Thursday, 16 April 2015

The ebb and flow of empathy

I've been running on empty for the last few weeks. First BigBear went to San Francisco, so I had a week of LittleBear-wrangling on my own. Just as BigBear flew home, me and LittleBear both succumbed to one of the endless coughs/colds that circulate at nursery. It knocked me out for about two weeks. Then I was more-or-less-well for maybe as much as a week before the next nursery-lurgy hit. Two weeks later and I'm more-or-less-well again, but Absolutely Exhausted. I've been getting a good, solid 8 hours sleep a night for the last 4 or 5 nights, and it's not enough. I'm tired. I'm yawning. I'm crabby. And I have almost no patience.

LittleBear has been trying that non-existent patience to the limit. Not in any spectacular way, just by being three. Just by having an endless supply of questions:

   - is a harbour porpoise longer than a narwhal's tusk?
   - is a fox fiercer than a seal?
   - could a T.Rex eat an orca?
   - why don't I like chicken?
   - where does my poo go?

And on top of the endless questions, there's the endlessly repetitive games, many of which seem to involve muggins providing the voices for half a dozen toys, for the entertainment of LittleBear. And on top of the endless questions, and the repetitive games, there are the sobbing meltdowns. And on top of the endless questions, and the repetitive games, and the sobbing meltdowns are the tantrums when LittleBear is asked to do anything that doesn't happen to be exactly what he was already doing.

I confess he was beginning to receive short shrift from me and I was working on getting him to understand that "Wait" more or less translates to "I've heard what you've said, I'm going to do what you've asked, but I'm busy now, and I will only come when I've finished the thing that I'm doing, so please don't ask again". Wasn't working too well, but it was better than shouting "Just shut up for once!" maybe with the odd profanity thrown in, which was what I was tempted to say.

After three days at work, I was actually dreading four days at home with LittleBear, trying not to be cross, trying to live in the moment, trying to live in his moment when what I really wanted to do was either cry or sleep or both.

Then on the drive home from nursery this evening, my little sweaty-headed moppet fell asleep, which is almost unheard of. And glancing back at him I remembered how small and vulnerable he is. And when we got home and I opened his door to get him out of the car, a pitiful little face looked up at me, looked panicked and was sick.

And all my aggravation and weariness and frustration melted away in a desperate need to cherish and protect my baby. To make it all better. To cuddle away the ills.

There was no dinner tonight, no playtime, not even bathtime. LittleBear just snuggled onto my lap on the bathroom floor, bottom lip trembling, white as a sheet except for the heavy purple shadows beneath his eyes and said he just wanted to go to bed. He wept gently and told me "I don't like being sick".

So, I got his teeth clean, some calpol into him, his pyjamas on and moved his mattress and bedding out of his cot and onto the floor, with a basin and a bottle of water beside it in case he was sick in the night. We read Winnie-the-Pooh and my little snuggler tucked himself up as small as possible on my lap and I rested my cheek on top of his still slightly sweaty head. My baby. Always my baby, no matter how old he grows.

With my LittleBear tucked up in bed, I sat beside him and assured him I'd stay as long as he wanted. "Stay with me all night Mummy. Daddy stayed all night last time I was sick." (No, he didn't, but he did do a sterling job of clearing you up when you were sick in the night and staying till you went back to sleep.) After a little while however... "You can go now Mummy!" said with just a little bit too much brightness and enthusiasm...

I retreated downstairs and sorted out the remaining bits of vomit-soaked car seat and disgusting clothes, feeling sad and worried about my baby.

45 minutes later, I've been summoned back upstairs three times. Well, the first wasn't a summons, more some rather ominous thumping noises, "I was just banging my water bottle on the side of the cot Mummy".

Second time:
LB: I haven't had any water for a while Mummy, I'm going to have some more now.
PB: That's fine, you don't have to tell me
LB: But you didn't know
PB: I know, but I don't have to know, it's OK.
LB: OK Mummy

Third time:
The battery in the monitor died and I didn't notice but finally hear frantic yelling from upstairs. Aaaghhh! Maybe LittleBear's been sick again. Sprint upstairs feeling like the world's worst mother.

LB: I love you Mummy
PB: Oh. Thank you. I love you too sweetheart, but you didn't need to call me upstairs to tell me. It's sleepy time now.
LB: But you didn't answer first time I called.

True, but...

And now, when it's twenty minutes later than massively-exhausted-and-ill-child is usually asleep, and he's still awake and playing with his water bottle, and giggling and generally making sure he's an over-tired scrap tomorrow as well, my empathy is already waning. I'm teetering on Muttering Darkly To Myself.

Easy come, easy go. I think I'll be rescheduling tomorrow's vaccinations though.

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