The Best Help You Can Give Other Parents
The baby on the plane that was so tired she couldn’t make sense of where she was or what she wanted. The two toddlers, maybe one year apart, who zigzagged across the moving sidewalk between terminals. The preschooler trying to drag his baby sister and her stroller onto the baggage scale because he saw everything else go on it.
What I noticed was that I was on high alert, with Mom Ears on and Mom Voice engaged and Mom Smile at the ready. I was watching them to see that they didn’t go too far or do anything iffy when their parents were reading arrival and departure screens, or digging in bags for a toy, or showing ID to the gate attendant. A little girl made a break for the seating area just as her parents cleared the gate and started down the jet way; I sidled into her path and smiled sweetly at her until she turned and found her mother’s hand. An older infant started to squirm in her mama’s arms, made the little moue that presaged a tantrum, so I played peek-a-boo with her until she smiled, and then realized she didn’t know me and snuggled back down into her mama’s warm shoulder.
These are highlights of the texts I sent to Guy while I endured my ninth annual Fantasy Faire (this year’s theme: A Pirate’s Life for Me!). Ye gods.
- We finally won a cake at the cake walk! Daphne staked me tickets (rather, she staked me with tickets I bought for her) and we doubled down like mental patients for seven rounds. It cost like ten dollars in the end, but it’s a huge pirate ship so…win!
- I ran into Dylan’s kindergarten teacher (the one who told me 7 years ago he was the single worst behaved student she’d had in 17 years of teaching) and told her that he won the district writing fair. She didn’t have to look so pleasantly surprised. I’m still mad at her.
- We are all starving. When their dad asked early in the week if I wanted a dinner at the faire I thought he was preordering tix. Not as such.
- Dylan just came by and I asked him for two tickets for a soda. He made a show of slapping them onto the picnic table and said “GO.”Then I asked him to watch my stuff while I got it. He sighed and said, “Look. You and I both know I’m not going to watch it so why don’t I just get you one.”Two minutes later he slammed it on the table in front of me and said, “Drink up, woman!”
- Omg Daphne’s friend’s dad is dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow, and he and two other guys put on a show, fencing with real swords. They just took it off the blacktop where the chairs are and chased each other onto the slide and play structure. All the kids ran after them, crowding around and cheering, and all I could think was holy fuck those are real swords and someone is going to have them arrested.
- Oh hells no, Daphne and her friends just got on this ride where they sit on stuffed, motorized animals and ride—for two laps only—around a tiny race track. I thought it was more of a ripoff until I saw how slow they go. It takes a while. I got a video of Daphne’s on a two foot tall panda, and her friends on a tiger and a bear. I do not have permission yet to post it but if I do you’ll be the first to know.
- Oh goody, just fifty minutes to go til the end. STARVING.
My son called from his room at 1:26 am, the ringing phone throwing my heart at the ceiling.
“Mom, I think I’m dying. I can’t fall asleep.” I think I’m dying, too. Of a heart attack. “I’ll be right down.”
I felt his forehead. “You’ve got a fever. I think you have what I have.” I gave him one his sister’s Tylenol her dad sent with her last night—she’d had a tooth repaired after a chip and it was sore. Oh my god, all my kids are old enough to have full-strength pain relievers. “Here, sit up and take this. It’s just the flu.”
“Did I get it from you?” he asked. I think if he’d had the strength that would have sounded almost accusatory.
“Not in the four hours you’ve been here. It takes longer than that to incubate. But thanks for thinking of me.”
I took one, too. When I woke up from a dream in which we all had fur and tails like mice and has no standing until we’d won a spar with the current tail-judo master, my neck was a girder and I was about a thousand degrees too hot. Besides, that mouse was really doing a job on my self-esteem because I couldn’t land a blow on his belly. Think Ripred from Gregor The Overlander.
On my way back to bed I heard a creak from Daphne’s bed and saw the light under her door. Oh, no. I opened up the Tylenol and shook out another pill.
Daphne was sitting up in bed, face flushed with a thousand-yard stare. Oh, goody.
“I knew it,” I said. “You didn’t look right when you went to bed.”
“Mom, I’ve been like this since midnight. I only slept two hours,”she said, as I felt her forehead.
“Yep, you’ve got it, too.” Earlier, I’d begged off from dinner out with their dad and them to celebrate Logan’s birthday. I was too glazed over to steer two tons of German engineering over the mountain pass. Hence their late-night arrival so they could wake here on Mothers Day.
I don’t think breakfast in bed is on the menu anymore. Limp, hot children maybe, but not a fresh, hot meal.
Did I mention Guy has it, too? He asked for the chocolate Hagen Daaz and a spoon as long as I was up. I handed it to him and picked up my iPad to write. I wasn’t interested in chocolate Hagen Daaz. I really must be dying.
3:40 am: the first child starts driving the porcelain bus. Just waiting to see who’s next.
Mid- hurl: “Happy—blergh—Mothers Day.”
We got Burger King for everyone tonight (it was just easier, OK?), and when Daphne opened her Whopper she said, “Mom, I got two patties! Why are there two instead of one?”
I said, “I guess it’s your lucky day.”
Ten minutes later, she announced that she had five theories as to why she received two patties in her Whopper rather than one.
About a third of the way through the second theory, I said, “Wait! Mommy’s watching Hulk smash. You’ve got to write this down. Here, you can use my laptop,” thus guaranteeing a Monday morning post.
Here we go:
The first person put a patty in the hamburger, then the next person said “I bet I can do that faster!” So then that person put another patty in the hamburger. Then a third person tried to put another patty in the hamburger but he was tackled but the other two people. Then they put the hamburger in the bag, forgetting the two patties in the hamburger and gave it to me.
The person that put the patties in my hamburger went to a Chinese restaurant and got a fortune cookie. The cookie said, “Do something weird at work tomorrow.” So the next day the person went to work and thought “My cookie did say to do something weird.” Right then he was making a hamburger and made a two pattied hamburger. So he put it in the bag and gave it to me.
There was a hobo on a bench and the person felt bad and gave the hobo some money. The hobo then walked into Walmart and got a card for the person and it read “Put twice as many patties than usual tomorrow at work, sincerely, Stanley.” So the person thought, “Oh so his name is Stanley.” The next day the person put two patties in hamburger and put it into the bag and gave it to me.
A person walked into Burger King, thinking that he worked there and then quickly said, ”Wait I don’t work here!” Right then the person went home and soon came back and applied for the job there. In about two minutes he was working on making hamburgers and he thought “Its my first day” and he made a hamburger with two patties and put it in a bag and gave it to me.
A metal chicken gave a note to the person who made my hamburger, that said “Bwok” which inspired the person the make a two-pattied hamburger and put it in a bag and gave it to me.
You may have noticed that I rarely—if ever—do guest posts. Not to mention: my Mothers’ Day posts have been unconventional, to say the least.
This year, I was (virtually) introduced to Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, who has written for us the kind of Mother’s Day post that should be read BEFORE the day so that you can ACT on it. And I suggest you do it in time for next Sunday, because any mother who recieves something like this will treasure it all her days.
(Krissy Dietrich Gallagher is a Cleveland mother of two boys, Braedan, 8 and Austin, 5 (who insist on being identified as 8 ½ and 5 ½). In July 2007, at the age of 10 months, Austin was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms tumor, a solid tumor cancer in both kidneys that occurs in a mere 20 children nationwide each year. The Gallaghers were thrust into a world of chemotherapy, hospital stays and four abdominal surgeries before Austin was declared cancer-free eight months later. But after one glorious year, the cancer was back. More chemo, radiation, overnights and enough surgeries to cost him his entire right kidney and half of his left. Today, Austin is a relatively healthy, extremely happy and remarkably normal five-year-old (ahem, 5 ½ year old) despite living with Stage 3 renal failure. He is one of five St. Baldrick’s Foundation 2012Ambassador Kids. The post below was adapted from one Krissy wrote for Mother’s Day 2010, when Austin was still in treatment, on her blog The Luckiest.)
Moms do things selflessly. We sacrifice our free time, our career goals, our neat homes and our hot bodies for the sake of our children. We sometimes do it begrudgingly, but we do it nonetheless. And we rarely get thanked for it, nor do we even expect to. But after watching this 2010 video from Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place and Lift, about the Thank You note that moms really want and deserve from their children on Mother’s Day, I couldn’t help but add a few of my own. Of course, I will keep doing all that I do whether I get thanked or not, as will we all, but it sure is nice to imagine….
Thank you, mom, for taking care of me day and night. For holding me and rocking me back to sleep at 3 o’clock in the morning when I’m woken by some stranger taking my blood pressure. Thank you for sleeping with me in my (very narrow) hospital bed even though it means you can’t roll over or you’ll get tangled in my IV lines. And thank you for learning very early on how to silence the IV pump machine when it beeps, usually just as soon as I’ve dozed off to sleep. Thank you for remembering all my medications and making sure I get just the right dose at just the right time of day, and for turning it into a game or a race so it somehow feels fun, like when you take a Tums right along with me before I eat my phosphorous-filled cheesy meals so we can be “Tums buddies.”
Thank you, mom, for always (or at least, often) packing the right lunch and snacks and books and toys to keep me fed and entertained through hour after hour and day after day in the hospital. Thank you for never failing to flush my PICC line every eight hours, even when that eight-hour mark comes at midnight and you’ve just crawled into your warm cozy bed. And speaking of that bed, thank you for scooting over so I can squeeze in between you and dad when I feel scared in the night. Thank you for treating me like a regular kid and letting me climb the rock wall and fall down and get hurt even when my platelets are low and my legs are already covered with purple welts. Thank you for not letting me get away with everything just because I’m sick and for laying the foundation for my future because you fully expect me to have one.
Thank you, mom, for not forgetting about me, your healthy son. Thank you for making sure I always have fun play dates when you’re at Austin’s appointments and for giving me veto power over whose house I go to, no matter how desperate you are. Thank you for emailing my teacher at the last minute so I’m not too surprised by who’s picking me up from school on unexpectedly long hospital days. Thank you, mom, for waking up early to bake homemade bread for the Teacher Appreciation Brunch, even though you have a perfect excuse for not participating in any PTA events. Thank you for running back home to get my library book on library day so I can check out a new one. Thank you for patiently explaining to my kindergarten classmates how cancer is like a weed in a garden and then listening, also patiently, to their endless – and completely unrelated — stories about pulling weeds with their grandmas. Thank you for arranging for friends to secretly take me swimming all summer even though Austin can’t get his PICC line wet. And for sneaking yogurts into my lunchbox so I can eat them away from the watchful and (understandably) jealous eyes of my brother, who follows a ridiculously limited diet. Oh, and speaking of jealous, thank you for listening with respect and not getting too mad when I whine and I say I’m jealous of him because he gets to ride a tricycle around the hospital hallways when I have to go home and go to bed. Thank you, mom, for letting me know that I matter too and for making sure I’m remembered and heard and loved.
And thank you to my mom for always managing to fit in a several-hour visit to the hospital every single day we’re there, no matter how busy you are. Thank you for canceling fancy overseas bike trips with dad so you can both be close by to support us. Thank you for shooing me away from eight-hour blood transfusions and sending me home to shower even if Austin is screaming in your arms as I leave. Thank you for reassuring me that he will be okay in my absence and for always telling me how okay he actually was when I get back. And thank you for valuing my daily workout as much as I do and making sure I have time to go for a run. Thank you for having Braedan sleep over and getting him off to school and making your home feel like his home. Thank you for loving every second you spend with Austin in your arms and for making it seem like I’m giving you a gift when you’re really doing me a favor.
Thank you, mom, for taking care of me when I’m sick.
And thank you, mom, for taking care of me when my brother is sick.
And thank you, my mom, for taking care of me when my son is sick.
Thank YOU, Krissy for the inspiration.