February 27, 2011

The Nanny

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:51 am by autismmommytherapist

My husband just walked in the door with suitcase in hand, and except for the time my water broke in the middle of the night, I have never been happier to see this man in my entire life.

It’s been an interesting few days chez McCafferty while my spouse has been “working” in DC (just kidding hon), leaving me to fend for myself with the next generation. He only travels (abandons me) a handful of times a year, and for the most part, things run pretty smoothly during his absences. To date there have been no broken limbs, no trips to the ER (except on cable to visit Clooney), no true catastrophes that I haven’t been able to handle. I’ve been lucky, for although I used to command classrooms of thirty pre-adolescents with comparative ease, on occasion I have been brought to my knees by two particular children (you guessed their names correctly!) who reside in the single digit crowd. Fortunately, these occasions have yet to occur when I’ve been playing the role of single mom.

I believe they’ve consciously taken pity on me. I am grateful.

For the most part the past week has only been particularly challenging because I’m sick and subsequently not sleeping well, having contracted what I was certain was the Ebola virus, but fortunately turned out to be just a garden variety sinus infection. Seeing as this secondary infiltrator followed a three-week bout of bronchitis not nasty enough to incapacitate me, but serious enough to convince me I’d drown in my own fluids, I wasn’t really up for the solo parenting gig this time around. Throw in a gratuitous four-day weekend (the kids haven’t had five consecutive days of school since November and reality tv rules the world, are the presidents REALLY that important anymore?), and it is readily apparent how excited I was to spend some quality time with my kids.

Forget birthday presents this year. Somebody just buy me a damn nanny.

Despite my longing to crawl into bed with some Sex and the City DVDs, Dayquil, and if I’m honest, a “clandestini” (I saw it on Facebook once, have no idea what’s in it, but doesn’t it SOUND fun?), I managed to rise to the occasion, and do my job. For the better part of a week the children were fed, potty-trained, and bathed. There were trips to the arcade, Fun Time America (which, as you hopefully read, was quite an accurate description), and a twenty-four hour stint with an equally ill, yet still extremely helpful, grandmother.

Zachary, in particular, really made out. Every afternoon my youngest, after a great deal of manipulation on his part, convinced me I wouldn’t die if I got off the sofa and “played trains” with him, and I complied. After promising not to breathe in my general vicinity he was even the eager daily recipient of couch cuddles, followed by multiple variations of storytelling involving Zachary, Baby Jessie, and Rexy-the-Medium-Sized-Dinosaur. Hell, I even dragged my butt to Michael’s while he was at school and bought him Saint Patty’s Day crafts.

All in all, for once, it was good to be the second child.

I have to admit that when Jeff finally walked in the door, triumphant from a great work session near our nation’s capital, I was feeling a bit full of myself for handling the home front on my own. After all, I’d gone through six boxes of Kleenex and two bottles of Nyquil but the kids were still alive, and the house looked (relatively) decent. After Jeff ditched the suitcase, conducted the requisite rounds of hugs and kisses, and returned the exclamations of “He’s back, he’s back!”, he folded his large frame carefully and knelt down next to Zach at the kitchen table. While discussing the merits of dipping or not dipping a morsel of hot dog into ketchup Jeff waited until he had his youngest’s attention, then took his hand and asked, “Zachy, did you have fun with Mommy?”

My son continued to chew thoughtfully, regarded my husband seriously, and replied, “No”.

Really. REALLY?!?!

I wasn’t looking for either the medal OR the monument, but I admit I was searching for something a bit more complimentary than one negative, solitary syllable. Jeff regarded me quietly with a slight smirk on his face that I vowed to make him pay for later, shrugged his shoulders, and bent back down to answer an all-consuming question about the Chuggingtons from my deeply ungrateful child. I turned and headed back toward the sink, lightly touching the head of my oldest and momentarily favorite offspring.

After one brief stop at the refrigerator for the reward of that dark piece of chocolate I felt was my due, I reached that silver chasm of dishes and once again wielded a sponge at the hundredth utensil I’d cleaned that day. I sighed, relegated myself to the ranks of the unappreciated, and summoned the phrase so often stated by my grandma when I’d regale her with stories of poop, vomit, sleepless nights, and more poop, back when Justin was a mere babe.

Welcome to motherhood.

July 21, 2010


Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , at 6:31 am by autismmommytherapist

I taught for a dozen years prior to entering the domain of motherhood, five years in the District of Columbia Public Schools, and seven in the suburbs of Virginia, which in their own way were just as challenging as the years I worked in the nation’s capital. I was immersed in the lives of children at least 180 days a year, enmeshed in their triumphs, their tragedies both real and imagined, and their stories. I had thought in some respect this proximity to the under eighteen crowd would prepare me to be a better mom, one who would remain inured to the demands of parenthood, perhaps not seduced by the anxiety foisted upon us by the insecurities of my generation. In the end, I was more prepared for both the joys and the drudgery that define raising a family, but alas, I was not immune to the worrying.

The vast majority of my friends passed on their own genetic legacy at a “reasonable” age, producing offspring at thirty or a few short years afterwards. I can easily recall cradling their babies in my arms, listening to their murmured coos or cries of outrage at needs unmet, and I’d wait for my ovaries to rise up in anger at being synthetically suppressed for so long. They never united in protest, and eventually I would return my borrowed infant to its rightful owner without regret. Perhaps it was the whole concept of infancy, of which I’m not particularly fond, or perhaps it was that my brain knew this child was only a “loaner”, and would have to be relinquished eventually. Perhaps I just required that first insensitive ob/gyn to inform us that our chances of having a baby naturally were about as great as having two children on the autism spectrum.

We all know how that turned out.

I will never regret waiting to start my family. I don’t register pangs of envy at the sight of the dewy-skinned moms in Zachary’s pre-school class, and I feel no remorse in knowing that for them the eighties was a quaint era reminiscent of big hair and silly songs, not, in fact, THE BEST DECADE EVER. I needed those years of my twenties (and most of my thirties) to accomplish my goals, enjoy half a career, finish a few rounds of graduate school, and have childless, unfettered fun. I required time to mature enough to be able to put my needs aside to raise a disabled child without resentment or regret, at least on most days. I needed to learn how to feel more confident in my ability to mother my own offspring, to diminish some of the “surprise factor”. Those years, particularly that exposure to children, accomplished these goals for me.

While I did feel more prepared for what lay in store for me after giving birth, even after accepting the news that my child’s brain chemistry is forever altered, there was one surprise I did not, could not anticipate. I could never have known that the action of my oldest son pulling me down for repeated kisses of gratitude coupled with eye contact, or my youngest’s gleeful cry of “mommy” after a few hours of separation, could greatly eradicate my needs, my losses, my angst. I wish I could have known how fulfilling those moments could be, how they heal, temporarily ameliorate the sting of those wounds entirely. I wish I could have known how watching my sons smile and recognizing I played a part in the joy emanating from their countenances would be more fun (at times) than shopping, or a day at a really good spa. I wish someone would have told me, but perhaps that knowledge can’t be truly conveyed until it’s experienced.