How to Scare Your Parents
week after I posted the last chapter (and, incidentally,
just as my wife and I were starting to catch up on our
sleep), Theron woke up at 11:30 on a Saturday night with
a bad, bad cough. I had actually left the house, and by
the time I came back he doing a little better. Of
course, "better" in this case means that he was just
wheezing, heavily, every time he exhaled or inhaled.
Apparently the sound that sent the Beautiful Woman into
his room was a cough that sounded like a barking seal.
As parents, we don't panic very easily. We didn't panic
when he bit his lip and was bleeding; we didn't panic
when he fell off the couch (I blame Barack Obama for
that one*); we didn't panic when he drank the hydrogen
peroxide and threw up all over the floor**. And, to our
credit, we didn't panic this time, either. Still, given
Theron's early history, anything that sounds as if
there's something wrong with his lungs... well, that
sort of thing presses down hard on the big red button
near the bottom of my soul. You know, the one labeled
"FEAR". It's the sort of fear that could easily
become panic if we let it.
As I said, I returned from a half-hour (if that) trip to
the video store to find: our toddler awake and wheezing;
my wife calling the pediatrician's after-hours line; and
my mother-in-law comforting Theron. This is not
a recipe for a restful night's sleep.
My wife had already given the Podling a dose of
decongestant. We used the shower in the back bathroom to
make steam, and put Theron in there to breathe it.
The pediatrician's office called back, and basically
told us that if he didn't improve, or if he did the
barking-seal thing again, we should take him to the
emergency room. Otherwise, we could wait until the
morning and take him to one of the urgent care places.
The fact that the nurse approved of what we'd already
done was a tremendous relief.
So the next morning I took the Podling over to
This is the second time we've been there (the first
time, they diagnosed him with strep), and so far I've
been very impressed. They looked him over and said "Croup.
Very common this time of year." They gave me a
prescription for a steroid to help loosen up his lungs,
and an information sheet to help explain what was going
on and what non-medical things we could do to help him
Then I went to get the prescription filled.
The fact that you're having a bad day does not
entitle you to be a jerk
Let me set the scene, here: I have brought the
Podling from the doctor to the pharmacy. The
prescription is not quite ready yet, so I
have parked the car, picked up the toddler, and gone
inside. After a few minutes of wandering around inside
the pharmacy (with Theron leaning his head on my
shoulder and looking puny), I go back to the counter and
pick up his medicine. I am sleep deprived and a little
sick myself: not at my best, in other words.
Theron practices his super-hero poses.
So I go outside, carrying the baby in one arm and the
meds in the other, and discover that there is a very
large, black Suburban parked crossways behind my car,
completely blocking me in. A harried-looking woman (of
the Frazzled North American Soccer Mom variety***) is
unloading her daughter, who - at a glance - looks to be
maybe ten years old. This is not important, because I am
still carrying Theron and trying to dig my keys out of
my pocket without dropping his medicine.
I get the door open, put Theron in his car seat, drop
the medicine packet in the passenger seat, and strap the
Podling in place. Then I straighten, and look at the
Suburban again. It's still there. Now it's
a problem, because I'm still trying to this finished in
time to meet one of my old friends for a congratulatory
drink. (They recently announced that they're pregnant -
congrats again, guys!)
Meanwhile, another woman has come out of the pharmacy
and stopped beside the driver's door of the car next to
me. She is also looking at the Suburban, because the
benighted thing is blocking her in, too. The driver is
not immediately evident; the vehicle is empty. "Should
we find the owner?" asks my new companion.
I'm a bit bleary; I'm not sure if I actually answered.
But I went around the front of the Suburban, and found a
woman standing beside another (slightly smaller) SUV - a
jeep or something**** on the far side. The jeep (or
whatever) was actually parked in a parking spot, wonder
of wonders. Deducing (correctly) that she was the
missing driver, I came up behind her and said, "Hiiii.
Could we get the Suburban
out of the Fire Lane?"
The woman kind of glanced at me and said, "Just a
minute." She was still trying to talk to whoever was
inside the jeep-thing. At a guess, I suspect the jeep's
driver was her ex-husband, and she was turning their
daughter over to him; it certainly looked like that sort
I said, "...Because you're blocking two of us in, and
the only way to get our cars out is through your
Then I turned away and went back to my car. I have no
idea what my expression looked like, but I've been told
that at times like this I look like I'm about to bite
someone. The other woman, whose car was trapped along
with mine, asked: "Did she really just say, 'Wait a
"You know," I told her, "I haven't run into anyone
today... but the day is still young."
And she, bless her heart, said: "No, no, no. Let's use
my car. It's heavier."
A moment later the owner of the Suburban jumped in her
vehicle and drove off. She didn't burn rubber, but she
wasn't exactly dawdling, either.
I'd still love to know what made her think it was a good
idea to park like that in the first place. She was
probably having a bad day, but she could have avoided
some extra grief by parking, y'know, in an actual
parking space. (Not to mention making my day a
bit easier.) It strikes me as a clear case where being
selfish is genuinely, obviously counterproductive.
Sleeping through the night (third attempt? fourth?
Theron is now fully recovered. My wife is still trying
to catch up on her sleep; I expect her to succeed any
year now. I am not trying to catch up on my sleep.
Instead, I am trying to train the Juggernaut to sleep
through the night.
He has a good bedtime routine: we feed him around 8:30
p.m., bathe him, read him a few books, brush his teeth,
and put him to bed. He usually complains loudly for a
few minutes, and then falls asleep. Unfortunately, he
wakes back up somewhere between about 12:30 and 1:30
a.m. and wants his mom to take him out to the Big Pink
This, of course, results in less sleep for her - and in
particular, in less uninterrupted sleep
for her. Apparently, the sleep you get while sitting
upright in a chair with a toddler moving around in your
lap just isn't as good as the sleep you get while lying
in bed. It probably isn't a good habit for the Boobelly,
either, since it requires him to wake up in the middle
of the night. Frankly, the more sleep my wife and child
get, the happier my life is likely to be, so it isn't
really good for any of us.
Which brings us back, once again, to our recurrent
attempts to break him of the habit of waking up in the
middle of the night.
The strategy here is simple. When he wakes up, I go into
his room. I give him a sip of water, pat him on the
back, and put him back down in his crib. Then I leave.
This is supposed to encourage him to go back to sleep on
his own, but without making him feel abandoned.
You'll note that while I keep saying that "we" are
trying to do this, it's definitely the Royal We. The
Beautiful Woman does not go into
his room; that only encourages him. Her role in this
project is to wear earplugs, so she doesn't gather up
the baby and head for the Big Pink Chair in her sleep.
All the Not Sleeping parts of this plan are, of course,
"Od-tee" part 2
Theron's interest in hot tea has developed from a
phrase into a full-blown obsession. When he says "od-tee",
he isn't just identifying it: he's asking for some. He
also uses the hand-sign for "milk" to ask for tea (or
milk, but it's less confusing than you might think).
Fortunately, he has his own tea cup.
Last spring, when Theron was much smaller, I took him
down to a renaissance faire. He was his usual charming
self, and since it was the last day of the faire (and
I'd just bought a couple of fairly expensive items), the
woman in the pottery stall threw in a miniature mug.
It's maybe an inch and a half tall, and an inch or so
across: a little smaller than a shot glass.
It fits him perfectly.
His usual method of drinking is to dip his mug into his
mother's tea (usually decaf Chai with a lot of milk).
Using both hands, he lifts it carefully to his mouth,
and drinks it in little sips. When he's finished, he
scoops up another cup and drinks that. When he's
really finished, he refills his cup and then
pours it out on the floor (or, almost as often, on
himself). Words don't really do justice to the cuteness
of the whole thing, so here are some pictures.
* One of his staffers had me on the phone and was trying
to get me to donate more money. I was having trouble getting her to understand
that in spite of having made a donation earlier, I was not actually a Democrat
or a Barack-specific supporter. (Actually, I've thrown a little money at several
different candidates, based entirely on their saying things that I feel need to
be said.) This was why I was not watching Theron as closely as I should have
My actual political inclinations are more in line with
the Scorched Earth
** I realize I haven't written about this, but there
isn't much to tell. It was an inch or so of three-day old hydrogen peroxide,
which had been poured into a plastic cup so I could fill a dropper. Theron was
wandering around drinking anything that happened to be in a cup, and found it.
By the time we got him to the pediatrician's office (it was a weekday, so they
were open), he'd barfed it all out of his system and was starting to feel
better. (I blame sleep deprivation for this one - I remember getting the stuff
out, but I have no memory at all of actually pouring it into that cup. There
isn't anything else it could have been, though.)
*** Scientifically known as Upper-classicus Grumpissimus,
**** I can't tell vehicles apart. I don't recognize most
of the logos, don't know the names of different models of cars or trucks, and
for the most part couldn't care less. I realize that admitting this will
probably result in the union revoking my Man card, but oh well...