Calum had only begun school four months before his diagnosis, so I didn’t get much of a taste of it, but I loved every second of the freedom it gave me. I’d drop him off four glorious mornings a week and was ready to take on the rest of the day by the time I picked him up from school a couple hours later. We had a great routine, and life had become so much easier with that scheduled time apart so, when Calum started treatment and could no longer attend school or go anywhere, life changed drastically. Obviously my greatest concern was his health, but I also wasn’t sure what the hell I would do to get through so many months at home, and truly thought I might go crazy some weeks.
Most moms I know are pretty daunted by the unforeseen day home with their kids. On the brink of a snow storm, the cries of moms ‘round the world can be heard when they realize they will be on lockdown for the entirety of a day with their kids. In preparation, they make a mad rush to the grocery store to stock up on non-perishable snacks to fill the mouths of their human noise-makers. They ferociously charge their devices in case of a power outage, and empty their bank accounts purchasing the likes of Frozen and the Ice Age suite, to occupy the unfilled hours of a whole day at home.
We start off with hope though. At the beginning of the day you’re all like, “This is gonna be super fun and cozy!”, and by the time 1pm rolls around, the shit starts to hit the fan. Little Suzy just threw up her eighth cup of SwissMiss and little Johnny is flinging toasted marshmallows around your living room and you’re clawing at the front door waiting for the friggin storm to stop so you can get outside and move onto the frostbite portion of the day. Suddenly, you realize there’s a shot school could get called off tomorrow, too, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.
I love my kids as much as any other mom but, let’s face it, by the time kids are old enough for school, you’re so excited you could light your hair on fire. Babies, aside from being very, very cute, have very little upside. They are selfish animals that suck you dry and keep you awake all night, and toddlers aren’t much better. The toddlers almost never stop talking, and they refuse to allow you to sit down. They are basically just there to help you lose the baby weight because the second they catch you sitting, they’re on you like a chimp on the jack-knifed big rig spilling bananas all over the freeway. I literally have to sneak away to the bathroom because, if either of my kids realize I am even on my way to sit down, they will zoom past me with an immediate urge to pee themselves, protecting their unspoken oath to keep me on my feet. If toddlers didn’t give such incredible hugs, there would be very little reason to keep them around.
It has been a year and a half since Calum was diagnosed with Leukemia and, in two weeks, he (and Faye) will begin summer camp. This will be the first time since December 2016 that he will leave the house and be dropped off anywhere without me and, needless to say, the thought of it has been anxiety producing. It is not nearly the same level of glee I first experienced when Calum was old enough to attend school and, though I am sure I will quickly adapt yet again and the anxiety of letting him go will fade, shockingly, I will (kinda) miss these days we have had at home.
Being together with Calum and Faye almost every day the last year and a half has also taught me some important parenting lessons. At first I thought non-stop about how I would fill days for the kids. I worried about turning the TV on too often and wanted to make sure they still had activity and enrichment. While I continue to think about those things to an extent, so much of that has gone right out the window. I don’t have the desire to create a Pinterest-perfect day at home and, frankly, I don’t think it makes a damn difference. My kids have watched a boatload of TV over the last year, but I also offer them a lot of love, attention and structure. I converse with them. I don’t do imaginary play, but I am “playful”. I will have dance parties; I will line up all the cushions around the house for one giant “cushion run” culminating in our oversized bean bag. We do arts and crafts, and we try to get outside every day; even if it is raining or cold, we gear up and walk around the neighborhood…and once those combined twenty minutes of activities are over, I’ll even watch their shitty TV shows with them.
From what I can tell, all kids really need at a young age is love, affection, rules, and a routine, so they know what to expect. Over the winter when I would get stressed about flu season and feel terribly about us all being home every day, I would often draw on the memories and stories of my parents’ generation, where almost no one went to school before the age of five. Then I’d think of my grandparents, and you can bet your sweet bippy my nana wasn’t concocting activities with color-coded stickers and construction paper every day. Nana was smoking cigarettes and drinking tea in her bathrobe, and she had seven children who, incidentally, all turned out to be contributing, civilized members of society.
I’m certainly not here to poo-poo on kids being involved in activities at a young age, because I will be right back onboard with that as much my son’s health allows. However, I won’t forget the importance of knowing it is largely the love, consistency and guidance from us parents, rather than the action packed days of stimulation, that shape our little people. So, in closing, if you let your kids watch TV all day, just make sure to yell at them a lot, too. Balance is key.