I think one of the hardest things sometimes for a mom to do, is to do nothing. To not jump in when we see our children struggling takes real restraint. One of the philosophies of the Montessori school my kids go to is to let children try things for themselves at a very young age. Three year olds are expected to walk themselves into the building and to their classrooms. (Aden had issues with this, but Mona and Quinn did just fine.) You are supposed to give them room to try things and discover what they are capable of. Independence is considered as much a part of the lesson as anything else.
In this regard, Quinn is a perfect fit for Montessori. He is an extremely capable four year old. When he was two he was able to serve himself yogurt from the fridge if he was hungry and even put the spoon in the sink. For a long time now he has been able to dress himself. He gets up in the night to use the bathroom if he needs to, and he doesn’t mind walking through the house while it’s dark. He’s taught himself cursive. He’s a boy with a strong sense of pride. He’ll ask for help if he needs it, but the moment he is confident he can do something himself he becomes offended by assistance. For the most part, since he wants to (and can) do so much on his own, he is very easy to care for.
Except for Ian. I mentioned recently how Quinn is still adjusting to having his father home from Iraq, and how difficult that transition has been for the two of them. I’ve since talked to many parents who wonder how much of this struggle is deployment related and how much is just a run-of-the-mill-small-child-clinging-to-a chosen-parent phenomenon which is common. It’s hard to know.
I had sort of hoped during my recent trip to Detroit alone for a week and a half, that time without me around might help. But it didn’t really. Quinn went about his life sometimes managing to be polite to his dad, and sometimes not able to keep that up if he was too tired to be reasonable. There wasn’t the kind of ‘bonding’ I was hoping for in my absence. So I figured the solution would have to be time.
But this week Quinn is sick. And things are different. Not entirely, because my son is stubborn (can’t imagine where he gets that from, she wrote, hoping her mother doesn’t happen to read this post), so he clings to ideas with a ferociousness of habit longer than he should sometimes. (As a matter of principle he says he doesn’t like his sister, Mona, either, but anyone who sees them playing together knows this is obviously not true. He stands by his statement just the same.)
Sickness isn’t just inconvenient. Sickness strips you of a degree of independence. Sickness means you need someone. For Quinn, sickness means for the first time since Ian returned from the war he is needed by his son in a way Quinn can appreciate. I would prefer my son weren’t sick, but we have definitely seen a silver lining.
I listened the other day as Quinn needed help. I wanted to go to him, but Ian was already there. So I managed to stay out of it. I listened instead. I heard my husband being patient and kind. He offered assistance but was careful not to force any help on Quinn. Quinn, in his sweet little voice, explained where he hurt, asked for medicine, asked to be carried. His daddy obliged. He did not make too much of it. He was exactly right and exactly what Quinn needed. It was hard not to go scoop up my little boy myself, but the fact that he was accepting real help from his dad was like seeing sunshine after a long difficult night.
Recently Quinn has also shown his dad how to get to some level on some Club Penguin game, and I’ve overheard several sweet little conversations. It’s encouraging. It’s also nice to have Ian say after helping me clean up vomit the other night how much he likes the teamwork aspect of parenting together. I think another man might have been called on to help with puking in the night and deemed it the lesser side of the family experience, but Ian said it felt good to be able to divide up the work so efficiently. I cleaned up the boy and Ian stripped the bed and got everything in the wash. That’s much harder to do alone, and I’m glad neither of us had to.
Unfortunately, on the health front, my poor little boy ended up in the hospital for several hours because he became dehydrated. He was getting limp instead of better so I took him to the doctor and she ordered an IV. Quinn was remarkably good about having his blood drawn the getting the IV line inserted. He was unhappy, but he didn’t cry and he didn’t move. He slept for about an hour while the IV did its work, and then ate a popsicle while holding a toy bunny he picked out in the gift shop. Poor thing. He’s doing fine now, except forcing him to take his antibiotic twice a day is turning into a wrestling match. It tastes bad and he won’t take it. Mixing it with yogurt got us through one dose, but he’s not repeating that. We even tried mixing it with a giant spoonful of sugar a la Mary Poppins, but no luck. Lots of gagging and spitting everything out. At the moment we are down to holding him still while I put some at a time in his mouth and then using my fingers to shove it back in as he does everything he can to avoid swallowing any. It’s awful. Suggestions? Please?