Friday, October 23, 2015

To the parents of the boys on the train today....

On my train ride home today, two young boys -- not more than 11, but probably 10, probably 5th graders -- sat across the aisle from me. They were going home from the private school that is down the street from my office. They chatted and played video games on their phones.  They kept asking each other what stop this was, and what stop they had to get off at.  Reminding each other, really....

I kept wondering whether I'd be brave enough to let my 10 year old ride the train home by himself (well,with a buddy).  I believed this was a great thing for them: independence, responsibility, resourcefulness....  And all within a limited sphere:  just catch the train home with your pal, don't get off at the wrong stop, do get off at the right stop. It was totally within their capabilities.  And this limited independence is exactly what will help these boys become well-functioning adults.

But even though I recognized all of this, and even though I admired these boys and how well behaved they were (their parents should be very proud), I concluded that I probably wouldn't be brave enough.

I thought of The Boy and I was terrified at the thought of setting him out in the world on his own like that.  No, I couldn't do it.  A lump developed in my throat at the thought.

Indeed, I think I paid so much surreptitious attention to these boys because I was thinking of my own boy and how I would hope some adult on the train would silently and secretly watch over my son if he were out on his own. I was fully ready to step in, help them, protect them, if they needed any help.

But they didn't need any help. They were fine.  They had this handled. They knew what to do.

At one point, one of their moms called to make sure they'd gotten on the train. "Yes, MOM."  And she told them that she was in the car in the parking lot at their stop.

And soon, their stop came and they got off, easy as that. I watched them descend the platform steps.  They were confident, unafraid. I want my kid to be like that.

I just need to be like that first, confident and unafraid to let my boy venture out.

Right now, he's only 4 and a half, and he's no more ready to be set out on an almost-grown-up adventure than I am ready to allow it.

Maybe, in five and a half years, when he is 10, he will be, and maybe -- MAYBE -- I will be too.

For now, I'll just send out my thanks to those two good boys' moms and dads for the unintentional lesson in setting your little bird free.  I'll remember it.  It may not be the train, but I'll remember that he needs independence to become a good adult.  And I'll treasure the time right now, when I can keep him, mostly, safely under my wing.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Oral antibiotics are ruining my day.

My son has an ear infection. I'm not sure how many ear infections he's had since June of this year, but this may be number 4. 

He's had trouble with his ears from the start. He got his first set of ear tubes when he was eight months old. When he was two years and a month old, he got his second set of tubes and had his adenoids removed.

He's four and a half, now. Tubes usually fall out after about 18 months, but The Boy's tubes stayed in a little longer than two years, but we were unaware of that until this summer.  (Or maybe we just assumed, but I swear some pediatrician or another along the way had told me, at least, that he/she thought the tubes were out.)

Anyway, in June he was taking swimming lessons and we, thinking that the tubes had fallen out, did not put ear plugs in his ears (which he hates anyway) or make him wear a swim cap (which he's not a huge fan of either, but will wear).

He quickly developed swimmer's ear (an
infection of the ear canal, basically) in his right ear. This likely had nothing to do with his tubes being in, but with an enormous plug of ear wax in that ear, which held water in there, encouraging infection. He was in a lot of pain. We put saline drops in his ear (mistake), and the previously mentioned enormous wax plug thus emerged as he screamed and writhed in pain. It was pretty awful. 

We took him to the doctor, got the diagnosis and he was prescribed Ciprodex ear drops, twice a day for seven days. It's not easy to administer the ear drops. He does not gently lay on his side and allow us to drip, drip, drip them into his ear.  He fights and fights hard. It takes one of us holding him down and the other one frantically trying to get the drops into his ear while he still manages to wriggle around in his other parent's grip. Everyone breaks a tiny sweat from this exercise, but we fairly efficiently get it done. 

Ciprodex for seven days twice day was the prescription for the intervening infections as well. It's a fun, twice daily activity for the whole family.

With this latest infection, we have, yes, the Ciprodex again, but something new too:  an oral antibiotic.

Specifically, this is penicillin. That was a tiny problem in the beginning because when The Boy asked how it tasted neither his dad nor I could taste it and tell him because we're both allergic. But we didn't want to TELL him that we are allergic to penicillin because he'd then tell us HE was also allergic...because he frequently develops temporary allergies to things he doesn't like or doesn't want to try.  So we were vague about why we wouldn't taste his medicine for him saying that it's HIS medicine and we aren't allowed to take it, etc. Fairly unconvincing, I thought, but he decided he would taste it himself and said it tasted like raspberry.

"Great!", I thought. This stuff tastes good. This is going to be easy-peasy. But no, no, nothing is easy. He soon began all of the arguments for why he can't take the antibiotics, mostly variations on the theme of "I don't like that medicine."  Arguments to the contrary like, "I know, but if you don't take the medicine, the infection could get worse and you could lose your hearing," fell on (pardon the very tasteless metaphor) deaf ears.

And, unlike the Ciprodex, where we can manhandle him down and stick the stuff into his ear forcibly, he has to let you give him the antibiotic. He has to open his mouth and take it and swallow it. He has to willingly do that. And you have to convince him to do that.

Well, I do. Every day. Twice a day. Morning and night.

I've tried things to encourage cooperation:  I drew a chart on the side of the bottle with spaces for each dose that we can mark off each time he takes it. Progress!  He's unimpressed. 

The medicine is a chalky white, so I let him choose a color of food coloring to change its color. This was really fun!  And he chose yellow. He really got into it.

Except that he's no fool. He knows that the medicine is the same medicine. It's just yellow, now, and looks like tempera paint.

And the dose is so large that hiding it in food or drink is impractical. Besides, we've tried that before with other medications and he detects it. Sharp cookie, this one.  Tough nut to crack. 

Which brings me to the mornings, when we are all under a time crunch to get to work and school....

The begging, pleading, cajoling, threatening, sending to his room, and, yes, yelling that goes on for 10 to 30 minutes prior to his grudging acquiescence to take the effing sunny-yellow elixir is never fun and always frustrating and stressful.

But the added pressure of time in the mornings turns this joyless task into a nightmare of anxiety-driven frustration and rage (on the part of mommy) and of jumbled obstinance and fear (on the part of boy). Basically, I have to yell at him before he'll take the medicine. I yell. He gets sober.  He gulps it down.  Done.  I feel like the shittiest mom in the world. He happily skips along on his day, recovered seemingly instantly from the fraught stand-off that occurred moments before. 

And I carry it with me, into the car, onto the train, into my office. All day, thinking and wondering how I may have damaged my son by my lunatic, but somehow necessary behavior, until I, of course, will do it again that evening. And the next morning. And evening. And the next.

I start out every encounter not wanting to yell, and occasionally, in the evenings, with the wealth of time, I can keep psycho-mommy chained up. But not in the morning. Psycho-mommy's got to get this shit done.

Today's yell wasn't even words. Not, "You will sit down and take this medicine right now!" articulated at volume.  No, today, when he started in on his explanation that he doesn't "like that medicine; it looks like paint," I had no words. Instead, a guttural, primal, "Ahhhhhhh!" emerged from my throat like an animal under attack. On the bright side, it worked really well and he took the medicine in record time this morning. (Nevertheless, I don't wish to repeat it.)

Only eleven more doses to go!