Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I’m going to shrink him down and put him in my pocket.

Paolo has been a worry lately. He underwent surgery to remove his adenoids the week before last; a relatively simple procedure with a short recovery time. Only he didn’t recover. He felt worse each passing day, and I called his surgeon on day five (his first day of school). The doctor had us bring Paolo in immediately and then sent him for an X-ray to look for spinal cord inflammation, a rare but serious complication from the surgery. After a tense day and a half, it turned out Paolo’s spinal cord was not infected, and he does NOT in fact have the one-in-ten-thousand syndrome we thought he might have, which can lead to paralysis or death. "Tense" isn't really the right word. Is there a word for when your brain starts to process that your child might truly be in trouble and you feel like you're at the bottom of a dark, heavy ocean breathing through a straw? It felt like that. Paolo finished his 10-day regimen of mega-dose antibiotics, and he feels great. Sam and I are still surfacing. It takes a while for the stain of such strong panic to wash off completely.

The first week of kindergarten was overshadowed by the specter of Paolo’s illness, so this second week feels more like a celebration. Tuesday I dropped him off, which was a big disappointment to him because he wants to ride bikes to school with his daddy every day. I’m losing ground to supercool dad, but the baby still likes me more. Sam went to pick Paolo up at 3:00, but Paolo never came to the designated pick-up spot. Sam watched other kids meet their waiting parents until he was the only one left. He went down to Paolo’s classroom, but it was empty. He started checking other rooms until a teacher, whose room he poked his head in, asked to help. She suggested Paolo might be with the kids at the car pick-up, so Sam headed outside. Paolo wasn’t there, and he wasn’t on the playground.

Just then, the helpful teacher caught up with Sam to tell him Paolo had been transferred to another school. Mystery solved! She explained that Paolo was one of the students who got bussed across town due to the overcrowding in the kindergarten classes. At this point, Sam had had enough. With dwindling calm, he assured this woman that Paolo attends THIS school. He was dropped off HERE this morning. He is NOT a transfer, and she was WRONG. She continued to argue with him and called over a male teacher for backup, because the intimidating father with a baby on his hip wouldn’t leave without his son. Finally, someone found Paolo’s teacher, who had mistakenly sent him to after-school care. Paolo was in the gym about to have a snack with the other kids, having no idea that he’d been lost for half an hour.

Paolo recently got his own library card, and he couldn’t be prouder. He carried it around for hours until he decided to store it in his Transformers wallet. As I watched him slip the bright yellow card snugly inside the pocket, I wished I could do that with him: fold him up and keep him close to me, away from harm. We gave him to a doctor, and he ended up with a scary infection. We gave him to a teacher, and she misplaced him. I want him to grow, I want him to experience life unencumbered by apron strings, but sometimes I want him back.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Elementary school is the bee's knees.

Let me get this straight: after five years of crippling daycare registration, tuition, and supply fees, I can leave my son here with you for free. I owe you zero dollars, yes? And he’ll be supervised by people with education degrees, his teachers won’t change every other week, and the school will not pack up and move to another town. Sounds marvelous. Here, have my kid. Nope, I don’t need a moment to collect myself.

Paolo, welcome to Kindergarten. Be good, hang loose, see you at 3:00.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Holding it Together, but Barely

Great changes are afoot, and many things are conspiring to keep me on my toes. I do not like to be on my toes. I like my feet to be planted solidly, nay, bolted down with metal rivets to giant steel girders of non-change.

I finally registered Gianluca at a new daycare after weeks of deliberation. I had it narrowed down to two, and the last tour I went on clinched it. The director actually thought she could intimidate me. She began by telling me what would get me and my child kicked out of the school; she danced around my question about staff turnover by admitting her reputation for being insanely strict; and closed by saying her program was too good for the state of Arkansas, so she had no intention of meeting state guidelines to be labeled a quality-approved school. Check this, Frau Crazystein, if I’m giving you my kid, I’M the one telling YOU how things are going to be. YOU will fear ME, and you will jump to meet MY standards. That’s how this works. The daycare I chose is moving to a newly constructed building, which is good because their current building needs to be razed. They’re hoping to move at the end of this week, but aren’t sure. So I don’t know where Gianluca’s first day will be yet.

As for Paolo, his pedo-partial broke again, so he’s missing his front teeth until a week after he starts school. (I’ll skip over the dentist visit where they took an impression of his teeth while he gagged and screamed and I cried, and then they had to do it again.) Poor Paolo is also scheduled for surgery this Wednesday to remove his adenoids and put in another set of ear tubes. So it’s really helpful that his school moved its Kindergarten popsicle party to Wednesday evening, because I’m sure he’ll be in the mood to socialize. Maybe he could get a Vicodin pop, and share with his mama. I also just found out he is starting school next Monday, not next Wednesday as we were told at registration. I had to call the school to find this out. I guess this is not information that merits distribution.

Paolo is over-the-moon excited about starting Kindergarten and soccer next week. He’s got his school supplies, a new backpack and lunchbox, and the cutest pair of soccer cleats in existence. He’s also fortunate to have a dad who remains unstressed by all this upheaval and kindly uncurls his mama’s fingers every night.

Monday, August 4, 2008

House of Louse

I got the dreaded phone call last week: come get your kid; he’s got lice. No, not the five-year-old, the BABY. Clearly, I thought, he’s been hanging with the dirty kid in the baby room. Except he was the only kid who had it, so he IS the dirty kid in the baby room. Damn. I can’t even blame it on Forrest Gump, who is now on my shit list for biting Gianluca twice. Lucky for Forrest, it’s beneath even me to exact retribution on a baby with leg braces.

The lice situation definitely stole my thunder as I handed the director my one-week’s notice. In the letter, I complained that the daycare center had moved to a crime-infested barrio, and I would not have child molesters yards away from my babies. Still, it was an uncomfortable paradox to declare that my boys are too good for the place while removing them before they gave other kids bugs.

Once home I washed sheets, pillows, blankets, carseat and highchair covers, and vacuumed anything too big to fit in the washer. That night we resembled a monkey house at the zoo, taking turns checking each other’s scalp for intruders. Three days, fifty gallons of scalding water, and seven hours of nit-combing later, the lice count is one bug (removed at daycare) and two eggs that I combed off the baby. Are we done? Is a lice episode of this minortude even possible? Maybe they’re regrouping for an infestation of epic proportions. Does my nape itch?