For Her Own Good…I Hope

Tomorrow Ella will have an elective adenoidectomy. I may have to watch "Toddlers and Tiaras" to rebuild my parenting self-esteem.

Tomorrow morning, my daughter Ella will undergo a relatively simple surgical procedure to have her adenoids taken out. Apparently, they are just this side of Congress in terms of causing problems for people like my daughter. The doctor says the procedure will take only a few minutes at the most, will leave a relatively short recovery time, and should make my daughter’s quality of life increase about 200%.

But they all say that, don’t they?

I’ve heard from many people that the surgery is nothing.

“I was out and about that same afternoon with my kid. She wanted to eat at McDonald’s.”

“Oh, we were shopping for shoes less than an hour after surgery. It was nothing.”

“Dude, seven minutes after we were out of recovery, my kid felt so great she started singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and was signed to a recording contract by an A&R guy who just happened to be at the doctor’s to have his inner ear checked. Best day our lives. Plus, her album drops on October 15th. We’ve got Snoop-Dog!”

OK – that last one might be an exaggeration. But still, the general consensus is Why freak out, dude? Your kid will be fine.

In my head, I know this. The surgery is so simple the doctors can do it in their sleep. The recovery is so easy, I’ll enjoy eating all of the leftover Jell-O. I know this because I’ve read the literature, heard the experts, and heard it again from friends and family.

But in my heart?

I’m freaking out. Part of it comes from our past. We’re the 1-percenters you always hear about but never really think anything of. You know, when the doc is giving you the boilerplate spiel about how “only 1% of all patients suffer from any kind of severe setbacks…” or “less than 1% of people who have anesthesia swell up like fugu and see purple spots.” If you’ve ever heard a doctor give you the legal CYB, you know what I’m talking about.

Well, that’s us. If anyone is going to sprout goat horns and trot across the surgical center because of some minute adverse reaction to anesthesia, it’ll be my kid. If one surgery in a thousand has some grave operator error, where the doc somehow accidentally cauterizes the patient’s sinuses shut, it’ll be us. That’s just the way it’s been in our history, medically speaking.

So you can see why I’m a little on edge.

In the end, we’ll get up, drink a buttload of coffee and drive out to Scottish Rite tomorrow, and everything will go fine. Ella will have no problems with the intubation, there’ll be no adverse effects from the anesthesia, she’ll have no bleeding or other abnormal response to the surgery, and I’ll move on to my next nervous breakdown, schedule for the same day she starts kindergarten.

But tonight, I’m sitting here, my heart pounding in my chest, worried that I’ve chosen something I think is for her own good but can’t guarantee. I’m hoping against hope that this brings relief instead of trauma, healing instead of hurting, and a better future instead of one that seems shrouded in clouds right now. It’s a battle of faith: will I or will I not trust God with the life of my daughter?

It’s gonna be a long night.


My Son, The Monster

Crying for little to no reason at all. Mood swings. Hitting people. Screaming “NO!” at the top of his lungs. Deliberately disobeying even the smallest request.

My son has officially turned into a monster. If Lady Gaga wants him, she can have him.

We’re pretty sure it’s because he’s getting his final molars in. And I say pretty sure because, a) we can’t actually get him to let us feel around in his mouth, and b) there’s just no other realistic explanation, short of demonic possession. And we know possession is out because we can’t get him to sleep without singing a medley of his favorite Jesus songs before bedtime.

It’s been frustrating, to say the least.

Now, I don’t know if this is just particular to me, or if it’s a common occurrence across the parenting spectrum, but whenever my son goes grade-A nutzoid, I feel a tightness in my chest that panics me. It’s not a heart attack-type feeling (at least, I don’t think it is), but more of an emotional anxiety that grips me right there in my heart. It’s a feeling of helplessness mixed with annoyance mixed with a frightening anger. It just sits there, dead center, as if it were a piece of food I can’t swallow. And the more Jonathan screams or whines or disobeys, the more it builds.

I don’t know if this feeling comes more from being incapable of helping my son or from being tired of hearing the crying. I can’t tell if I’m just a normal parent experiencing normal parent emotions, or if I’ve somehow become psychologically unstable and need to be medicated. I just know that I hate feeling that way about my child. I want to feel nothing but love, nothing but magic, nothing but the sweet tenderness of a Hallmark moment.

"I thought I told you to go to bed...does Daddy need to come in here?"

But life is so infrequently like that. I mean, half the time it seems like I vacillate between Ward Cleaver and Jack Torrance, despite my desire to be a good dad. Some days I know I’m three good seconds away from grabbing an axe, hacking through a door and shouting, “Heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” not because I hate my family, but because I genuinely feel that close to being out of control.

And maybe that’s my real issue – control. I like for things to be smooth and conflict-free, and that just ain’t life with kids (it’s rarely like that with adults…). I’m not a certifiable control-freak, but I have grown to appreciate the predictability of my five year-old; in fact, I almost prefer Ella’s age precisely because we’ve already bypassed all of the crap we’re currently going through with Jonathan.

Which makes me wonder if part of my problem too is the feeling of “Haven’t we done this before?” There’s a small kernel of resentment, maybe, at having to train another kid all over.

But even in the monster madness, there are moments that make me laugh and remind me that I love, LOVE, the boy. Take bedtime last night – I put Jon down to bed at 9:15, way later than normal, and, because of the time, I abbreviated his bedtime routine and plunked his little butt down in the crib. He was quiet for almost an hour, and then began screaming his head off for no apparent reason. I went in and shushed him, but by the time I walked out of his room he was at it again. I could feel that familiar clutch in my chest, so I sent Rachel in to deal with him. She walked in and got a robust “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”, and promptly turned around and walked out.

So it was Daddy or nothing.

I went back in there, fully prepared to either scold him severely or punt him through the window, but once he saw me, he stood up, held his arms out and said, “Daddy, peese.” I walked over to the crib and he wrapped his arms around my mid-section and rested his head against my stomach. I could feel his little fingers working over the fabric of my t-shirt as he attempted to get a better, bigger hug on me.

I picked him up. He nuzzled his head into the base of my neck where my jaw meets my ear and he let out the most contented sigh you’ve ever heard. It wasn’t huge, mind you – more on par with a simple exhale of breath than anything else – but the satisfaction I heard in that release  was immense. Jonathan ran his fingers through my hair lazily and within three minutes was sound asleep, his little chest rising when mine fell, our breathing intertwined. His skin, so soft and warm, was damp from the tears he’d unloaded, and in the few minutes that I rocked him, I felt the stress/anxiety/anger melt away because I knew he felt just as pained as I did.

Having kids is easy. Raising them borders on mind-shattering insanity. But being a kid is equally as tough. Every experience in childhood is somehow different from the one that precedes it, every day brings some new emotion or word or developmental milestone. It’s no wonder kids go crazy and take adults with them.

But it doesn’t last, thank God. At least, the early stages anyway. There will be growing pains of a different sort in three years, or ten. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly be able to be at ease around my son until he’s an adult; and even then, I’m not so sure. I think it is just the life of a parent – to be perpetually on edge around your child; not so much because of them, but because of the world that surrounds them.

Right now my son is a monster, and I probably need a good dose of fluoxetine. But he’s my monster, and I love him. Here’s hoping his molars, and the other 5700 developmental breakthroughs ahead of him, arrive soon.