Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Kids get away

If you have not been hiding under a rock, you have heard about the unfortunate incident at the Cincinnati zoo where a 4-year-old boy made his way into the gorilla enclosure, fell 15 feet and was tossed and displayed by a large silverback gorilla that had to be shot and killed. The story has layers: the child supposedly taunted his mom before making his break, other people were trying to stop him, the silverback seemed protective at first, the female gorillas left the exhibit but the male wouldn't, the crowd went frantic, the child was being flung around by the male.

And the chorus of haters immediately surfaced:

  • mom must have been negligent
  • she should have been watching the child/holding on to him the entire time
  • she should have jumped in and saved him from the gorillas
  • the gorilla should have been lured away with treats
  • the gorilla should have been tranquilized
  • ten minutes of response time is much too long
  • parents should be sued by the zoo
  • parents should sue the zoo
  • gorillas don't belong in zoos
  • the enclosure should have been higher
I am feeling sick to my stomach. Sometimes really horrible things happen, and there is nobody to blame. Sometimes it might be someone's fault, but what have been gained by pointing fingers? 

And my heart goes out to that mom in the spotlight.

I have written before about parents who claim that their children would never do that. I am impressed by the amount of parents who are confident that they are fully aware of all their children's whereabouts at all times. So in the spirit of honesty and vulnerability, I will share my stories of children getting away.

My second child, 10 yo, was always a runner. Since he learned how to walk, he didn't walk, he ran. Once I took him and his brother to the zoo. He was still 3, so I brought a stroller for him, where he sat most of the time. At that zoo, the primate area was a giant loop, with one entrance/exit and exhibits off to the sides. The boys kept asking me to pick them up so they could see the monkeys. I must have been lifting them up and down for a while, alternating. At some point, they went ahead and I was catching up, with a stroller. I didn't even have texting on the phone, so no, I was not doing anything else, just following after the boys. It was getting close to lunchtime and I had to teach right after, so I was anxious to leave the area, feed them, and head back. I turned the corner and my oldest, 5 at the time, was there, but no sight of 3-year-old. I assumed he walked ahead, after all, this is a loop, so he must be at the next exhibit. I am following them, I am hoisting them up, he must have gone ahead to the orangutans where he can see without being picked up. I drag my oldest along, but 3 year old is not to be found. I come to the exit and freak out: now he could have gone into the rest of the zoo, or back into the exhibit, or I somehow missed him. I knew he was a runner, so I was staying right there, close behind, with him in the stroller. Where is he? I drag 5 year old back with me, looking closely. He protests, he cannot see any animals like this. I circle back the entire exhibit and fully panic now. He must have exited and gone into the zoo. And he's three. And I have no idea where to look for him. And I have to teach soon. What am I going to tell the school, that I am late because I lost a child at the zoo?!

Waves of gut-wrenching panic sweep over me. I find a zookeeper and tell him that I am missing a child. I remember what he was wearing (back in the day I used to get my boys dressed in bright orange or red shirts, because I knew one is a runner). He pages the rest of the zookeepers and tells them to scan for a small boy. Meanwhile, he wants to head back to the primates where we started, to look again. 

I have no pride left, just a tense ball of nerves. I am dragging my other child who is complaining and complaining. As we enter the loop yet again. the keeper gets the page that my son was found. It was wintertime during school hours, the zoo was not busy. He was spotted sitting at the table not far from the cafe area. I ran, stroller and dragged 5 year old in my wake. The boy is sitting there, unperturbed. "I was waiting to have lunch, mommy".

At least we did not make the evening news. At least he was not curious to see what the orangutan was having for lunch.

I asked him about that incident now and he did not remember it. But it still quickens my pulse just to think of it.

And another time, when we were in Costco and he and his younger sisters got away and hid in the canoes. I also looked and looked, this time for two kids. Again, swallow your pride, ask for assistance. But Costco does not do loudspeaker announcements, so I get to die again, as each associate is paged separately. My son did remember that incident. He said that the canoes looked cool and he just wanted to see what the inside of one was like, and then they crawled inside and hid not to be kidnapped...

And multiple times, in stores, when I turned around and he was gone...

It is different with my other kids.  If they get lost, it is because they got separated. They will stand there, they will not escape. My current3-year-oldd does not wander off. But I am not bold enough to declare that it will never happen because I am so vigilant.

So let's drop finger-pointing and posturing, and share your stories of kids who got away. It does not make you a bad parent, it makes you an honest one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

It could always be worse?

Yesterday my 3 yo woke up wet. He is potty-training, and he did not get the full hang of it yet. So I washed him, stripped his bed, washed his sheets, and sent him off to school. In the afternoon, when I picked him up, he had a bag of laundry: he had a major accident, his teacher ended up throwing away his underwear, and I had another load of laundry to do. I did it.

Yesterday was a bath night, so I washed the baby while my helpful 6 yo washed her brother.

This morning, he woke up wet again, only today it was when the baby was strapped in her high chair for breakfast. I had to decide: wash him and let her scream? Or get him dressed as he is, and feed the baby? I chose to get him dressed: that would be his third bath in 24 hours. But then the baby refused to eat. And then she had diarrhea. And another bout. And she threw up after her nap, all over her crib, all over her hair. So I had to wash her caked-in hair, and run another load of laundry. And then I had to decide: take 10 yo to his violin lesson? For various reasons the lesson did not happen in the last two weeks, and I did not want him to miss yet another make-up session. And do I go to park day afterward, so boys get to see their friends? Or do I declare baby to be sick, and not take them? But then I still have to pick up 3 yo and 6 yo from school in the afternoon, so I will have to take thebaby out again. And they are having a bake sale at school, so there is no carpool, and the kids will not be taken out to the cars.

So I watch the baby, and she seems fine. I quickly throw some lunch together for the boys, tell them that if their sister appears to be sick, we are leaving early, and go.

She is fine during the lesson, she is slightly cranky during park day. I buy her juice boxes while 10 yo is at his lesson, hoping to get fluids into her. She drinks the juice box, but spends more time chewing the box and the straw.

We drive to pick up the younger ones. She falls asleep. We are listening to this course on the History of the Bible, and it is talking about Babylonian and Roman captivity. Historically, it is corroborated that Jews fought bravely and held out till the point of starvation. And today is Yom Hazikaron.

10 yo sweetly offers to stay in the car with his asleep sister as long as I get him a treat from the bake sale, but the baby wakes up as soon as we park. I bring everyone inside and get them all treats. 3 yo is sporting a different pair of shorts than the ones I put on him in the morning. "An accident?" I ask his teacher. "A small one," she replies. The baby throws the piece of cookie that I offer her on the ground. I get comments from teachers that they did not know that I had older kids. Nod and smile, finish up the cookies, throw the plates in the garbage, buckle up and drive home.

As we are driving, 10 yo announces that he is sure that his sister's diaper needs to be changed. I wonder whether 3 yo's laundry smells, or whether it is the baby again. But I am falling asleep, so I need a drive-through coffee. The kids grumble how I am not rushing home to change the baby's diaper. I am feeling guilty as is. Where did she get this stomach upset? Is it the bathwater that she started drinking? Or the floor that she is licking? Or my slippers that she keeps on chewing? Or something else?

I get home and tell the kids to unload as many things from the car as they can. The baby's diaper has leaked, so I rush with her to the bathroom, trying to contain the mess. I change her, wash her, scream for someone to bring me a tub to put in her soiled clothes. I nurse her and feel guilty for taking her out today.

Later, I have to return to the car to get all the water bottles that were left behind. The unmistakable stench warmed up by the sun hits me: she must have leaked all over her car seat. I have to uninstall it to remove the cover. And there are the inaccessible cheerios that i did not vacuum up before Pesach because i could not get to them. Or are these post-Pesach Cheerios? She has been eating for the past week.

Yes, it could be worse. Somebody could be in a hospital. Somebody could be much sicker. But here is the deal: when it gets much worse, people get mobilized. People make meal trains. People offer to watch kids. Family steps up. Who will step up so I can strip the car seat? Take a child to a violin lesson? Watch the baby so I can take 3 yo to the bathroom yet another time? My boys have been great, but they are kids.

So do not say "it could always be worse". It does not help.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


seder table
5:30 erev pesach
My older boys were born right around Pesach. 3 yo was born three weeks before Pesach, and the baby (who just turned one), was born a week after Pesach, which, this year, fell out on Pesach. My line used to be that Pesach is my favorite holiday. I like the challenges of new cooking, I look forward to kids' birthdays and recalling each crazy year, I like many days of Yom Tov when I can change the routine and sit down instead of feeling that I need to accomplish something or other. Usually, I do have a bit of a pre-Pesach freak-out, but it all comes together by Yom Tov, when the kitchen is turned over, the house is chametz-free, and all grocery store runs have been completed. We do our own seder since there is always a small child who needs to go to sleep before we ever start, and I fret about making it meaningful, yet somebody always comes up with some insight out of the left field, making the Yom Tov enjoyable.

seder table
6:30 erev pesach
Kids have to eat
This year, Pesach was just not coming together. I have a Pesach kitchen in this house, precisely because I always make Pesach, but it was still not working out. The bathroom next to the Pesach kitchen had to be repaired. Despite having a full year, the project was completed just three weeks before Pesach. I tried getting an early start on baking by making meringues which I adore, but they flopped. And I could not get enough motivation/anxiety to clean out chametz. Did I mention that we hold by not selling chametz, so we have to actually remove it? Days were ticking off, time was getting close, and I was still in a funk.

Then it dawned on me: what's harder than having a Pesach baby? Trying to make Pesach with a 1 year old! She was doing her part to keep things interesting. She kept throwing things out of her high chair, and spreading those Cheerios everywhere. Besides, a baby of this age needs to be constantly watched. She does not sleep nearly as much as a newborn, and she does not yet have any common sense, but she is mobile and active. I did enclose the living room as a space where she could be contained, but she is only happy in there for so long before starting to cry. So, out of 13 years that I have made Pesach, I was heavily pregnant or with a newborn for 4, and with an acitve one year old for 5. That's nine years of challenges. No wonder I don't feel so gung-ho about Pesach any more.

seder table
7:30 erev pesach
I did pull myself together, invited people over for the meals of the last days, and cooked and served for those meals. The company was pleasant, and it did feel like Yom Tov.

As for the seder prep, I pulled out my collection of Hagadahs, but the boys were most fascinated with The Exodus You Almost Passed Over by Rabbi Forhman. They both read it, and more than once. 10 yo kept bringing it to the table, reading out loud and discussing various points.3 yo stayed up for the seder, saw my husband put on his kittel and asked: "Why are you doing that?" "Thank you for fulfilling my obligation, So you could ask." He was not amused, but he was explained more about coming out of Egypt. And he even recited a nice part of Ma Nishtana. I know he was taught it in school, but I also have a Pesach CD that he kept asking me to put in, which contains it.

10 yo showed brotherly love
by putting up with 3 yo
messing up his experiment
(you need someone
of similar height for it to work)
at the science museum
On Chol HaMoed, I took kids places, hoping to rally just a bit. On Monday we went to the Museum of Natural History.

Kings of the rock at Noah's Ark
On Tuesday we visited an animal sanctuary with another homeschooling  family. The kids all had someone their own age to interact with, so the boys were able to go at their pace, and I could keep up with the littles.

Wednesday was the last day of coop classes followed by park day. I saw the boys' presentation from Lego Robotics class and missed the Bridges class one due to the littles being in toddler room. We brought out miracle bars to share. 12 walked around, advertising how good they are and sharing his insights about Pesach. I thought we will leave early enough for the babies to nap at home, but they both could not sleep. So, on the spur of the moment, I grabbed the willing kids and went to Botanical Gardens to sneak a peek at Chihuly exhibition. Our membership was running out and it did not officially open till after Pesach, but the glass was already installed. The kids loved running around finding the artwork: "There is a Chihuly!" And Thursday I went to taeknowdo with the boys followed by a cooking marathon for the last days.
Boys are presenting their robot

Now Yom Tov is over, the kitchen is back to chametz, laundry is churning from mounds of dirty into mounds of clean, and we bought our chametz. I am looking forward to Pesach when the youngest is 3. In the meanwhile, I will keep on trying to do what I can, and ignore the over-optimistic accounts of how easy it is to make Pesach.

Chihuly in the Botanical Garden