. With Love, From The Mother 'Hood: Before and After

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Before and After

** Just an FYI note - I think you may be able to choose what song you want to hear while reading if you scroll to the bottom of the page to my player and click on your choice.**

This is a long post, but I have been MIA for awhile - amazing how much time sick babies, laundry for a family of seven and diffusing tantrums can suck out of your day. Before the school year started my kids were all well, but now that they have returned to The Germ Pool for 5 days a week, it has been non-stop coughs and a fast flowing river of boogies here. Marc said "There is just something about this time of year for us," and he is right - far beyond simple colds, it has always been a defining time in our lives. We are usually fine before it hits, bringing with it more than falling leaves as we struggle with issues across our relationship as partners and parents, but each year we have managed to get through whatever pops up and move on after, despite the bumpy ride.

Life with kids is one big series of befores and afters - the obvious one being before I had kids and after, but each day is filled with these moments. "Brush your teeth before bed, wipe your hands after you finish eating, put on your coat before you go outside....you get my drift. Yesterday, I took Mars my 2.5 year old to have her hair cut, wedging the appointment in before nap time after lunch. Before we arrived she was pretty good and she was mostly ok in the chair, considering her age. After the cut is another story, as she progressed to near tantrum level (my kids are not the average bears when it comes to meltdowns - they are exceptional at it) while we waited for the agonizingly slow woman in front of us to pay and make her next appointment. I was trying to keep Mars next to me when she yanked herself free. It was all I could do not to say, "Could ya speed it up a little, lady?!" as I managed to avoid a trip to the hospital by catching Marley's head before she hit it on a glass shelf full of hair products. I sensed bigger trouble brewing as I payed and Mars attempted to leave without me. Twice just before exiting, and again as I was opening the door, I reminded her to hold my hand, but still had to grab her as she broke away and nearly ran into the parking lot. I was also balancing the baby on my hip during all of this. Thankfully I was smart and bought myself a cute messenger bag that I can wear the strap of across my chest - one less thing to juggle, making my efforts to not drop the baby in these crazy situations successful.

Mars, still intent on escaping, was NOT happy with me when I reeled her back in. I've developed pretty quick reflexes with five kids (I think managing a 2.5 year old and a one year old in public should be an event in the Olympics with a special category when you toss in autism, AD/HD and whatever else is waiting around the bend for us - I would so win Gold). She was adamant that she was NOT holding my hand, NO WAY JOSE, continuing to pull away from me as I tried my best, literally single handed, to keep hold of her and move her forward without hurting her - (I am always so afraid of dislocating an arm in some way when they pull in the opposite direction so insistently), all the while imagining launching her across the parking lot. I am pretty sure I may have a cracked molar from all the tooth gritting and grinding I have been doing.

A few more steps and she decided to hit mach level tantrum, throwing herself down, landing in a puddle - actually pausing for a few moments in her tirade to paw at the water. At this point I am trying to pick her up without dropping her or the baby (score two for my smart mom bag that did not end up in the puddle) and I manage to scoop her up on the second try into a superman position (now I can really imagine her flying across the parking lot - "Up, up and away!! or better yet, "To infinity and beyond! Come back when you can be nice to your mom!") and finally get her to the car. I set her down and she attempts to run again, so I have to pin her to the car with my knee, giving me a free hand to fish my keys out of my bag (this is one of those moments when the ability to sprout those extra arms would be great, hellloooo evolution?). I get the car unlocked and meet my goal of getting her in before she can run kamikaze into some unsuspecting driver's path.

I am sure to the casual observer it probably didn't look very much like I was being a good mommy, with me, grabbing the waist of her pants and a handful of her shirt to pick her up with one hand, laying her on the floor of the small bus I drive and with Mars, screaming as if I were beating her, but when you are one handed trying to protect your kid from getting squashed you do what you need to do and get her in the car, even if it means looking like a kidnapper. I am beginning to think the baby has learned the fine art of ignoring her. He happily babbled through it all, even after I buckled him in and I restrained the screaming banshee that is my daughter in her seat. We finally left the lot, and she was nearly asleep less than 5 minutes later - the kid can go from zero to sixty and back again amazingly fast when she wants to - I wish my frustration would dissipate so quickly - I was focusing on not clenching my teeth.

I dialed Marc on my cell before we left, looking for his sympathetic ear. During our conversation he told me "Two kids died last night in that accident." Suddenly, my day didn't seem so bad as I said, "that's terrible," thinking immediately of their mothers and remembering the crash we missed by a minute or two at the most. We were driving home, sans kiddos, from a quick trip to buy new cell phones when we came upon 3 or 4 cars stopped on the road. It appeared traffic had stopped the other way as well. It was a dark stretch, no street lights, so it was hard to see what was going on. Marc said "Maybe it's a deer." As I watched more closely, a man urgently paced up and down along the shoulder while on his cell phone and I said, "I think it is more than a deer". I imagined we would be there for a very long time if we couldn't turn around, and I wanted to get back to our kids. Thankfully Marc was able to maneuver a 3 point turn and we were on our way, but not before I saw, illuminated by the first stopped car's headlights, a mangled pile of metal and the silhouette of a tire pointing towards the dark sky . An unnatural spotlight on a nightmare come true. That image will remain with me for a long time. It was one of those things you see that takes you a few seconds longer to comprehend, and when you do, it is still hard to wrap your mind around what you are seeing because of the enormity of wrongness present. I remember asking Marc, "is that car upside down?" but before that, before we came upon the aftermath, when we were still driving unknowingly toward it, I had asked him "what was that big noise?" He said he didn't hear it. I think it was probably the sound of the SUV (that according to the news, carried 6 young men, boys really), colliding with an oncoming car after the SUV hit an embankment, flipped, and landed in the opposite lane, causing the head on crash. I haven't been able to stop thinking about those boys, and especially their families and how the rest of their lives will be defined by before and after that night. The silence of their sons' lost voices must be deafening.

I hope we never, ever experience a before and after moment of that magnitude; the violent silencing of life. I don't think I would be able to breathe and I imagine my heart would shatter into irreparable pieces. Seeing what I did, and then hearing the news of what had taken place, gave me pause to consider that as hard as my kids are, there are things in life so much worse than raging tantrums and autism, things like a permanent void. Doesn't mean I won't still complain, cry or yell when things are at their worst with them, I'm only human, but this Thanksgiving I am grateful for the intenseness my children bring into my world because it means they are with me and alive. There are days I count us as very lucky that AD/HD and autism are the worst things to have come our way. Today is one of those days. I'll take all the noise and craziness that comes with my life of living with a moody teen, Linda Blair and The Cruise Director, and two babies who are determined not to be left out of the mix, I think to myself as the babies are settling, albeit loudly, for their naps. All of the super hard, loud, in-your-face stuff with them is just part of our life. I turn up the monitor all the way so that I may listen to their reassuring breaths and hear them wake after they sleep.


  1. I know what you mean about tantrums. My son takes his tantrums very seriously and is adamant to remember that he is mad throughout the entire day. If something throws him into tantrum mode, he's done. He will whine and cry and kick and scream until nap time, where there is a HUGE GIGANTIC tantrum just before he passes out. However, after nap, he's usually better.

    Good Luck with the next hair cut!

  2. Very powerful. This is, of course, the time of year when we all TRY to make that extra effort to be thankful, but that accident you recounted really does hammer home the need for an immense gratitude for all the blessings we so often take for granted (ones we asked for AND the ones we didn't/don't recognize as such.) Just when we're at the edge of our tolerance for the kids' roaring craziness, it's beneficial to take a step back and realize how terrifyingly awful the alternative silence might be.


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