Nice evening catching up with my aunt, whom I've not seen in 10 years, since my sister's wedding.
Nasty evening with tantrumy Katrina, who for the 3rd time since we've been at my Mom & Paul's in Pennsylvania, forced me to miss dinner & wine with grownups to attend to a tantrum (putting her to bed as a result), AGAIN.
The 2nd time Katrina pulled me away from dinner to bathe her and put her to bed (screaming her head off the whole way) was Wednesday (7/7/10) night. In doing so while I was giving her a shower, I was bending down, or standing up (can't remember), and felt a dreaded, but familiar ~zzzzap~~ in my lower back. Terrified, somehow I completed the bedtime & pajama process -- though the little stinker took off her PJs and got dressed again in new clothes -- and got down to dinner with grownups. There I burst into tears and said, "I think I just pulled my back out again."
And indeed, the last two days have been completely hunched over, unable to stand straight, barely able to hobble. The pain is only moderate, this isn't a oft-cited "back pain" problem. I CAN NOT stand up straight. I live in fear of what position will trigger that awful broken feeling in my lower back. Or cross my legs, or put my legs straight in front of me, or lie with my legs elevated, or hundreds of other positions I can't predict will affect me.
Fortunately, Papa Paul has a cane left over from knee surgery, and I'm never more than a few feet from it. Stairs and still attempting to bathe children knock me out and have me hobbling even worse than before. The secondary problems from the position I'm forced to be in are now worse than the main problem: my upper back is under tremendous strain in its attempt to compensate for the stuck sacro-iliac joint in the lower back.
This is a moderate-to-bad back episode as they go, but it couldn't be worse-timed. I'm furious that my last full day of cousins together, and my long-lost aunt arriving, had to be spent partly looking for physical therapy (not found) and medical care (found). As usual, doctors don't know what I need and prescribe useless drugs instead. Incredibly, ER docs can only prescribe drugs, not physical therapy.
It's really borderline if I'll be able to stand straight tomorrow -- if I can, a big corner has been turned, but it's still a few days before I'm cane-free. If I still can't stand straight, then most operations of lifting and carrying are almost impossible.
And tomorrow is when I have to drive for 3+ hours alone with the 3 kids (none of whom can do seatbelts themselves due to carseats/boosters), return the rental car, negotiate luggage through Newark's AirTrain, check in, negotiate security, kids' dinner in the terminal (recall I can barely carry anything; one hand has a death grip on the cane and the other on my knee), and then will be rewarded with 7 hours in a cramped airplane seat, tending constantly to the needs of 3 children.
This is my agnostic test. If there IS a God, then He will grant me individual TV screens in front of every seat. We didn't get that on our way here, but I swear I'll convert if I get that.
Then again, I could consider that He exists already, because I was granted an aggressive mother who called Continental's "Disabled Travellers" desk, and was able to secure gate passes for my brother and my husband to help me at each end. And that same mother granted me the most amazing and kind and helpful younger brother to meet me at the airport and do all the heavy lifting right up to the point that I stagger onto the plane with the 3 kids. When we get off the plane, Dave will be right there to pick up that duty. Thank goodness.
And, the boys have been through this before, and have been very sweet and helpful. Julian keeps bringing me my cane, and they've been affectionate and cooperative and almost even listening most of the time. I hope that sticks through tomorrow's logistical hurdles.
Hopefully this will carry me through hours of being on the plane, because at least today, I am still very fragile and need to lie down a lot. But there's no lying down tomorrow at all, between driving, airport logistics and flying.
Yes folks, this is a massive nightmare.
Katrina was a disastrous pain in the butt tonight, fussing and crying throughout dinner. I forget what started it -- she didn't WANT milk, and she wouldn't stop crying or complaining during dinner. I gave her several chances, I tried to change the subject and distract her out of it, but nothing doing.
I was so mad that I had to leave a hot dinner with my aunt to go carry out a consequence to a toddler who will never, ever get the point. No dinner, a quick shower, then straight to bed. (My sister, who'd been taking on all the Katrina duty after my injury -- and as a result Katrina is smitten with her and said "I miss Aunt Stephanie" within minutes of her departure this morning -- had already left.)
Katrina's "graceful exit" from screaming her head off ("I don't WANNA go to bed! I'm HUNGRY!") was smashing her heel against the army cot she's on, making a small cut in her heel. That let me minister to her in a way she'd accept, so a Nemo band-aid finally ended the conflict.
I was intrigued that my old-school aunt and mother recall the same sorts of tough discipline from their mother, only they remember their father playing good cop and bringing them bread and milk in bed after they'd been sent there with no dinner. I must be older-school, or more injured, because I was not about to back down and give my daughter dinner after all that. I told her dinner was over, it was cleaned up (mostly true), that she chose to fuss instead of eat, and that's that. This was not a tantrum that could be ignored, since it was ruining dinner for all the grownups. Kids too -- Gabriel was the first to lose his patience and tell her to be quiet already. I'm sorry, Positive Parenting, a toddler can't ignored when they're being so obnoxious that it shuts down the entire dinner table.
In the end, after it was all over, when she asked about dinner and I told her it was over she said, "OK Mommy I'll just have a big breakfast." But really, I lose, because that means she eats pancakes instead of broccoli, the only dinner food option she'd eat anyway (that was not the source of the conflict though, we never got that far).
And I know from experience that carrying through with an apparently severe consequence (no dinner, no playtime) will have no effect whatsoever the next time. There are no "and she never did it again" lessons in the Doudna world.
Both my mother and my aunt concede that her tantrums are really an over-the-top handful. Some outside looks might suggest that I pick too many fights by insisting on silly things, but after some thought, I don't agree with that -- some things, kids just have to do sometimes, and my picking my fights differently won't change that. One could argue perhaps that I pick the wrong fights sometimes -- and sure, don't we all -- but when I do pick one, she needs to follow my instructions.
The fight I picked the night my back froze was about her making her way to the pond by herself, strictly forbidden (drowning hazard). No one would argue with that.
I'm really not worried about her long-term -- we survived Gabriel's toddlerhood after all -- but it sure is a pain to live through now.
So I had a nice (if cold) dinner chatting with the boys and my Tante Jacqueline (my aunt) -- and WONDERFUL blueberry pie, my favorite, that my mother made (yay Mom, THANK YOU!!) -- and overall felt OK about my job raising family. It lends extra fascination talking about ancestors when I look at my boys and think that they're carrying on this legacy. I hear about the feats and ways of life of great-grandfathers and of great-uncles (two of whom were WWI fighter pilots), and look at my sons (Katrina was in bed and I didn't want to think about her anyway) and think that this is their history too. They're so young -- their story has just started. Yet there's so much behind their story that someday they might find fascinating. I already do. If I survive their sister's childhood that is.