November 13: 4 years old is too young to die


I’ve had a very unusual day.   It’s a Tuesday, so I do not have the kids but I do have work.  But today I worked from home in the morning.  And then attended a funeral for a four year old child.  And then did some shopping for a Girls night that I am hosting tonight.  And then did some more work from home, with a splitting headache, bulging eyes, and cracked nose from crying so much today.

Working mothers.  What do we do with our kids when we work?   Some of us have family members, some of us employ nannies, some of us drop our children off at daycare.  Ours has always been a “daycare family”.   And through the years you get to know the other children, know the parents, and know the teachers.   In fact, daycare does become a pseudo-family for your children when you are away at work.

*****

Let’s turn the clock back a bit.  On Halloween day, me and Big Bro attended the Halloween day parade for Red, Twin Crazy, and Twin Husky at their daycare center.   All was normal.  The kids were out and joyful in their costumes.   The very next day, a child in Red’s old classroom woke up from a nap not feeling well.   Maybe a little warm.  Not a high fever, but just “off”.  The mother was notified and she promptly picked up her four year old child.  The next day, the child was not at school.    Over the weekend, unbeknownst to us, this child was admitted to a children’s hospital.  This entire past week, unbeknownst to us, this child suffered in the hospital with the flu, a strange unidentified infection, pneumonia, and appendicitis.  An operation removed the appendix.  The family hoped  the blood pressure and kidney function would improve.    This child passed away on Friday…. days after turning four years old.

Photo source:  ecolibris.blogspot.com

*****

Our daycare center is our pseudo-family.   I went to the service to support this family and the teachers who were also Red’s teachers this past year.   This is something I never want to have to do again.   Four years old is too young to die.   It is too hard to see parents say goodbye to their child.  It is hard to see the teachers in such a different setting and under such a different set of circumstances – and see them raw, as people, as people that you want to reach out to and nurture as they have nurtured your own.

The sermon was well done and I found myself strangely at peace listening to the words.    This life is given to us.  Each of us will have our day.   In the father’s words, he had four glorious years with this child.   And what the family went through over the past week was so difficult that today actually felt like a good day for the family.   I strangely felt a bit better.   Calm.   But numb.

But when the casket wheeled by, I couldn’t help but lose myself to despair again. I cannot imagine losing a child. I cannot imagine losing a child. I CANNOT IMAGING LOSING A CHILD.    I cannot understand.  I CANNOT UNDERSTAND.   Looking at pictures of the smiling child was heartbreaking.   Seeing a casket entirely too small was heartbreaking.   Looking at the parents of this child and the strength and grace that they portrayed was heartbreaking.   How can a child be laughing in a Halloween costume one day, then a bit ill the next (same as all of our kids this time of year…) and then wind up in a hospital for one week fighting to stay alive and losing this fight?   How can a child be there one day and gone the next?   How do we tell our children?   How can this happen to our daycare family?   What can I possibly do for this family?????????

I thought of Big Bro and how this child will never reach Big Bro’s age and ride a bike and have a debate with family members.  I thought of Red.  The same age.   The same teachers.   The same size.    Do I dare say that she would fit in that casket?!?!?!?!?!?!   I thought of Twin Husky and the little brother that this child left behind.  I thought of Twin Crazy and how this child was described to be, well, “crazy energetic”… possibly just like my own crazy energetic child.

I am strangely glad that I am not with my own kids tonight.   I feel too raw and I want some separation between this feeling and them.  I don’t want them to be too close to “it”.  I need some distance from them, some time.   I will see them tomorrow and that is OK with me.  I will walk into that daycare center tomorrow and likely cry again with the staff and pick up my kids and hug them hard.

But now, in just 2 more hours, I will host a “girls night” with my new neighbors.   A first for what hopefully will become a tradition in this neighborhood.   I am thankful for having this support system but definitely do not want to bring the party “down” with this news but it is impossible for me to hide it from my face.   I will put some music on, light some candles, and warm up this little place to be inviting.   And hopefully not drive anyone away should I suddenly burst into tears.

Til tomorrow

– Mama K

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January 3: Hectic, hectic morning… still recovering…


First day back to the normal routine – getting four kids ready, three drop offs, and a race to the ferry to commute to the city. It was tight. We literally dropped Red off at daycare with one sock on, and two shoes in her hands. That’s how tight it was. I’m on the ferry now, heart still pounding realizing I really need to get in shape. I know that’s what everyone is thinking right now with new year’s resolutions, so I’ll join you in that.

Highlights of my Morning and Commute:

  • Still getting used to my “new normal”. Where is my comb? Where are my shoes? Toothbrush?
  • Grabbed instant coffee to get myself started. I had a terrible nights sleep due to allergy attack from cat dander from hand-me-down clothes from friend. I’m still sneezy.
  • Grabbed the piles of clothes from upstairs for Red and Big Bro. For some reason they just stepped over those piles without putting anything on. I still think it’s a great part of the routine to pick out the clothes the night before…. if they put them on by themselves, I guess that’s an added bonus.
  • Chocolate Tuesday – even with the Twins. There were four chocolate faces that I kissed this morning. Twin Crazy was very vocal asking for more bread and chocolate. And a banana that fell into her oatmeal. I rinsed it off and we all laughed and both twins continued to talk about the fallen banana.
  • Diaper changes. I love that time with the Twins. Twin Husky was looking at Twin Crazy’s bear so that threw her off into a tantrum. Full fledged now. The type where she throws her body on the floor. She is a fire-cracker. She was fine when it was her turn and Twin Husky gave her the bear back.
  • Twin Crazy was fixated on washing her hands in the bathroom sink, even though I already washed her hands with wipes. She is stubborn and if she has something in her mind she needs to follow through with it. There is no side-tracking her (unlike her brother).

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  • Big Bro got dressed just fine. Red was a problem, as usual as of late. Issues with the shirt, issues with the socks, etc. I had to physically maneuver her arms and legs to get her dressed. I should not be doing this with her – and we were tense since we were running extremely late.
  • We grabbed the kids and headed to the van. It will be tight to do all three drop offs at this time: 8:10AM!!! We rushed the Twins in – Twin Crazy was asking for Sponge Bob. I know this daycare provider keeps the TV on all day long which I hate. And now these Twins can talk and tell us what they do during the day. Big Bro drop off went smooth. Red was a mess. She was half dressed but smiling.
  • We tore into the ferry parking lot and just made it onto the ferry. I have no make-up on, wet hair, and have no wallet.

This was one of those days where the blood pressure was sky high. On the drive to the ferry parking lot, I looked back in time and asked myself how the hell did I do this 5 days in a row non-stop with four children and multiple drop offs from July 2010 to November 2011? It was crazy!!! A good, competent nanny would have made life a lot easier for us but would have cost more money and the thought of hiring one was daunting for us – even though we interviewed several.

Anyway, I’m glad that I’m only doing this routine two times a week now, thank goodness.

Work will be busy today. I not only have to finish off my documents that I wanted to have completed by year end (dropped the ball here) but there are some meetings scheduled that will take my time. I’m looking forward to getting to a fuller office with people. Talking with adults and hearing how their breaks were.

Highlights of My Working Day:

  • Got more coffee and a danish on the way to work. Put make up on in the bathroom. OK now I’m ready.
  • Went through emails, got caught up. Wrote a to-do list
  • One conference call canceled; yeah
  • Started to prepare for another call that I would be leading, relating to sales efforts for a new forum. Shit. I haven’t done shit about outreach to prospective clients. So I reached out to everyone on my list and actually got great feedback from 3 prospective clients!!! YEAH!! Procrastination to the new year worked!!! 🙂
  • I attempted to do the meeting minutes from months ago but just can’t seem to crack that one. I need to offload this task to someone else the next time around. This is ridiculous.
  • I found out that a teacher of mine from High School passed away from cancer. I just sat there feeling the loss for several moments. I’ve felt so much loss over the year but this was a different kind of loss. And fear. He couldn’t have been more than 20 years older than us and was the closest teacher-friend I had in school. Hearing news like that just reinforced that our time here is limited and everyone should be doing the things that bring happiness. Despite the upheaval in my life right now, I am actually happier now than I’ve been all last year and possibly longer.

It was good to be in the office today. I enjoyed catching up with my colleagues and talking about their breaks with family. I also needed to talk about mine as well. I feel good today but fear this is the calm before the storm. So I am going to soak in the happiness now while I can. And hug my kids and look into their eyes and talk to them – all of them – we have no babies in the house anymore.

I’m on the ferry back and it is sunny out. I head back 1 hour earlier to get Big Bro and the rest, and also to get dinner started. It makes a difference. Dinner is usually done by 6 PM which curbs the crankiness and gives us lots of time to connect with the kids before they go to bed.

Dinner and Bedtime:

  • I picked up Red and she smiled, jumped from her chair, ran over and slammed into my legs with the biggest hug. Her teacher said that she was in a great mood all day since her best friend was back from vacation. We picked up Big Bro and the kids hid behind composting trash cans on the way out. I kept asking where the kids were and if my kids were carrot tops, old bread, potato peels… they were giggling. Big Bro made a calendar at school and circled this Thursday since that is the day his new sheets will arrive. Twin pick up was great. Twin Crazy needs to do her top buckle by herself. Twin Husky enjoys pointing to the moon and talking about the moon.
  • I cooked dinner – fish, curry cous-cous, frozen string beans. All kids devoured their meal. We actually ran out of food. It was kindof crazy as I was cooking. Twin Crazy was standing on a stool turning on and off the lights and saying “Its dark in her now.” Twin Husky was on top of the small table, and also pulling another small chair around to see at the different counters, put the TV on, and get himself into trouble. Twin Crazy needed a diaper change, BADLY. And then she demanded to wash her hands at the bathroom sink non-stop (actually for the rest of the evening). Big Bro was fine, playing Legos. Red was also fine, until she got into a fight with Big Bro and started a crying fit. I sat with Red, then Twin Crazy wanted to sit with us. Twin Crazy sat on my lap too and we talked about how Red was sad and how she was crying. Twin Crazy helped me console Red by patting her back, rubbing her back, and talking softly to her. I wish I could have taken a picture of it, but my camera was not with me and I did not want to disturb this sisterly moment.
  • I threw in some laundry before I sat down to dinner so our mothers helper could be busy. We literally have between 7-10 loads of laundry per week.
  • After dinner was play-time; I was busy running around and chasing the kids, tickling them, wrestling with them. I think I wore them out more than they wore me out.
  • We received 12 tubes of kid’s toothpaste from Amazon. They are excited to keep toothpaste upstairs for night-time and downstairs for after breakfast brushing.
  • Big Bro asked where his sheets were now. On a ship? I replied probably on a truck or a plane. I also said that we can track the shipment so I’ll do that with him tomorrow.
  • Bedtime was easy; their favorite book right now is The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. That book was one of my favorites when I was a kid and I love that they now love that book too. We talk about the pictures and the story and which parts scare them and they always seem to come up with a new question for me. So sweet.

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Today was a good day. Despite the mad rush in the morning, the rest of the day was low-key and the morning actually made me appreciate the days where I do not have that crazy commute.

I’m going to take it easy now in my new set up and enjoy my surroundings. I think I’ll also learn how to stream movies/shows from Amazon since I’m an Amazon Prime customer. I should be able to do that for free but don’t know how…

Til tomorrow –
– Mama K

p.s. Both Big Bro and Red just came into my room, smiling, climbing into my bed, laughing, climbing all over me, hugging me, laughing, laughing, smiling, hugging… saying to me that they each needed more “Mommy time”. My heart melts. I cannot resist. I hug my babies close to me and feel thankful for the love they give to me.

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Random Thought: When is it appropriate to talk to your child about death?


Our family recently received some very bad news.  My step-father, who has been in our lives for 20+ years, was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Realizing that this is a very aggressive cancer, as a family we are coming to grips with this and trying to help him get the care he needs.   We are confident he is in good hands with his doctors (there is a team of them working on his case) but his long-term chances of survival are not good.  We know his time is limited and we are focusing now on his treatments and medical care.

My kids love him.  They call him Joe-Joe Pop.   I don’t know how he does it but every single year he is able to pick out the one simple gift that winds up to be my kids’ favorites.   He is a big fan of “Hess” trucks, airplanes, cars, you name it and he’s quick to buy the year’s featured Hess toy at the beginning of the holiday season for Big Bro.   I do not know how he manages it for Red, but maybe Red just loves her toy from Joe-Joe Pop the best because Big Bro loves HIS toy from Joe-Joe Pop the best.  Anyway, he is loved by my older kids.   And they ask for him.

I remember my first discussion with my mother on the topic of death.   I was five.  Her brother (my favorite, crazy uncle) had died, unexpectantly (he was only 31).   I remember where we were at the time (at the top of the stairs at home) and I remember the words she used.   I think it is etched in my memory because she was upset.  I remember consoling her.   I do remember that notion did not sink in right away.   I remember that I asked for him on several occasions later and that just threw my mom into another crying spell.

I know that I am going to get these kids to see him and talk with him so they have the opportunity to remember him.   And I would like to do this quickly, before his condition deteriorates.  However,  the logistics of where I live complicates things.   I am on the West Coast and my family is on the East Coast (painful, painful, painful to me these days).    So there will be some planning involved.   I’m not sure when this trip should happen — obviously when its best for him — depending on how he feels and where he is with treatments.    But my question is, what do I tell these kids?   What do I say when we leave?   My 5-year-old knows that animals and plants can be “dead”, but we have not talked about loved ones.    When is it OK?   I think it may be OK with my 5-year-old, but with my own history I know that I did not fully “get it”.  So is even 5 too young?

Comments and thoughts appreciated –

– Mama K

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