t try to shame me in any way. (I had that one covered all on my own, thanks, apologizing to them approximately five times.) The clerk even offered to put my food in a cooler while I waited if I thought it might take a while.

Have I ever taken anything to my kids at school after they forgot it? You bet. Have there been times they forgot something and I didn’t take it to them? Of course. A couple of times, one of them went off without a piece of homework or a book and I was at work, so I couldn’t bring it. Similarly, I wouldn’t have called my kid out of a college class to bail me out of my situation.

We all need help sometimes. We’re all human and fallible. Can’t we cut each other a little slack? I’m a person who has a hard time asking for assistance from anyone, ever, for anything. It’s a great failing of mine that I work hard to overcome. I didn’t want to raise my kids to be that way. Yes, sometimes I felt hassled and frustrated, but last week I received a payment in kind.

I understand some parents feel their kids get into a bad habit of taking advantage and they need to say no to requests like this. That’s cool, too. Because the parent involved knows their child and family situation the best.

What’s not so cool is the public shaming of parents and their kids so a school principal can feel smug. Maybe this shows me to be a terrible person, but my immediate reaction on reading the sign was a fervent hope that the principal would lock his/her keys in the car by accident and that all the parents, students and school staff in the vicinity would refuse to assist in any way.

How about we let parents and kids figure out for themselves how they want to handle these situations? How about we not hold children to higher standards than we hold ourselves? How about we offer each other more encouragement and support than scorn and ridicule?

 

 

The Last Week

This is the last week. The last week of my son mowing the back yard. The last week of asking him if he has any requests as I fill out my grocery list. The last week to remind him to wear his retainer when he goes to bed. The last week to go to sleep knowing he’s safe under my roof. The last week of the cat who’s grown old as he’s grown up spending an evening in his lap while he works on game design.

We move him into his dorm this coming Saturday, and we’re in the last-minute flurry of getting it all together. I check and re-check my list of what I think he’ll need: first aid kit, plenty of socks and underwear, towels and bedding, deodorant, plates, cups and bowls. Oh, plus, how about a shower caddy to carry all of his soap, shampoo and shaving supplies down the hall? And how about some shower sandals to help him avoid foot fungus? Better throw in a package of toilet paper, because who knows how often they restock in the communal bathroom. I cross-check my list with his: ethernet cable, USB hub, extra computer keyboard… I ask if he’s done any preparation at all. He says yes, he’s backed up files from his laptop to an external hard drive.

kidsnow

Photo of my son from eleven minutes ago. Or eleven years. Something like that.

I know he still has plenty of nights to spend under our roof in the future, on holidays and breaks, and the occasional weekend. I know I can visit him easily enough. He’ll be less than two hours away, after all. I know in the age of cell phones and Skype, we can be in touch as much as he’ll allow. But I know it won’t be the same as it was before he left. I’m pretty sure the new reality will bring a combination of freedom and pride and sadness and nostalgia and happiness and worry and hope.

 

We Voted

It’s Primary Day here in Missouri and I participated in one of my favorite parent-child activities. This morning, my 18-year-old accompanied me to the polls to vote in his first election. If my future is in the hands of young adults like him, I’m not overly worried.

I Voted

He not only researched every ballot issue and every candidate, but also the job duties for each office. What does the public administrator even do? Because he asked, I bothered to find out and now know that she (it’s been a she) handles the settling of estates left without a will and manages the affairs of people who are incapacitated with no family to help.

We should all be as conscientious with our votes. If having a toddler can help you appreciate anew the beauty of a daisy, having a new voter in the house can help you appreciate anew the beauty of democracy.

Always Zebras

Zebra

I’ve heard medical students are told “When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras.” Meaning whatever symptoms they see are more likely to be explained by something common than by something exotic.

I’m here to tell you that with my son, a medical appointment often turns into a safari. It’s always zebras.

It started with his teeth, which came in early. We saw the first pearly buds when he was four months old and we had our first visit to a pediatric dentist five months later, since some of his teeth erupted with visible holes in them. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s baby bottle mouth (which can also be seen in breastfed babies, so what the heck is with the name?) He was breastfed and no, the holes were not from any substance – formula or mother’s milk – eating away at the teeth. The dentist found no signs of decay. The enamel simply wasn’t there. Ever. His teeth came without all of the advertised features. While the dentist was probing with his little prober tool, a chip of tooth went flying across the room. They were that fragile.

“What would cause it? What would make his teeth be all wrong?” I asked. Among the possible answers, one stood out. If a pregnant mother runs a fever during the stage of fetal development when the tooth buds grow, it can cause dental problems, including incompletely formed enamel. Ah, yes, I spent a large part of the pregnancy ill. Two different intestinal viruses, a series of head colds and a nasty, lingering sinus infection. Zebras prenatally. We opted for baby oral surgery to cap the teeth a few months later.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks before my boy’s tenth birthday. It was a beautiful spring day, perfect for planting flowers, riding bicycles, enjoying the glory of life. I decided to plant flowers and enjoy the glory of life. My husband and son decided to take a bike ride together.

Picture: Mother with her garden trowel, adorning the family yard with festive petunias, waving happily, heart swelling at the joyful sight of her husband and their child bonding in a healthy activity. And know that in a horror movie, this is when the ominous music begins to play, warning viewers that things look a little too perfect now, don’t they? Within ten minutes the father-son duo arrived back home, excursion truncated as the son was experiencing too much pain from his helmet pushing against the bump on his head.

“Bump on your head? Where?” he pointed to a spot just behind the hairline and above his right eye. I felt it with my fingers. Yep, big old goose egg.

“Did you hit your head on something?”

“Not that I can remember?”

“How long has this been here?”

“I don’t know. Two or three weeks.” (As an aside, my son had a very poor grasp on time for a very long time.)

“Why didn’t you say something?”

Shrug.

What’s the opposite of hypochondria? That’s what my second-born has. Tumor on the head? No biggie. Why raise a fuss?

And, oh yeah, it was a bone tumor. We became well-acquainted with the town’s only pediatric neurosurgeon, who eventually took charge of his treatment. After many tests and appointments and scans and x-rays and more scans, it was determined that he had only the one tumor, but it had already eaten away a spot in his skull right down to the meninges of the brain.

One neurosurgery, a bone graft and a biopsy later, we had a diagnosis. The good news: it wasn’t cancer. The weird news: it was caused by an extremely rare auto-immune disorder that can mimic cancer – Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. This is a disease so rare that the biggest risk factor is being a fictional character on a TV medical drama. In fact, it was the disease of the week once on “House.” LCH affects four or five people out of one million. My son’s doctor might never see another case in her entire career. My son might never have another tumor or symptom from it. Or he might. It’s so weird and rare it’s impossible to say. He’s had no more problems from it so far.

But there was another thing with his teeth after that. What to say about his teeth? I could fill a book with details of his dental woes. When his permanent teeth began showing up, his baby teeth were reluctant to leave. He kept getting more teeth but not losing many, so they came in wicky-wacky. We had some baby teeth removed by his dentist. I honestly think she could have lost every patient but him and still made a pretty good living.

I was overjoyed though, when I saw his top front permanent teeth were strong and complete, even if a little crooked. That lasted a few weeks, until he chipped both when he fell off the jungle gym on the school playground. We would discover many years later that one of the teeth sustained severe permanent damage. This came to light when he got braces at age twelve.

One of the aims of the orthodontia was to bring that front tooth down in line with the others. It had been riding high, never descending completely after getting whacked on the monkey bars. But the tooth didn’t move down. Instead, all of his other teeth started moving up to meet it. Wait, what? I know! That’s exactly what we said, too.

A super-duper futuristic 3-D x-ray revealed the root of the problem. The tooth was ankylosed. This is an uncommon but not unheard of complication that can happen with injured teeth, especially in a human whose bones are still growing. The tooth had fused to the bone up above. It wasn’t going anywhere. Well, not until an oral surgeon cut it out and the orthodontist built a fake tooth-on-a-retainer (like pizza-on-a-stick except a tooth on a retainer) to take its place. The hope is to get an implant if the kid ever stops growing. We’re on hold with that issue for now, but sometimes…

I can’t keep my mind from leaping to TUMOR. For instance when my son and I are sitting in the living room, both reading, as we were a couple of weeks ago, and he says “I hate it when that happens.” And I say “What?” and he says “When I can’t read because the center point of my vision disappears.”

WHAT???!!!!

“Has this happened before?”

“Only a few times.”

“How often?”

“Not very often. It’ll be, like, a few weeks sometimes between one time and the next. And my vision always comes back before too long.”

And he hadn’t thought to mention it. What is the opposite of hypochondria?

The good news this time: still not cancer. Not even a tumor. The weird news this time: it turns out you can have migraines without the headache part. Ocular migraine – that’s what he’s experiencing.

It’s like the Serengeti around here. Always zebras.

zebras