Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Going to the doctors office these days makes me feel so deficient as a mother.  To start with, the past two times we've been, it's because I've left Oli unattended for a split second, and he has used that nano stroke to endanger himself.  This time it was a wooden door, the hinge side.  He'd crawled in to the downstairs loo, (not the actual loo, obviously, I'm not that incompetent...well...I don't want to tempt fate here, quick close the brackets).  The thing is, Oli's got a fixation for steps these days, even though he's not yet walking.  There's a lot of hauling up the stairs with me playing goaly behind him.  But on this occasion he had spotted the step we use so Max can reach the sink.
'Ah' he thought, 'I'll just crawl in here and while pulling myself up, stick my fingers somewhere where they can be crushed.'
That's when Max decided to swing the door closed.
I confess I cried too. I know I shouldn't have. I should have been telling him he was fine, it would all be OK. But there was so much wailing and so much snot across the face. It looked agony, his fat little finger swelling as the tears leaped from his closed eyes. There was no blood and I made sure he could still make fist, but it was nastily swollen. I searched desperately for the arnica cream which I've obviously put, for easy access, in a place where I expect bruises to take place, but of course, now I can't remember where that is. I'll add that it's quite hard to rummage through the medicine cabinet with a child on your hip, when that same child (who's stopped crying) is also trying to find something in this new and exciting cupboard he's never had access to before. 
During all this time, Max had shut himself in the bathroom where the injury had taken place. In a way I was quite glad. I couldn't really be angry with him, he'd only been shutting a door, after all.  Even so, a cross word might have escaped me if I'd seen him. Even though he didn't know Oli's hand was in the way, he was also shutting him in the bathroom with the lights off.
In the absence of arnica, I used ice. Then I called the nurse. I was hoping she'd dismiss my worries and reassure me, but she started talking about x-rays and splints. The only available appointment she could give me was slap bang in the middle of nap time.  As soon as she'd said 'x-ray', I'd known the finger was fine, but now I had to take the booking didn't I?  I could hardly refuse.
So there I am, in the waiting room, taking my deficiency on the road.  It's hot and we wait and wait some more. Max starts lying on the chairs, then crawling under them, he makes sqwarky loud noises despite my attempts to silence him.  Oli seems delighted to be in the pediatric office again.  He thinks Max's noises are the perfect soundtrack and tries out his own.  The sharp syllables hurt my ears and presumably other people's too.  I bribe Max with Rolos, the ones I'd promised to buy him if he did a pee in a public loo earlier that morning. The child has a phobia of automatic loos, the ones which flush without you touching anything.  I get it, but it makes extended outings problematic.
We are ushered into one of the doctor's rooms where it is even hotter and the wait seems even longer. Both boys are now flushed and hyperactive. Oli's on the bed, Max is crawling around on the floor. I try to protect the tissue paper covering the doctor's bed.  I try to protect the expensive-looking equipment the doctor uses to check eyes and ears; both have coiled cords hanging down which are endlessly alluring to my children. I try to protect my children from themselves.  I feel like I'm in a library full of glass books and they're all falling off the shelves and I'm the only one there to catch them.
When the doctor finally arrives I forget the niceties and start rattling off the details of what happened, desperate as I am to get out.  He has a slow measured style that makes me regret not pausing at least to wish him a happy new year.  I've told Max to sit on the chair while Oli's finger is assessed. That's when he gives me away by asking if he'll get more chocolate. The bribery is out.  The doctor pretends not to hear.
The assessment is brief and I hear the magic words; The finger's fine.  I scramble for the door and even though our exit is delayed by Max's protracted thoughts on sticker choice,  I can already feel the joy of rain on my face and the relief of taking my deficiency back to the privacy of my own home.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Time to Eat

I often find myself calling breakfast, lunch, or supper, breakfast.
'Just come and eat whatever meal this is.' I tell Max.
Oli has no choice; he's strapped in, a tray before him, with a spoon sticking out of the food in question.
The performance is about to start.
This evening it is cold chicken, a slice of avocado, some potato salad, a fish cake, some cheese and a few cherry tomatoes - anything that is still edible in the fridge.  This does not go unnoticed.
'Actually chicken is not my favourite.' Max chimes in.
Fortunately he decides he likes potato salad, then gags and complains I've left the skins on. At what point do I insist on table manners?  I hear myself become the mother I promised never to be.
'Just eat your food, and stop whining.'
Slowly the noise level begins to rise.
Carefully, Max starts to take his supper apart. Skins are peeled, fish cakes dissected, avocado squashed.
I try to help Oli get the spoon to his mouth without large dollops ending up on the floor. But the child who needs help, loudly refuses it; the other, who can quite easily put a fork to his mouth, is noisily demanding it.
'I neeeed you! I don't like the skins!'
The one ear I had on the radio is now reluctantly and firmly tuned to suppertime FM.  I remember that children need hydrating and pour out two cups of water.
That's when I notice a persistent droning about apple juice.  Max is well aware of the new rule about milk or water at supper (introduced not for dental hygiene but specifically to curb the drone).  Meanwhile Oli is desperately and noisily pointing at the counter tops; apparently he can see the one thing he really wants.  I scan the surfaces but can only spot a packet of bagged salad and half a cup of cold coffee in a cafetiere.
'Ma..Ma, Ma..Ma.'
He wants me? I give him my hands.
Ah, banana? From his vantage point, I know he cannot possibly have a visual on the fruit bowl, but I'm willing to concede this one.  I walk over to the dresser.
Max is beside me speaking loudly about a bruise.
'You've been hurt? Where?'
'I want a prune' he says.
I manage to get him to sit down again and when his plate is cleanish I open the packet of dried prunes.
'Just one or you'll be on the loo for hours.'
On second thoughts I give him three.
Hands are mopped, buckles unstrapped and the boys are returned to the important stuff of trains and cars.  The show is over, and I still can't really remember whether it was lunch or supper.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Turning Four

Every day this year (except, perhaps, the time he was vomiting into a bucket in a hot flat in Havelock North) Max has asked me if it is his birthday.
'Not yet.'
I suppose, as we approached this new decade, Dom or I must have let slip that this was the year in which Max would turn four. And what with being away from home this Christmas and away from family too, Max has been enjoying a drip-drip effect with the presents.  There were gifts on the day and more (those that hadn't made it into our luggage) when we eventually got home. Consequent trips to the post office have yielded yet more treats in snowflake wrapping paper within brown paper packaging.  All these presents; it makes Father Christmas look downright half-hearted.  So despite the drama of the first week of Max's new year (the aforementioned vomiting) he actually thinks 2010 is shaping up beautifully.  And a birthday would do very nicely about now, thank you.
'No, it's not your birthday today.'
'Is it tomorrow then?'
'No, not tomorrow.'
'But it was Lailey's birthday?'
'Yes, but you have a different one, on a different day...several months away.'
January, February, March, April. We count the months. He's not interested in what happens after April.
Hunter is the next preschool friend to have a birthday. Max has obviously been thinking about it, a lot;
'Will Hunter look different?'
'What do you mean?'
'His face...'
I realise Max must have overheard us talk about people getting older, people changing; contrasts made more stark because of the distances we have imposed within our family by moving to America.  It's all about degrees, but how is Max to know.  I reassure him that Hunter will look just the same. After all, Lailey didn't change did she? And he'll see the same face looking back at him in the mirror on his own birthday.  I just can't vouch the same for his mother, but I won't tell him so.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back from the Southern Hemisphere

Hello there. Hello.  I know, it's been an age.  But we have not had the most promising start to 2010. Max spewing up the spicy sausages he'd especially stayed up for on New Year's Eve - that was the start of a week-long worry about whether he was hydrated enough, what was he ailing from, would he keep down the egg we'd just given him, was yogurt really a good idea, why had we come so far from home this Christmas, where had I put the disinfectant, was the lethargy a sign of some other illness, why was it so hot, when could I give him some more paracetamol, how could we get rid of the flies, how could we make sure Oli didn't get the same thing. With flights postponed for a week, we were holed up in a flat in Havelock North and began wondering if we would ever get back to the US...
I have never been happier to set foot on American soil than the moment we landed last night, particularly as we'd had an extra night in a hotel airport in Auckland, courtesy of Air New Zealand, because our original aircraft had some sort of mechanical failure. They love to bandy about that term but never tell you what the problems is - if they are going to talk about mechanical failure, they might at least get technical - was it the wing, the engine, the landing gear?  Perhaps it was lucky we never found out.
Bad things come in threes they say. And this afternoon I managed to lock Max in the car in a parking lot by the sea.  Two park policemen failed to get him out.  We'd just left a friend's fourth birthday so once I'd reassured Max that it was me that was locked out rather than him that was locked in, he settled in to the lollipops in his goody bag.  Thankfully Pop-A-Lock, in the form of Denis, tattooed up his neck and ring in his lip, came to our aid. Max was released and then promptly strapped back into his seat for the journey home.  I'm wondering whether, in fact, we should ever leave the house again...