Monday, February 28, 2011

Thank you, children

And then the heavens opened and the rainbow lit up the previously cloudy sky and some Things occurred to cause a break in the plagues.

Thing One
Felix has started showing an interest in Dr Seuss, from whom I have shamelessly stolen my Thing One and Thing Two-conceit. This Thing makes reading to Felix fun, and in a more general way is emblematic of the pleasure I am taking in my little boy these days. He really does have a fine sense of humour, you know, and a kind heart, and I don't think I could value anything more in a person. Examples: he smothers Richie in hugs and kisses (and Richie responds by believing that Felix is the greatest person in the whole world and bestowing all his very shiniest, sunniest smiles on him); he chatters all the time as in Omigod, like, All. The. Time and being granted an insight into that little mind is like being given a very special present and proves my ex-stepfather's (yes, really!) adage that it's never too late to have a happy childhood.

Suddenly we are into drawing. I, who have no artistic skills, am being asked to render representations of helicopters to exacting specifications ("Where's the yittle proPEYyer, Mommy?"). Ditto tractors. Ducks. Birds. Fire engines. I'm waiting for the spaceship brief. With Lunar Jim on the telly it's but a matter of time.

I'm loving this age. Can you tell?

Thing Two
Boy oh boy did we need a good weekend. After the sickness and the lack of sleep and the long working hours for Sean, we hoped for a good weekend. Portents were initially not good.

We arranged to meet friends at the Botanical Gardens on Saturday afternoon, a 40-minute drive away, and we had to wake Felix from his nap to get there vaguely on time, and he was Pissed OFF about that, and (naturally) he didn't want to go out (Hell being other people and all), and Richie uncharacteristically screamed the whole way there and generally Argh.

Sainted Spouse was at the end of his tether with Felix's distress in that way that we get when we fear that we are raising an unhappy child by somehow doing something unknown wrong and not knowing how to fix it, blended with resentment at the thwarted desire to sometimes - just SOMEtimes - be allowed to plan an outing or event that is in part for us, not just for the comfort and delight of the children. Sainted Spouse was unsaintly-ly venting at me in the car about the above when literally in a thunderbolt voice-of-God-moment way, Felix stopped sobbing and did a 180 degree mood turn - "Oh YOOK! There's a orange MOtorbike!".

Sean, wind out of sails, fixed his wrath on the traffic. "Would you look at that idiot? Will that fucker ever get out of the middle lane?" - and the words were not out of his mouth before the offending driver buggered off and a Red Sea Parting of open road chasmed in front of us.

And so it continued and just like that, the weekend turned. We both had afternoon naps - twice! In two days! Sean didn't go to work... much! Felix made another friend! (Our friend's 3 and a half year old boy was an object of admiration for Felix; after an hour or so of checking the Threat out, Felix decided the fact that the Big Boy could climb trees was enough to overcome any residual shyness; by the end of the afternoon they were chasing each other round the gardens.) We stayed home on Sunday and had some more friends over for lunch! Felix enjoyed them! And in a crowning glory way, Sean had bought a plastic rocket launching toy from the hardware store with which Felix fell immediately and passionately in love. Sunday was spent stomping on a plastic pump that sends a burst of air up into a little rocket and propels it up into the air. Felix must've launched a thousand rockets yesterday.

To end, the kids were exhausted and asleep by 7.30. (This never happens in our house.)

It was our reprieve, our little holiday-in-a-bottle, and we needed it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Richie got the lergy too

Yes, Felix did get better after the last blog post.

And Richie got worse.

Richie clearly picked up Felix's bug. Same aetiology: vomiting, fever, unhappiness. He spent entire days hanging listlessly off Queeny's or my shoulders. Vicious bug, this: both my kids were out of sorts for a full 6 days. Inconventiently, they staggered th onset of their maladies, meaning that by yesterday I had had 4 hours or less of broken sleep a night for about 2 weeks running.

That was fun. I started forgetting things - and by 'things' I mean, conversations I had had a few minutes ago, in which decisions were made, which I could not then bring to mind immediately afterwards. Keeping count of how many doses of Empaped I had given which child and when was a task I only barely managed. I lost track of the days. I did the silly laughter thing. I cried, a bit.

It was only last night after I snapped at Richie to stop being naughty and go back to bed that the Sainted Spouse did an intervention very saintly thing and sent me to bed at 10 - and only woke me up at 3am with hungry baby in arms. Now there's a hero. As Stacey says in her last blog post, how parents do this child-rearing thing on their own I don't know.

So this morning I am human enough to blog. And - see bit about memory loss above - can't remember a single thing to blog about!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rookie parents

There's nothing like a sick child at 2am to make you feel like a rookie. Rank amateur. Small fish, big pond. Surrounded by sharks. Who haven't had food for 2 months.

Felix's ear infections continue. Because they're almost "routine" by now, I generally take him to the GP up the road from us when I suspect one, just to get someone qualified to do so to look in his ear. Invariably, the diagnosis is: red ear. Treatment plan: antibiotics. Felix generally recovers within 24 hours.

This time, Felix went from happy kid to total freak in half an hour on Tuesday morning. When he said, "My ear is so sore" I perked mine up sharpish and hauled him off to the doc. Came back with the standard antibiotics (we rotate through the types, it seems, to avoid resistance to a particular strain I guess) plus symptomatic meds: painkillers, fever-bringer-downers, ear drops, nose drops, decongestants.

Wednesday night - a full 24 hours later - Felix has one of those nightmare nights. He wakes at midnight, his body is on fire, Sean give Stopayne.

He wakes at 4, his body is on fire, Sean gives Empaped suppository. Felix stays awake, alternating between shrieking, whimpering, shivering and vomiting, talking delirious nonsense, until at 5.30 we give him Voltaren.  The temp gauge is reading 39.8.

Felix passes out at 8am. I think, thank goodness, he's really sleeping it off now. Except he wakes at 11.30am, vomiting, shivering, shrieking, whimpering etc. Now I'm stressing. We're pumping incredible doses of antipyretics up his arse. I'm thinking he's going to have a febrile seizure any minute. I call the paediatrician. Sean comes home from work. (Sean. Comes. Home. From. Work! We are Serious about this...) We have a doctor's appointment for 3.30pm on Thursday.

At 2.30pm Felix rallies. He's friendly, he's chatty, he's on the trampoline for fuck's sakes, he wants to go to the Post Office with me to post letters (one of his very favourite things to do in the world, thank goodness I generate enough  bills to have post to post daily). At the shops he asks me to... wait for it... go into one of those play centres they have in the malls, the ones with the balls and the bikes and the toys and the jungle gyms and the OTHER CHILDREN!

I look at my child. Do the mental calculation. The result is: we go. He's actually asking for interaction and stuff. He must be feeling better. So we go. Have great time. Play with toys, share with other children, says actual words to other children, etc. It's all marvellous.

Next stop: the doctor. I go in with one of those embarrassed faces. "You know, doc, when I phoned earlier I was ready to go to Casualty with the kid, and just look at him now. All better, clearly. Sorry to have been so paranoid."
Doc examines him from head to toe. Felix isn't even minding. He's even chatting to the man.
We're back on the doc's office getting Felix dressed and I hear, "Mommy, I'm cold!" Felix has gone ashen white. I can literally see the colour drain from his face. He starts wailing. Doc shoves suppository up arse. Sends us home with better meds.

Felix gets hotter and hotter until we give him more Voltaren at bedtime and rock him to sleep. It's Thursday night. We've both had about 4 hours' sleep the night before. Felix is up at 1am. Shrieking, whimpering, vomiting, shivering etc. Suppository. Rallies round. Watches Teletubbies with me at 2am. Thank God for 24/7 channel 306. Finally passes out at 3.30am. Richie wakes me at 5.30. I've had less than 4 hours sleep, again.

This morning Felix is still asleep at almost 9am. I am worried and relieved in equal measure: it's been almost 8 hours without drugs, the longest stretch he's yet done.

We must have been lucky so far, because I have never had Felix this ill. It is completely horrible. The powerlessness, the vague sense that you as the parent should be doing "something" - but what is that thing?

The "rookie" part? Starting to understand how dramatic those "feel good, feel ablosutely dreadful" spikes can be in children. I don't think I'll be quite so quick to judge my kids as "all better" anymore.

We have survived our first really bad sick episode with  Felix. We feel like beginners. Please hope with me that my little boy wakes up better today!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A human friend

Felix has been warned about not shouting like a banshee when Richie is asleep. Today this inspired this gem from a toddler about to become loud:

"I WANT.... [silence. reframes the demand into a request] Pyeeeease... I can shout?"

(Yes boy, Richie's awake, you can shout.)


Oh the cuteness.

In other news, Felix made a friend! A real human boy child friend. Words cannot describe the relief etc. In fairness you all did tell me this was a stage and we were to persevere etc. So on Saturday we went to my lovely friend Kathleen's housewarming party, and there was young Zach, two years old and twenty years cute, and  before you know it (though with much help from Sean), there were two boys racing up and down the lawn ("We running! We running!"), laughing as Sean theatrically jumped up to collect flowers from a high bush, which flowers the boys would then race back to lay at the feet of Zach's mom and dad. Repeat 35 times.  Zach's mom and dad acted like this was normal, everyday behaviour while Sean and I cracked open imaginary bottles of Chateauneuf du pape and set off Times Square-size fireworks in our heads, all the while acting as outwardly cool as we are capable of, now that we are parents and therefore automatically terminally uncool.

Still: yay! HOOOOOOORAY!

Also, we have a date for Richie's operation. It's only going to be halfway through April. Not sure why, in fact, I was so nervous when the doctor called that I just managed to utter a series of "okay"s. Richie will be 7.5 months old then. I guess it's a good age.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

That's entertainment

Richie has learnt that Felix is very entertaining.
Felix has learnt that someone thinks he is very entertaining.

Together, they are better than any TV. Which is just as well, as we had a power cut yesterday (and every time there's a thunderstorm). Hence the video is shot in Blair Witch-like gloaming.

Also just as well since, after receiving a series of rude SMSes from our TV Licencing Dept, but no actual bill in the traditional letter-in-post way, I paid our R250 licence fee. For the only time in one year, I switched from DsTV channel 306 to SABC3 a few nights ago to catch Law And Order. Unfortunately, the SABC had purchased their print off a dealer on the corner of Rockey and 7th Ave, as the music was unbearably loud and the dialogue inhumanly soft. Plus distorted. Vincent d'Onofrio, I missed every one of your  witticisms.

It was the most expensive show I've ever not watched. Go, SABC!


Still, is there any better sound than that of  kids giggling their heads off at each other?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cultivating gratitude

I chose to leave the world of formal office employment when Felix was born because:
1) I could
2) I wanted to spend time with him
3) My husband and I thought it would be better for him that way. (The fact that there is a band of inflexible conservatives around who tell you constantly it's the ONLY way to raise your child is annoying and sometimes messes with the clarity of my vision about my decision, but not as much as they used to, before I settled into the role of my New Self.)

Before I had children, I vastly - but VASTLY - underestimated the amount of guilt and responsibility (and of course love) I would feel towards these two human beings we decided to have without asking them first.

Now, as everyone knows, we are complete wuss parents and our children break our hearts daily just by being themselves.

Somewhere in the first year of Felix's life, the adjustment to just exactly how much babies demand from you changed from something we resented while grieving over our old lives and became the norm. When Richie came along, everything was easier because we already accepted that every single thing about our pre-baby lives was different now, for a while at least, and that was really okay. Even - worth it.

You give your children everything you have and can and are prepared to give them. You probably feel guilty over those parts of your life you are not prepared to surrender. And then occasionally the resentment still creeps in and you think along the lines of, "Do you realise how much I am giving up for you? Do you know how lucky you are? I hope you are grateful!"


Having to be grateful is not a duty I want to send Richie and Felix into adulthood with. In my ideal vision of how things are in 20 years' time, they love each other. They have not had a major feud. They are bound by ties of blood, but also of affection. They still enjoy visiting the old folks (us) instead of seeing it only as a chore.

But - and not in a kak way, I promise - I also want Felix and Richie to understand their extremely lucky position. I want them to know that the lifestyle they lead is not one that is available to 99% of the rest of the human population. In terms of what their parents can afford for them, time spent in a safe, loving home, attention lavished on them by parents and grandparents, the care that is taken over their emotional wellbeing, the thought that goes into everything from what they eat to whether and where their schooling will begin to whether they are happy and how to allow them to be more so, they lucked in.

I want Felix to feel lucky without being burdened by it. Ideally, he will be happy that his life is good, though occasionally weighed down by the knowledge that we as humans do not care for the entire species as well as we do for our own immediate relatives, and that even then some children grow up in neglect, disinterest, poverty or worst, in the presence of evil.

And I want to do all this without clouding the issue too much with my own conflicted feelings: they way I yearn for time to do work (and time to have a wax!) while knowing that I battle guilty feelings about that yearning that have nothing to do with my children and everything to do with my own issues.

What I mean by that is that I am bad at being able to take time off from my kids. I am not bad at actually taking time off from them - I do, and I have to. (Mostly to work and not so often  for a haircut, which sucks, but hey, welcome to every parent's lot.) But my time off from them would be better for me, emotionally, if I (and Sean!) didn't do (or feel like we had to do) a complicated mental justification for the time off, and instead just enjoyed it. That, I am still unable to do. But anyhoo.

I don't want my children to be spoilt in the sense that they take everything they have for granted as their birthright. And yet I want them absolutely to take our unconditional love for granted. Always.

It's a conundrum, this one, as Felix would say (the "this one" bit, not the "conundrum. He's good, but he's not that good...)

Speaking of expressions like "This one, it's hot", Felix masters three accents and verbal styles. The first obviously comes from Queeny, who also taught him the colour pepple.

From me and Sean, Felix learnt that a motor vehicle is known as a Caw.

And from CBeebies, specifically Teletubbies, he hilariously learnt how to pronounce what his parents call a Beh and what is referred to in his books as a Bear. Now we train Felix to imitate animals.

"Felix, what animal are you being?"

"A Be-ah!" pipes up a tinny little voice in the Queen's finest. "A Be-ah! A Be-ah! A big, brown BE-AH! ROOOAARRRR!"

We just try to look serious and remember that we told ourselves we wouldn't turn our kid into a performing monkey...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's the appropriate response here?

Felix felt it pertinent to share the following this morning, in a spate of uncharacteristic chat-to-strangersness:

"I eat noodles!"

But that wasn't enough. Oh no.

"My little brother..." he went on.


"....eats from..."

oh yes

"....Mommy's BOOBies!"

That is all. Thank you, thank you, we're here all week...