Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Those Horrible Parent Moments

Today I had one of those horrible parent moments – the kind when you think you must be the worst parent out there. The kind when you feel sorry for your child for ending up with you. Do you get these? What inspires them?

I had made plans with a friend to meet for coffee or a walk. We arranged to meet at a coffee shop. If the weather was bad, we’d go inside. If not, we’d take a stroll.

When we met, it was chilly, but not uncomfortable, so we decided to walk. We meandered into an unfamiliar neighborhood with curving streets. A little bit of snow began to swirl through the air. The amount quickly increased, until we felt like we were walking in a snow globe. We asked a passerby how to get back to the main street and she guided us.

As we headed in that direction, the wind picked up. It was now coming directly at us, blowing cold snow into our faces. Poor little River didn’t even have gloves on. His hands were bright red.

I joked to my friend how so many parents have super fancy strollers that wrap their offspring in a bubble, protecting them from all the elements.

“Now is the one time I could use one,” I said. Not only was I negligent in not putting mittens on River (I still can’t figure out how to get mittens to stay on his hands, so I generally don’t bother) but I was negligent in not getting a sufficiently weather-proof stroller.

“Then again,” I thought out loud. “How many of those parents are out walking with their babies in blizzards?”

“Not many,” my friend said, reassuring me that maybe the bubble wasn’t so practical after all.

River twitched about a bit, so I picked him up and carried him while my friend pushed the stroller. He’d occasionally blow raspberries of frustration as snow landed on his cheeks and eyes, but generally seemed willing to trust me. I felt awful, but there was nothing I could do but try to get us home as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we had over a mile to go.

When we passed the same lady on the street again, who must have also been out for a stroll, thinking the weather would be OK, she offered to drive us wherever we were going. It was kind of her, but we didn’t want to bother her, so we continued on.

River is close to 30 pounds and I couldn’t carry him into the wind for long. After a while, I put him back in his seat. We put my friend’s mittens over his hands and I gave him the little remainder of a bottle I had with me. We walked at a trot as the harsh wind blew straight into our faces. I pulled down the top of the stroller as much as possible, but River’s jacket was still covered with snow.

Once the little bit of milk was gone, he lost it and began to cry. I felt horrible. A deep sense of inadequacy. A confirmation that I’m doing things wrong. An understanding of how large the responsibility of parenting is. A great pity for River. I tried to hurry.

When we got home, I rushed him inside and found that his pants were wet and had leaked – just one more chill for him in the stroller. I changed him and got him a bottle, then cradled him in my arms as I massaged his frozen hands and cold limbs. I wanted to provide him as much warmth and comfort and security as possible. I was more patient than usual. I would stay there as long as he needed me. I understand how Mark must have felt after River fell off the bed in his care. I related to how he let River fall asleep in his arms and remained there with River until he’d awaken and was back to himself.

I did eventually carry River up to his crib and tucked him under an extra blanket. He awoke a few hours later, having skipped lunch, but cheerful and inquisitive as always. He didn’t seem to remember what he’d gone through in the morning. If he did, he’d decided to move on with his life. I guess I should too.

(the photo is from a happier stroller ride - yesterday)

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