Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Showdown

My toddler has figured out how to strategically position himself on our king size bed so that I cannot possibly reach him. I’m only 4ft 11in tall so my arms don’t have much reach. I can’t run so if I hobble quickly to gain an advantage on one side, he quickly scurries to the opposite end. He finds this hilarious. I’ve been tempted to climb on the bed and scurry after him, but I can’t crawl, and walking on a bed is a hell-no with my crippled leg. I won’t risk getting us both hurt. So here we are. A boy, naked and crouching against the wall, dead center at one end of the bed; a mother seething with frustration, clutching footsie pajamas in her one good hand and panting from the chase, both staring each other down trying to anticipate the other’s next move. Clint Eastwood’s got nothing on this kid.

My son is only 2 ½ so he doesn’t know what “disabled” means. Even if he did, he wouldn’t care. I’m his mom, and whatever I can and can’t do is normal to him. We have our own way of doing things out of necessity, including bathing, nap times and even discipline. There are steps I take to ensure our safety and minimize drama, and sometimes these steps take much longer than an able-bodied parent’s methods.

I manage to give my son a bath in the evenings. It takes a lot out of me to do this. Once he’s bathed, he gets a good half hour to play with his action figures in the bath regardless of how late it is. While he plays, I get a chance to rest my body and catch my breath. I sit next to him and we talk and sing songs. Meanwhile, I’m psyching myself up to manage pulling him out of the tub. Getting him out of the bath is tricky. It’s much like a choreographed fight. We know the routine, who’s going to win, but we go through the motions none-the-less.

Are you ready to get out?
Are you sure?
Mom, you get towel?
OK. Here’s your towel. Let’s get out.
No. I don’t want it.
You said you were…
I DON’T want it!!
Alright then.
*wait 5 min*
Are you ready to get out?
(We may have this conversation 1 time or 3 times. I believe the current record is 4 times respectively.)

Some would say this is ridiculous. We dilly-dally too long. Well what you can’t see is my toes curled up so bad inside my socks from paralysis and spasticity, that it takes great effort to stand on it. You can’t see the excruciating knife-stabbing pain in my shoulder leaving me barely able to move my arm because I just put everything I had into washing his hair. You probably wouldn’t notice how hard it was for me to not fall into the bath with him because my vertigo started to kick in as I bent down to grab the soap. And you may be wondering why the hell I don’t ask for help. Why the hell do I put myself through all that every night?

The easy answer is because I’m a mom and that’s what we do. But it’s more than that. My doctors and therapists have taught me that the path to normalcy is being normal. I have learned to bathe my son because I made myself do it. I take 5 times longer to do it than my husband does. So what! This is our normal. I do that song and dance of getting him out of the bath every night because I am not physically able to just reach down and pluck him out of the water. Have you ever grabbed a naked, wet, squirming toddler? It’s like catching a greased piglet! So no, I won’t “put my foot down” as some folks have been so condescending to call it. I’ll do the song and dance and get him out with some level of cooperation because it’s the safe, nurturing, drama-free way to deal with my kid.

I think people look at me like I’m nuts because I choose to pick my battles, as if I coddle my son. It’s not coddling, it’s parenting in a way that keeps me sane and effective. He’s an intelligent strong-willed boy and I’m proud of that. I’m not catering to his whims. I’m teaching him the virtues of cooperation and negotiating. And here’s the best part: it’s all therapy for my body. It is truly incredible what my body can do today, which it couldn’t do a month ago. And THAT is why I do it.

As for the showdown on the bed, you may be wondering who drew first. I did. I’m mom. My weapon of choice? His beloved Brobee. No one is allowed to hold Brobee, not even me. I resorted to holding his beloved hostage in exchange for him getting off the damn bed and putting on his pajamas. Just because I’m patient doesn’t mean I won’t play dirty every now and then.

Final Score: Mommy 23 Toddler 6

Not cool, mom. Messin' with a boy's Brobee like that.


  1. That picture is hilarious. You are a prime example of why there is no RIGHT way to parent. Every parent has limitations, expectations, and preferences that are different from every other parent. I don't play the mommy-comparison game, because it just sets me up for feeling like crap. You're doing a great job, and don't let anyone (even yourself!) tell you different.

  2. sounds like you're taking good care of your son and good care of yourself.

  3. We parent similarly, at least in respect to the subject covered in this post. :)
    I have arthritis in my SI joints and lumbar spine. Most people don't even know and many who do simply forget. Most days I'm awesome, but some days I'm in excruciating pain from a flare that can last a day or a month. And I get tired quicker. I probably have a shorter fuse because of that.. I also can't always keep up with my toddler because of it.. But you are an inspiration. I understand just being normal. And it's your kid so it feels right and good to be the one caring for him.
    (When it comes to the bath song and dance, I usually just start emptying the tub. The trade off for my son seems to be getting the bubbles hosed off of him with the shower head and the promise of being burritoed in a big towel and snuggled for a few minutes. But sometimes he really fights me. Ugh.)

    Keep up the good work, mama. :)

  4. I needed this post today. I am not disabled or in pain in any way, but I parent differently than the rest of my friends and the often question me. Why dont you put him in time out? why dont you make him clean up his mess? why dont you make him do this or do that? BECAUSE i DONT want to. we parent differently and this is what works for us.

    Thank you for sharing.

  5. That picture is perfect.

    The best metaphor I heard for wrangling a toddler is "trying to wrangle a ball of snakes." I have a 25 month old and that's exactly what he's like. Even worse when he's wet.

    Sometimes you've just gotta do what you've gotta do. It sounds like you're doing what you need to do. Thanks for sharing.