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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Learning to Worry

We've known for a while that Quinn was likely going to have surgery to remove his enlarged adenoids, but today we got the official green light to go ahead with the procedure next Friday. Anyone who's met Quinn knows that he's a NOISY little man. Because his adenoids are so large, it's blocking his airway and the breaths he takes are rattly, strained, and snotty. The surgery itself is remarkably routine. Even though our dude is only 8 months old, it's an outpatient procedure with a quick 2-4 day recovery (if his tonsils were also being removed, it would be longer). Nevertheless, I find myself slightly terrified simply because I think that's what parents are supposed to feel when their babies go under the knife. But this worry is a relatively new experience for me, a learned behavior.

When Atticus was born, I didn't experience the fear that most first-time parents feel. Perhaps it was my years as a nanny and preschool teacher, but caring for a newborn didn't frighten me. I knew that mothers had been tending to their young somewhat successfully since the dawn of humanity and that it's actually never been easier or safer to be a parent. Diaper, change, feed, try not to drop them on their heads, repeat. It was straightforward enough that once Brian overcame the jitters of the first few days, we were passing the kid back and forth like a football with one hand. We weren't the type to call the pediatrician at 3am because munchkin had the sniffles and when it came to babyproofing, we didn't. Of course, we put the bleach and household cleaners in the higher cabinets and pushed the knife block to the back of the countertop, but that was about it. And you know what? He survived! Sure, he bumped his head on the coffee table a few times and probably poked his eye once or twice with sticks he found in the backyard (Atticus had a thing for sticks), but he came out of the clumsy stages of toddlerhood relatively unscathed. And Brian and I enjoyed parenting instead of worrying about every little microbe that could potentially sicken him, every hazard that could break his leg.

So this feeling of constant fear for Quinn's well-being is both unnatural and uncomfortable for me. But with Quinn, it's so very, very necessary. Because of his developmental delays and his predisposition to certain health issues, I can't just sit back and wait things out. I have to act NOW when he gets the sniffles and it seems like I'm on the phone with one specialist or another on a daily basis. And in the midst of the worry, I've also managed to adopt a trait that is not necessary for Quinn's well-being. In fact, it could one day be his undoing:

I have become a coddler.

This is not good, you guys. As a high school teacher, I can tell you all about the long-term effects of coddling. These are the parents that want to meet with me every other week to discuss the many reasons their little angels can't turn in their homework, none of which are very good excuses. These are the parents that call the principal every time another student looks at their child funny and calls it bullying. These are the parents that will not let their 16-year-old spend the night at a friend's house or go to the movies without an adult. I don't want to be that parent. I CAN'T be that parent. Yet lately, when Quinn cries, I pick him up. Every time. So now he cries a lot because he knows I'm there to sweep him up and carry him around whilst trying to complete complex tasks with one arm.

So the question becomes, how do I find a balance between meeting Quinn's needs with occasionally meeting his wants. The first step is learning the difference. With a baby who's not speaking yet, this is trickier than it sounds. Is he crying because he's in pain or because he just wants my attention? Does he really need that bottle to fall asleep or am I creating a habit that will be hard to break a few years down the road? These are questions I never asked myself with Atticus because I knew the answers. I knew that it was good for him to learn to self-soothe, so I let him cry sometimes. But I never had to worry that Atticus' cries could likely be a sign of a larger problem. So I'm learning the balance and sharing what I learn with you. For example, when you pick up your child who was screaming bloody murder just moments before and he immediately smiles from ear to ear, he's probably ok.

In other news, Quinn wants to say, "hey guys! I'm just SITTING here. No big deal."

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