Don’t sweat the small stuff

At dinner last night, with a few good friends, we were chatting about our kids (and other things too) as women with children are wont to do. We were laughing about the silly things they say and do, bitching about how hard it is sometimes, and moaning about eating issues, bed-wetting and cheekiness. Then my friend J mentioned that she had changed the way she approaches parenting since a good friend of hers’ child had died. How she is more lenient, softer, and a little less hectic. How she tries not to sweat the small stuff. I think every single one of us got goose-bumps at the thought of losing one of our children.

About a year ago, in one of the local pre-primary schools, a young boy choked to death on a cherry while at school. They allegedly tried everything they could, and even asked the Vet in the property next door to help. He was then taken to a nearby hospital, but sadly the little guy did not make it. I don’t recall his exact age at the time, but he was 4 or 5 years old. At the time of the incident, I remember thinking: Imagine getting THAT call from the school. “Hi, this is um, the principal, your, um, child had an accident at school. He is, um…. DEAD.”  And just like that, in a two minute phone-call, your life would change. Forever. No more hugs and kisses from a small boy whose parents are the most important people in his life. No more giggles, silly discussions and a thousand questions. No more arguing over eating dinner, putting on shoes or tidying up the playroom. No more goodnight kisses and playing with reckless abandon. No more anything. Gone. Forever. Dead.

The very thought still makes the hair on my arms stand up as a cold shiver runs over me. It makes me nauseas in the pit of my stomach.

It has been a year since the untimely passing of this young boy, and apparently his family have tried to move on as best as they can. They have had another child, and are trying to be a normal family. But I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be for all of them. How the trauma surrounding the death of their child must haunt them daily. And how they must always wonder what it would be like if the accident had not happened. How they must think about that child. Every. Single. Day. How they must long for one last hug, one last kiss and even one last argument. How they must ache with sadness every time they see his photograph or remember something that he said or did.

So we all vowed to not fight with our children today. To let them wear whatever they want to. To let them eat ice-cream in the car. To let them be silly, laugh and mess around in the Pick ‘n Pay. To just let them be kids without forcing our grown-up boundaries onto them. To relax with our rules, just a little. To not shout at them for dirtying the newly-washed floors. But most importantly: to not sweat the small stuff, and to hold them tight and love and cherish them. Today and always.

Motherhood Has Completely Ruined TV

I don’t think I had ever cried during a TV show before I became a mom. Ok, maybe one time. I was watching Lassie on TV one sunday afternoon during my teenage years (clearly there was nothing much on TV in the late 80s!) and I sobbed a little because Lassie (predictably) was lost. But that’s acceptable, as I like dogs, and don’t like the thought of them being lost. And rampant teenage hormones are in fact responsible for lots of sobbing about random stuff.

Even now, I refuse to watch Jock of the Bushveld, as the outcome is less than favourable for poor old Jock. Ok, I will also admit to shedding a few tears during that (very bad) movie about the huskies that were tied down outside during a very severe snow storm in the Arctic somewhere. But I digress… Even hardened cynics find the thought of cute doggies and kitties being harmed unpleasant. But general TV, about the daily lives of humans, well, that always left me unfazed. Hell, I don’t even watch much TV, barring a few medical drama’s and the cooking channel. And Cake Boss, obviously.

Until I spawned these two little humans it seems.

Now I can’t get through an episode of Grey’s Anatomy without a lump in my throat, or a tear in my eye. Especially if the patient happens to be a child. Or a pregnant woman. Or a mom with young children. Just the other night, I was watching Private Practice, and one of the characters is admitted for a (supposedly) inoperable, imminently fatal, brain tumour. But that is just par-for-the-course in a medical drama. The problem is, she has a son, whom she has not even told that she is sick, and may in fact die from this condition. And I there I am, sobbing, imagining Alex crying his eyes out at the thought of me being gone. Forever. And that Caris wouldn’t even remember me. (Or the time when one of the characters in Grey’s son goes missing from day-care, only for a moment, and said character has a near panic attack. I think my heart would literally stop if one of my children went missing.)

Getting back to the episode of Private Practice, it made me think “what if my babies had to grow up without me?” And then I tell myself, “Get a grip, it’s only a TV program! It’s fiction!” But the reality is, that the thought of something happening to me while my children are still young, and still need me, is unnerving to say the least. The thought of them relying on someone else, confiding in someone else, maybe calling someone else mommy makes my blood run cold. And by the same token, something happening to one of my babies, ever, would irreparably break my heart.

Having children has definitely made me more emotionally vulnerable, more cautious. Gary mocks me that I “drive like Miss Daisy” since having had Alex. And it’s true, I do drive more cautiously, knowing that if something were to happen to me, those two little people I love so much would be devastated. And I definitely find TV programs (and books and movies…) portraying (even slightly) sad stories about moms/babies/children more heart-wrenching. But it has also made me a better person. More compassionate and empathetic, more willing to love unconditionally. And if something did happen to me, I can only hope that the person who would maybe become the mother-figure in my babies’ lives, will love them unconditionally, and as much as I do.

Maybe I should limit my TV watching to more Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen and The F-word. (And C-Beebies, of course.)