Home On The Fringe

Fringe Art

Contact Us

Recent Ramblings

The Chronicles

Fringe Reads

  • Powered by Blogger
  • Weblog Commenting and 

Trackback by HaloScan.com
  • Get StatCounter!

Only here will you find a comparison between a trip to a fast food play area and swimming through scalding poison.

I know it's illogical and paranoid. I know there is only a slight basis in reality for my fears or criticisms of the only individual in authority with my child right now. But I can't help but wonder, as Quinn sleeps off his morning terrorist activities, if I made a mistake sending Bryce with my sister-in-law and her gaggle of kids this afternoon.

They just pulled out of the driveway, immediately after I learned that the plan had changed - as is wont to do anytime my sister-in-law is involved in something - but I'd already given Bryce permission to go, and strapped him into the Fun Times Car. My sister-in-law called me earlier this morning to ask if Bryce could come over and play with his cousins during Quinn's nap. It would be simple: she would bring Hannah home from babysitting, pick Bryce up, and take the kids back to her house; when Quinn woke up, I'd go retrieve Bryce. Sounded harmless. And it would give Bryce something to do besides conceptualize the ten best ways to make Quinn squeal.

But instead of arriving within 30 minutes, two hours passed by before my sister-in-law showed up. And when she did, she had all three of her kids, Hannah, and a friend of her son's with her. I did the math: "Are you going to have enough carseats in your car for Bryce, too?" She looked at me with that deer in the headlights glaze in her eye: "Umm. Oh. Yeah. I'll need another carseat."

Side note: Changing out carseats is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate it. I always smash one of my fingers or get the seatbelt strap tangled beyond repair and the whole thing takes way more time and energy than I ever intend for it to.

I left to get a carseat out of my car for her, mumbling under my breath the whole way. The car was in the garage with very little room to maneuver anything at all, so after struggling and walking around the car several times, opening BOTH backseat doors, pushing it out with a huge thud onto the garage floor, and dragging the bottom-heavy carseat over to her car, the whole group of kids came running out, fighting to get in. There were NO other carseats in her car. Great. Bryce hopped in and sat in one of the seats, just like his cousin, who is a year younger than him: "I want to sit in a regular seat like them! I don't need a carseat!" My sister-in-law looked at the monstrous load in my hands as I panted and stumbled over to get it into her car: "Isn't Bryce too big for that kind of seat anyway? Doesn't he weigh too much?" I told her the kid was 32 pounds, and he's in the right kind of seat. I was thinking, "maybe YOU should be re-evaluating the seats YOUR kids are in instead of arching your eyebrows at me like that."

After I got the seat in and Bryce was strapped in, his eyes wide with anticipation of the magical playdate that awaited him at his cousins' house, she told me, "oh yeah - I'm taking them to Carl's Jr. for lunch - you know that one with the three story playground area?! See you later!" And off they drove, with Bryce in the background saying, "but I already ate lunch, I don't need to eat!" One adult. FOUR other kids in a loud, chaotic environment. And Bryce, Mr. Routine, Mr. I Need To Know The Plan And Do Not Even Think About Changing It Without Providing Ample Warning, Mr. I Must Gradually Ease Into New Social Situations.

My sister-in-law has always taken a different approach to parenting her kids. I used to think my way was better and more consistent, but now I realize it's just a different way. However, that difference plays a role in the expectations each of our kids has on other people, relationships to their friends and family, acceptable behavior, and their general social conscience. In addition to that fact, Bryce is by nature "quirky" and more sensitive than the "average" kid. With her laid back approach to parenting, making a last minute decision to take five kids aged 6 and under to Carl's Jr. without explaining all the expectations and rules upfront goes under the category of Being A Really Cool Friend-Parent. But for Bryce, and for me, it is filed under Things That Stress Us Out and also Things That Might Unintentionally Cause Meltdowns In Participants Under Age 5 Even Though The Participant Might Think He Is Willing.

I know it's just a trip to a fast food play area, and that for most parents, this is not something to feel stress about for any logical reason. But I know my son, I know the scenarios where he is most at home, where he thrives. I am so neurotic that changing a carseat sends me through the roof and gives me hours worth of frustration to work through. I hate that I passed some version of this onto him, but the fact that I can recognize that and bust my emotional ass to teach him acceptable ways to deal with it, proper times to avoid or ignore it, and appropriate channels through which to focus it should at least partially make up for my genetic downfalls. But I really hate it when I feel I have to justify or explain his quirkiness, and my sister-in-law makes me feel that way every time our families are together. I think it's great that her kids can be spontaneous without having meltdowns (um, and that's not even true, but it's her stance), but my kids aren't - and Bryce in particular isn't - that way at all. Now that he is older, and we've spent a few years discussing appropriate ways to deal with frustration and change in public, I am less worried about him actually "melting down" at the restaurant with those other four kids watching in horror or entertainment. What I am more worried about is that something that would be minor or non-existent to other kids will bother him, hurt his feelings, or cause him some kind of confusion that I would normally help him through, especially in a social situation he's never experienced before (out like a "big kid" with one adult and little supervision). My sister-in-law's philosophy is "The more kids, the better. That way they can entertain each other and I don't have to work as hard." She doesn't catch Bryce's glances of fear or social pain or confusion or over-stimulation. If he experiences something he would normally approach me or John for guidance on, she will never know. And to get to the real issue here, I will never know.

While none of this may be normal or logical, it is my life, it is Bryce's world. I'm worried that he'll have to navigate waters that seem perfectly calm and harmless to everyone around him, but that to him, are choppy, shark-infested, boiling vats of poison. I'm worried that he'll feel alone and abandoned and that I won't know about it or know how to address it with him later without adding to his future sensitivity and making my own paranoia worse.

Somehow I realize this is a sentiment unique to my parenting of Bryce. When Quinn is 4 1/2 and invited to go along on a spontaneous trip to a grease joint play area, my biggest concern will probably be that boys' clumsiness (he is ALWAYS running into walls while he looks over his shoulder at something else...always!), and I remain eternally grateful that my neurosis only passed through the placenta of my firstborn. I don't know if I could survive the stress and heartache of Quinn's every miniscule social milestone the way I have with Bryce.

So. Hopefully Bryce isn't in an emotional vat of poison right now. Hopefully he's having a normal amount of fun with his normal cousins at a normal germ-infested fast food playground area. And hopefully he won't say something heart-breakingly profound to me later that will confirm my fears and suspicions that the spontaneous trip with a busload of other kids to the Land of Social Chaos was too much for him. Because that will just mean I'll be drowning my sorrows in some Ben and Jerry's tonight (and I'm trying to save my calories for the alcohol, people).