Little Things

When our friends left last week it came with a rush of emotion, especially for L.   Tears flowed at the airport as we said our goodbyes and L told my friend, “If you leave, I will be so sad.”

We have been fortunate in that our lives have been pretty steady and we haven’t had to face much emotional distress.  Our leaving the States was spread out over months so when L and I finally did leave it didn’t feel so much like a major event, rather a welcomed reunion with papai who we hadn’t seen for months.

That said, when S’s father, Gido (grandfather in Arabic) passed away in March it hit us all very hard.   L and I spent five weeks in Egypt with S’s family and it was the first time L had experienced such raw grief.  They say toddlers are excellent at emphathy and our time there was testament to that.   Every time Vovó (grandma in Portuguese) cried, L was there, climbing onto her lap to console and comfort her, patting her back and hugging her.  
I think it was the tears at the airport that brought all those emotions flooding back last week.  As we pulled away from the airport, L talked about Chicago,airplanes, and missing friends.  And after I got a little off track and had to do a roundabout return, L settled into a new line of questioning about Gido.   “Mamãe, where is Gido?   I want him to come back.”   “Why did he die?”  “When I grow up, I will die too and then I will go see Gido.”    As I sped along the highway back to the city it was all I could do to keep myself together.   
When Gido passed, I read about the best way to explain death to toddlers–to keep it simple, to try not to focus too much on abstracts, rather concentrate on concepts they can understand.  But this time my simple answers didn’t cut it.  L wanted to understand what happened and why. I was totally unprepared with more sophisticated, yet simple answers.   Finally, she seemed satisfied with my responses (or just gave up) and we talked about putting on popcorn and pajamas when we got home. 
That night, L woke up in a screaming fit, haunted by her first real nightmare (we had a small bout of night terrors about a year ago and while they were scary in the moment, at least she didn’t remember them when she woke up).  This time she was terrified of mosquitoes and little things.
Having seen a swarm of mosquitoes in front of the apartment earlier in the day, I understood where that came from but I had no idea what little things were and blew them off at the time.   But this last week we have all been haunted by little things–shadows on the wall at night that reflect off the passing cars and between spaces in the shades.   She has a palpable fear. 
Two nights ago we read There’s a Nightmare in my Closet and talked about making friends with the little things and Prudence’s Goodnight Book, which usually I find a bit too preachy but was exactly what I needed, and talked about how moms can scare away bad dreams and how you can choose good dreams and put them under your pillow. It worked, but by last night they were back.   The real problem is that these aren’t dreams.    The little things are there before she sleeps and they find ways to sneak under the creases of her covers on her bed and onto her hand, despite my best attempts at hanging blankets where the light creeps in.  
This, in addition, to a potty training regression has made for a tough week.  L told us that if her best friend would just come back she would be all better.    If only things in life were that easy.   I know that these lessons are important life lessons, but it still doesn’t make it easier as your kid goes through them.  As always, I thought I would have a lot more time before I had to tackle such parenting feats.   Trying to strike the balance between acknowleding and validating fears and emotions and brushing them off in hopes they get past them is harder in practice.   I find my first response is to try to make her happy and feel better in the moment, but as a wise friend once told me, it is important to let her feel sad too.
The sadness of her friend’s leaving is passing, or will soon, but the nightmares/fears don’t seem to be.  We tried the spray that worked on the monsters but L called us out on it.    What have you done to confront night terrors?  How do you help your kid deal with feelings of sadness and loneliness?

Around the Bend and Back Again

So much for our path to progress.   As we speak L is sleeping in my bed.

It has been a long week and we are only half way through it.   I was sick all weekend and L was up all Monday night with a fever.   L rarely gets sick and she never runs a fever.   She was miserable and so was I.   We were all up at 4:30 a.m.  S had to get ready for a morning flight and in his last attempt to try to do something before he had to go, he promised her a ride on the metro elevator, hoping that a short walk might lull her to sleep.    I crawled into bed at 7 a.m. when they left and when S and L returned, L finally crawled into bed with me.

But I couldn’t really sleep.   The thought of L being on the verge of a high fever and not having a doctor to call unnerved me.   I had on my list the need to locate a new pediatrician, especially since L needs a doctor note to sign up for swim classes, but i wanted to understand our new insurance plan first.   Things never work according to my schedules.

So by 8:15 a.m. I was going through a list of doctors the woman I met on the beach sent me.   None of them took insurance.   I found the insurance website and started calling offices in Copacabana one by one.   Apparently children don’t get sick on Tuesdays here, because none of the first nine that I called had doctors in the office.   Finally I found one three blocks away.  But of course, after an hour of calling over twelve different offices you start to get a bit skeptical of the office that actually has openings.

They asked me to be there by 10:30 a.m. so I woke up L at 10:00 a.m. and we headed out the door.   We arrived in five minutes and then we waited and we waited in the gloomy toy-less waiting room. And while we waited I realized that the pediatrician/allergist/doctor office didn’t have a single box of tissues.   An hour later we were seen by the nurse and the pediatrician who also happened to be an allergist.   They went over how we should have L tested for allergies after she gets better.   I just wanted them to tell me she had a cold and I shouldn’t be worried about her having contracted some strange new disease.   I walked out with a prescription for antibiotics, a decongestant, vitamin C drops, saline spray, and nebulizer.

Now any good mother would have gone through everything over and over, but this mom had a fussy kid and a clouded brain with a pounding headache.  She could barely remember how many drops of what and when.  Remembering anything in Portuguese for me at that moment was a miracle in itself.    I did question the antibiotic and decided I wouldn’t give it to L, but I didn’t have the energy to go on about the nebulizer since other than a cough L didn’t seem to be having any trouble breathing and has never showed any signs of asthma.    I decided to discuss it with Google instead.

On my way out, the pediatrician suggested I make an appointment that afternoon with her husband.   It seemed easier than going home and trying to make my way through another list, so I did.   I went back that afternoon and left with an antibiotic prescription and requests for lung and sinus x-rays.   I don’t know how the system works here or what insurance does and does not cover, but I felt like I was getting handed all kinds of things left and right and not sure what to do with them.

I don’t take antibiotics like candy.   In fact, I prefer to not take them at all.    But with the miserable state I have been in I took one yesterday.   I didn’t realize that apparently, they don’t do much for sinus infections, but Google told me that too late so now I am stuck with them.

I did ask the doctor if I should be worried about L’s cold turning into a sinus infection too and he said that toddlers’ sinus ducts aren’t well developed enough to get infections like adults and that if they do end up with something it usually moves to their throat.  That was when I realized that his wife didn’t even bother to check L’s throat.

I hate doubting professional opinions, especially when I am battling their diagnosis with a 10 minute Google search, but something didn’t feel right.

This morning S learned from a colleague that they go to an out of network pediatrician and then just file reimbursements.   So with that, I booked the number one doctor on my list from the woman at the beach (reliable source obviously).   So this afternoon, we ventured out to Leblon.    I was a bit skeptical as we walked through the narrow corridors but when we opened the door, L lit up.   It was bright and clean, full of toys and books.   The pediatrician spent over an hour with us.   He got to know L, he joked with her and asked her questions.  When it came time for her exam, he was thorough and she didn’t even protest.   I left with his cell phone and two kisses on the cheek with him insisting that we can call him any hour of any day and if he doesn’t call us right back we can call the office and they will locate him.   L left with a sucker (pretty old school, at least it wasn’t the dentist) and a hand full of trinkets.

No antibiotics.  No nebulizer.  No vitamin C supplement.   Just a really strong common cold. Now if only it would go away and L would go back to her bed.