Thursday, April 28, 2011


Some days I wish I'd gone to medical school. Over the last two years, Abby's asthma has often left me wanting more understanding about lung function, pharmacology, and accurately assessing respiratory status. Of late, we are navigating a series of question marks about her hearing, which for weeks at a time suffers significantly enough that the poor girl says, "What? What did you say? I can't hear you," to any statement issued at a normal volume.

This noticeable hearing loss coupled with the fluid that comes and goes in her ears and her giant, golf-ball sized tonsils landed us in an ENT's office this morning, where Abby zoomed trucks across the floor while I attempted to remember from my mental catalogue of doctor visits when fluid has appeared and disappeared from her ears, how many ear infections she's had in the last year (not many), and which antibiotic she was given for said infections. 

The audiogram--dubbed "a hearing game" for Abby's benefit, which she giggled through as she put bears in cups every time she heard a "little birdy"--showed "significant, mild hearing loss" in her fluid-filled right ear. And for the record, her hearing currently is much improved from a few weeks ago when she was sick and it felt like I had to shout every question, answer, and direction to be heard. The audiologist wants to see her back when her ears aren't fluid-filled to see if the hearing loss is, in fact, a result of the fluid. 

We spoke with the ENT about her other symptoms. I did my best to assure the doctor that Abby does not, in fact, show signs of sleep apnea, but we get to do a sleep test anyway. He audibly gasped when she opened her mouth to show him her tonsils; his skepticism at my insistence that she does, indeed, sleep soundly--without the tell-tale apneic episodes I've observed in Josh--was palpable. Sigh. We'll follow up with him, too, in two months to see if the fluid has resolved and to review the results of the sleep study.

And to top it all off, the doctor prescribed a nasal steroid to use everyday until we return to help with some of her persistent congestion. If her congestion worsens, he recommends a nasal wash. Uh-huh. I can just see Abby's enthusiasm at having a saline solution squirted into her nose each day. I couldn't even do it to myself a few years ago when I was fighting a terrible sinus infection.

On most fronts, I'm happy to wait and see and do tests to gather greater diagnostic information, but in the meantime, I can't help but wonder why her body struggles in these ways. Is there an underlying condition? Is it simply a case of genetics predisposing her to some anatomical challenges? Is it the result of something in utero or environmental?  

I suppose to some degree, my frustration stems from my struggle to follow blind instruction, a remnant of my authority-challenging inner self. The need to understand why and to argue the counterpoint of a decision before accepting the outcome began when I was about Abby's age (insert laughter of my parents here) and hasn't diminished with time. But without the benefit of a medical education, I'm left to draw my own semi-educated, self-informed conclusions. And so, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I'll fall to the default explanation of genetics and anatomy and fill that prescription for the nasal steroid. 

Such is the challenge of parenthood--moving forward in faith, even when I harbor so many questions.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning to Live With Imperfection: A Two-Way Street

"Soon after [toddlerhood], he learns right from wrong and has to process his own failures and feelings of 'not being good enough.' He also learns that you aren't the perfect parent, and he learns to accept and work with someone who is also 'not good enough.' Forgiveness becomes a reality. Anger toward and love of the same person is a developmental milestone. He learns that there is not a 'good mom' and a 'bad mom.' Or a 'good me' and a 'bad me.' There is a 'good and bad me' and a 'good and bad you.' He is building frustration tolerance with himself and others. And that milestone gives him the ability to be imperfect and have relationships with imperfect people--a skill that serves him for life."
          --Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Raising Great Kids: Parenting With Grace and Truth

This principle of the duality within me as a parent is the truth I'm learning to embrace, and I needed the reminder this morning. A rough start to the day with Ben left me off-kilter--not to the same extent that the same exchange would have a year or two ago--but still with questions and doubts and feelings that the conflict could have gone better. I assert again that parenting is hard, hard work at times, and not always clear. The only constant is the imperfection of all parties and the undeniable need for love, which covers a multitude of sins, in all circumstances.

I think at times I worry that there is no room for my own sin and inconsistency as a parent, as though somehow, to do the job "right," I can never make a mistake. I don't think I had considered that by living with me, a "good and bad" me, my kids learn how to forgive and extend grace to others in their life. By seeing my own failure and, in many circumstances, repentance, my kids learn to own their own failures and to repent. I will never be perfect in this life, and so I have the opportunity to model how to handle our imperfections. I suppose the key is to recognize when I am wrong so I can confess my errors to my kids and seek forgiveness. That confession brings healing to the situation. The truth-telling of where I sinned in the conflict sets us all free.

I take comfort in this idea of imperfect kids learning to live with imperfect parents and, in turn, an imperfect world. And as my kids learn to accept a mom that makes mistakes and comes up short of the ideal, I am learning to embrace the reality of imperfect kids. I'm not sure where I got the idea that kids should be "good kids" all the time, but it's a lie that I'm better able to recognize and relinquish day by day. In failure, we have greater opportunity to love. Forgiveness, grace, and mercy are powerful mentors. 

In the end, we are all prodigals, and the point of that parable is not that the son should never have left, should never have failed, but that the Father's love remained constant, and abundant, regardless. May I have the wisdom and grace to lavish my kids with such love, and may they return the same love in the face of my own faults. 

In so many ways, they already do.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Love Bugs

Last night at dinner, Abby leaned toward Josh and said, "Ih luhv you, Daddy. Sometimes Ih talk to Jesus becoz youh're my favorite Daddy in duh whole wohrld."

Josh melted, I smiled, and Ben said, "Abby, you're full of love and silliness and songs."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Out the Door

When the doorbell rings this morning, the four of us--the kids, the pup, and I--enter a frenzy of activity at the front door. Ben and Abby fasten shoes and gather coats and bags, and I wrangle Merlot away from the door so they can get past without being trampled by an exuberant puppy desperate to greet the mom who drives the Tuesday morning carpool shift. I hold Merlot's collar, her front paws swimming wildly through the air in desperate attempts to propel herself out the door, and the kids slide out. When the door closes and I release her collar, Merlot sits placidly, empty of all trace of our epic struggle. I roll my eyes.

I don't dare open the door again, so I look instead through the window to make sure the kids get in the car without a sudden realization that someone has forgotten a backpack or lunch or library book or other necessity. What I see, though, is Abby standing in the driveway, unmoving. She's looking at me with an impish smirk. I brace myself for whatever assertion of will this three-and-a-half-year-old darling may throw down at 8:30 a.m.

When she catches my eye, however, she waves at me and, smiling, shouts, "Bye, Mommy!" before turning to the car and skipping off for her morning. It happens in a second. And I pause, right there, waving and smiling back, to give thanks for these little people whom I love.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin