Thursday, April 28, 2011

Slaying the Dragon (Part II)

(...continued from Part I)

Since the second week of March, there visited upon us, back-to-back, non-stop illness in one form or another. I think it began when I stayed out all night in the cold to grab him a spot in a highly popular local daycare. I'd heard the stories that people "lined up the night before" and I was thinking this meant perhaps 10pm or midnight. Registration wouldn't open until 8am but when did I end up lining up? 5pm the night before.

That's right. Twelve, perhaps fifteen crazy-ass parents lined up in the cold outside a daycare for 15 hours until those blessed doors opened for 8am registration. My parents took him for me and, unlike most of the other parents in line, I had no partner to "switch off" with. My body was cozy. Yes, it was early February, and I had donned every layer in my closet, but my feet were freezing! I begged everyone to let me keep my spot while I raced home and put on my cross-country ski boots. They were gracious enough to allow it. Hell, it actually became a really neat, bonding time with some funky people. There was a guitar, a ukelele. Everyone sang, told jokes. Someone had set up a tent. A couple of guys brought a propane heater. And when one of the spouses showed up close to midnight with a bottle of bourbon or scotch, we were suddenly figures in some Tom Waits song because by that hour, let me assure you, none of us cared we were all swigging from it like Depression-era, train-hopping hobos.

Singing the Sheep Dip Blues

Of course, come 8am when other dazed, sleepy parents trickled in who had not heard about the night-before-lineup-rumour-that-turned-out-to-be-true, the sudden realization that perhaps waltzing into a daycare to sign your child up with the reek of bourbon breath was perhaps not the best first impression to make dawned on all of us, but by then it was too damn late (or early) and we were too exhausted and frozen to care. We were only too happy to be herded like sheep into the warmth of the actual building where we could begin to defrost, our hands shaking as we filled out the necessary paperwork, faint smiles playing around our frozen lips, proud of our sacrificial selves in the knowledge we had secured our bairn with a spot the next autumn.

A bonus: the knowledge that for the next few years, we as parents could walk our wee ones into the daycare pointing at the ground, saying, "See this slab of concrete? Your mother lay on that all night in the WINTER so that you could come here..."

Okay. Okay. I refuse, as long as I possibly can, to play the guilt trip card, but it's fun to dream and giggle over it now. I actually met some amazing people that night and thought, "Wow. These are the parents of the kids my child will be hanging with over the next few years. Cool."

The downside, of course, was the sinusitis that ensued. I quickly passed that on to my wee boy. And that, combined with the emotional stress of parting ways (me to work, him to daycare full days), brought on pneumonia for him. This was followed almost immediately by full-blown ear infections in both ears for me (loss of balance and hearing in my right ear for close to two weeks), followed by a bout of pink eye for him and then the nastiest gastro bug working its way through our region hit us both with all its might.

You give me fever

He vomited Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I took him to emerg the Thursday and Saturday in between neverending loads of puke-piled laundry. My tummy waited until Monday to begin vomiting. I lost 8lbs in one week. And having already lost about 15lbs over the winter carrying him on my back in his carrier while we walked around town, I dipped well below my weight before I got pregnant.

For close to two months, not one week went by that one or both of us did not end up in emergency at the local hospital and/or our family doctor's office when we could get in: Sinusitis, Pneumonia, Otitis Media, Conjunctivitis, Gastrointitis. Somebody-save-us-nowitis. Bang, bang, bang, bang. By all accounts, our bodies were rejecting this huge transition in our lives and screaming, "We're not ready yet for this! We don't think either of you are ready!"

I spent almost as much time at home or in medical buildings as I did at the office and just as I'd returned, too. The other parents of wee ones on staff gave slight sympathetic nods and chuckles, recalling their own germ-induced onslaughts, I suppose.

Since last I posted, my wish was to turn my focus solely onto him for a spell during this massive transition back to work and into fulltime daycare, though it quickly became obvious I would have no other choice regardless. We have been going through extreme emotional and physical change (he is growing like a weed and I'm withering away to nothing). This blog o' mine remained sorely neglected. I wish to thank those of you who've visited, commented, discovered, read and stuck around.

In two weeks, he will, unbelievably, turn two years old and he is now, thankfully, thriving in his new environment. Got a note the other day from the daycare to say how proud they are of him that two days in a row when he saw another child crying, he went over and hugged him. He has moved from consolee to consoler already. I fought back tears reading that note, but the tears won, let me tell you. And even though I feel this kind of caring and compassion is just in his nature, I'm going to take full credit while I can. We've been, for the most part, on our own since he was born. Family and friends have their own busy lives going on, understandably. Such is Life. And we are surviving. Better than surviving. And, when in dire need, kind souls dropped soup to us, baked loaves, tucked chocolate and sympathy inside our screen door. We are blessed where we live.

The Dragon of Germ-ridden Daycare has been slain now, I hope. At any rate, I'm lowering my sword, dropping my shield and slowly raising my visor.

We are finally surfacing into health again, resuming happiness, and opening our minds and hearts to a Spring that has yet to really show herself. We call to Her now. Come, come to us! We need you. We're ready.

We're ready now.

Slaying the Dragon (Part I)

I recently wrote one of my writer friends that I felt my blog had become this withering, old grandmother of mine in some distant, remote long-term care facility I rarely visited anymore. Of course, both sets of grandparents are long gone for me. But I've been really missing blogging and feeling guilt over its constant neglected state. Life has felt more harried and health issues have been munching up the last few months, dining on each spare moment I might have had without even a belch.

Starting in January, we were allowed occasional visits to my son's new, upcoming daycare as long as I remained with him. I would take him and stand apart to observe how he played and explored his new environment. With each visit he seemed to grow more comfortable with the place and the number of other little people, the concepts of sharing, waiting a turn. Our initial visits were brief: perhaps an hour, no more than two, each time. I could sense that, though he was fine to go off and play without the interaction he was used to from me at home, there was a subtle "checking in" every so often. He would get lost in play but a glance would be thrown my way to ensure I was near and accessible.

Driven crazy by daycare

I thought he was adjusting admirably. My mistake was the February visits became much more frequent such that he became used to my presence there with him. There I was, patting myself on the back like a fool counting her eggs, believing the transition to fulltime was flowing as smoothly as possible. By the first day I returned to work fulltime (March 1), he was in shock that I would not be spending the 8 hours with him.

I began to measure his growing acceptance of this fact by where/when he'd begin to cry during the dropoff stage. At the beginning, he'd wail when I put him in the car on our driveway in the mornings. Slowly, I could get him in the seat tearless, but when we parked outside the daycare, he'd burst. Eventually I could park and he'd wait until he was inside the actual doors. Then a few mornings, we made it as far as down the hallway before the act of removing his coat in front of his cubby brought on Niagara Falls. On other rare occasions, I could get him all the way into the actual room before the waterworks.

What put my heart through the ringer most mornings was the fact that, in the face of his howling sobs and upstretched arms and the cries of "Maaammmmmmmmaaaaaaa", I had read in the literature that you, as the parent, are encouraged to keep a 'happy countenance' as you drop your child off so that she/he doesn't sense any worry on YOUR part about leaving her/him there for the day.

Now, I am a trained actor. In addition to four years of university training and various subsequent workshops and seminars, I've had a good amount of theatre and film experience. I further auditioned for the Royal National Theatre's Summer Programme in London, England, a programme which auditions in five cities in the States and two cities in Canada for a mere 30 spots each summer, and I got in and garnered some incredible training in that programme.

But I can say without hesitation that doing a tapdance with a big smile on my face while choking back my own tears and burying the deeply ingrained desire to grab hold of my reaching Sonshine and run out of that daycare with him every morning in some mad embrace, wild and happy once again, to the freedom and luxury of time we've had for close to two years was the most demanding acting job I've ever had.

My friend, Karl, tried to console me with "in a few weeks, you'll show up and he'll be totally indifferent to your presence and not want to leave what he's doing there and that will hurt even more." Damn you, Karl, for being spot on.

But just as I began to feel all sorry for myself that he was maybe no longer missing me or yearning for me the way every cell in my body was for him while I sat back at my desk, the onslought of germ warfare began. Perhaps this was Mother Nature's cruel joke, "You want more time together again? Okay, bring on The Sick!"

(Continued in Part II...)