It's OK. Nothing happened. It'll all be fine.
Silly, meaningless little phrases I have taken to saying. To soothe a little boy. He's outgrowing his babyhood so fast I have this urge to fold it carefully, wrap it and store it amongst the old clothes and discarded toys.
He was quite ill in December. The tummy infection I didn't catch on to was given ten days to play up and the antibiotics he was given after that opened him up to a cold. The cold was mild, but it did make the month four weeks of various illnesses, big and small. In that time I became quite possessive of him -- something I had got over mostly. I began to resent other people playing with him, touching him, daring to think they knew anything about him or his needs. I didn't know I was doing that until we started the final leg of rehearsals for Proof last week and I had to leave him for entire evenings. V took to wandering with him, taking him to visit his parents, going shopping etc. And suddenly I found myself getting paranoid.
How stupid is that? Don't tell me, I do know.
And just as I was scolding myself out of this, The Bhablet went and fell very ill. On Thursday night V called me at rehearsals to report that The Bhablet had thrown up his dinner. On Friday morning there was some scary diarrhoea. Both were repeated on the long car trip to the airport on Friday evening. (I know, I know, he shouldn't have gone, but he had seemed better all day.) And I just panicked. I called up my director and told him I needed a day off (6 days before we perform). I cancelled all plans and sat at home, watching him. Holding back, letting V do stuff for him, letting my parents play with him, relying heavily on my instincts. Watching him every second like my life depended on it.
Seems to have worked. He hasn't thrown up today nor has the diarrhoea been repeated. Am keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow because I'll be away seven long hours tomorrow and I can only hope he (and Vicky) will be OK.
This is why I stay at home. I can't sit in an office when my child is ill. I know it's a weakness I'm displaying but it's who I am. I can be strong if I have to be, but if I can stay at home, I'd rather.
But staying at home comes with so many catches. My father has said, several times although once would have been enough, that I'm wasting my education and all that he "invested" in me. I'm not sure what he wants exactly because he doesn't like me going out of home leaving his grandson 'alone' but then, my father doesn't claim to be consistent. I myself feel like I'm vegetating. I get desperate for conversation and company sometimes. V is out of the house for the best part of the day now and that can get pretty lonely. But even when he is around, he and I don't share too many interests. He is liable to think I'm showing off or acting pseudo intellectual if I bring up anything I studied. I'm not criticizing him because I know he doesn't understand that this was my life for five years, that it's not a pretension. But it's true, if I were working, even studying, I'd be able to find people to share my interests.
The worst thing about staying at home is that I'm so unsuited to it. I was born to have my own family but I was not born to stay at home. Really. I've played house and nurtured my dolls since I can remember, and it's always been my dream to be able to boss my own family around. But it also depresses me to stay at home day after day. I need to see traffic, people, shops, bookstalls. When I get a little dose of 'outside' everyday I can function fine, enjoy my housework, love my family. This does not have to be much but it does have to be.
I have to say, in this respect I have been lucky. The Bhablet is like me and loves heading out of the house. He likes people and noise and lights and travel. If he has upset other people in restaurants or annoyed them in aeroplanes, I do not know of it. Nobody has ever complained and I'm quite used to having random strangers play with him, offer to babysit him while I take the weight off my feet, give me sometimes useful but always unsolicited advice.
I'm not sure what I would do if somebody complained. I do try not to give anybody a reason to. I think if a child is disruptive then, if possible, the parents should go home. It usually means that the child needs rest or quiet (assuming food, clean diapers etc. have been attended to). We try to go to places where kids are expected and welcomed. The one non-kiddy place we visit is T3 and I go there knowing that people will be smoking at the next table. So I don't go too often, even though it's a tea-room I really like. The other day we went for lunch with two friends of V's. The Bhablet decided to bang on the table through a large part of the meal. V's friend S didn't like it and told me so, that the noise was giving him a headache. I tried to mask it by covering that side of the table with a napkin. But really, what else could I do? I couldn't walk out with him because we were eating. Asking to leave would disrupt the lunch and ruin V's special day. And stopping a cranky toddler from doing the one thing that's keeping him happy is asking for a tantrum -- which would be much noisier and way more embarrassing.
In time The Bhablet drummed less and S also got used to it. Now he was not really being difficult, I'll give him that. But it just drove home to me how my perspectives have changed. Earlier I might have witnessed such a scene and judged the parents for 'spoiling'. Now I can recognise a tired child and therefore know when disciplining is useless.
But this change of perspective brings along with it a change in priorities. Earlier, I was the one who volunteered for extra work. Living alone, all I had to consider was whether I wanted to do something or not. If I did, then time, effort etc. were never considered. Nowadays I still check whether I want to do it or not first, but my willingness is largely influenced by whether I will need to step out of home to do it, whether V can juggle his work hours for my needs, whether it will be OK for The Bhablet.
This reasoning can be a bit difficult for non-parents. Both V and I receive a lot of consideration from our single friends, but it's still consideration. It's not something they understand but something they do out of kindness. So sometimes, when they think we are stretching their limits too far, they stop being so considerate. But it is not we who are stretching the limits. Having a baby, bringing it up only by the two of us, one of us also running a full-time freelance career, another trying to juggle out of home activities, all of this does mean that friendships have come second. It's not been an easy transition for a couple like V and I -- we are both very social and like having friends around and dropping in on them. We like friends depending on us. We like being able to live up to that. But all of that is not possible the way it used to be. Now The Bhablet comes first and we've often let down friends because of that.
We are not as punctual or as dependable. We don't lend money. (Heck, that's assuming we have some, which we don't, although let's not get into that.) We skip parties or go singly or come away early. We don't drink as much and I stay away from smoke and smokers. We don't go for mad drives. We are no longer available to hop over at a moment's notice. I mean, I would want to do all those, but it's all now possible only if it's acceptable by the The Bhablet.
Sometimes I wonder whether we only discuss The Bhablet's doings. I don't think we do. I have enough doting grandparents to discuss him with.
In the meantime, I've taken repeating what V told me when my need was great: "I'm here." He said that to me when I woke up crying from a nightmare. He held me and told me that when my word collapsed around me. And I tell that to our son now. It costs me a lot to say it because it's not just a phrase but an entire shift of focus and direction in my life, but I say it because it soothes both my son and me. I pat him and kiss him and tell him that I'm here. And hope that he understands that I'll only ever be as far away as he wants me to be.
[P.S. This post is not nearly as clear as it needs to be -- it's nearly 3 a.m. -- but I don't think I'll edit it either. Whatever you don't understand or take issue with I'll clarify in the comments' section.]