Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Parenting While Cruising...A Never Ending Journey

Current location: La Cruz (Huanacaxtle), Mexico

Yes, still here in La Cruz! The part has been installed, but our transmission is being quite stubborn in this healing process. Worst and most expensive case scenario is replacing the whole transmission, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. The boys are enjoying life here and we have all made some great friends.

One incident worth mentioning before the flashback is Mickey’s launch off the dock on his new scooter. Apparently he was racing and went to hit the brakes with no response. He and his scooter flew off the dock and into the water. By the time I got up on deck, he had pulled himself back up and was standing on the dock weeping softly, staring at the spot where his scooter had just sunk. His beloved new scooter he received just weeks ago was now resting on the muddy bottom of the marina, twenty feet below.

Now, if you don’t know our oldest son, Mickey let me explain something. He is a very careful kid and a rule follower. This behavior was totally out of the box for him. As he quietly grieved his lost scooter, Ben and I reassured him that it was going to be fine and some way or another he would ride again. His dad went on to say:

“Mickey, I’m proud of you!! You went balls to the wall and that’s awesome!”

Perhaps not put into the eloquent words of Plato, but the message was clear.

The next several hours were spent “fishing” with a boat hook and dinghy anchor to see if we could pull it back to dry land. This brought our self proclaimed “Griswald” status on Dock #4 to a whole new level. We deemed ourselves this (from the Chevy Chase “Vacation” movies) since our boat has been pulled apart with tools, boat parts and scooters strewn about in the cockpit for several weeks. Generally living in a marina is like a normal neighborhood. On the beautifully landscaped and manicured street, there is always one annoying house with a front lawn that never gets mowed and has a broken down car in the driveway. That would be the Doolittles in Marina de La Cruz!!

So after our fishing expedition failed, (it was Friday, the 13th after all) Ben decided to jump in the murky and stinky waters of the marina. He tied a rope around his waist and dove in to save the day. Apparently the rope was to help us pull him up after he found the scooter on the bottom. After several attempts and being totally grossed out, dear old dad gave up and vowed to hire someone to dive down and retrieve it. Enter Ernesto the following day. He came over in his wetsuit and diving apparatus and retrieved the scooter in about 10 minutes. He declined payment, but we were able to finally convince him to take some pesos for his kindness (I will post pictures of the rescue attempt soon).

This event provided much entertainment for all of our dock friends and many thanks to all who loaned equipment and advice as we tried to retrieve Mickey’s beloved scooter. Unlike back home, there is no need to watch for speeding cars in the street while riding scooters , but other dangers now lurk….beware of the dreaded end of the dock! We are happy to report; he is back on the road riding side by side with his little brother through the streets of La Cruz.

This incident made me reflect back on how cruising has changed my parenting style. It seems weird, but I have become more relaxed and less of a helicopter parent. There is something about living on a boat that encourages teamwork and is a vital part of our existence. Yet it has also helped me learn that I am capable of many things I didn’t think I could do. This has inevitably flowed over into my way of parenting, allowing my children to try new things without interference and allowing them more freedom than I would give them back home. In addition, I’ve learned that if am capable of sailing a boat in the dead of a moonless night, pull up an anchor, navigate by charts…..I am capable of many things. I don’t say this to brag, just to illustrate how much I have learned about myself on this trip so far. As a result of this discovery, I am more able to see my children as the adept beings they are and watch these amazing little people grow before my eyes every day.

I suppose the evolution of my role as a mother is inevitable as I learn more about myself in my middle aged years (yes, sad to say I’m middle aged if I have any hope of living to 86). You see Mickey and I had a rough go of it at the beginning when we first met each other ten years ago. (here comes the dreaded ‘birth’ story….skip ahead if you’ve heard it…if not, you can skip ahead anyway. I’m not easily offended).

A guess it was a sign that all would not go smoothly with the birth of our first child when the Twin Towers blew up. I remember sitting there on the couch watching the horrific event and rubbing my eight month along belly as if to reassure it’s occupant that all was well. In a novel this would clearly be foreshadowing of difficult events to come, but I was completely oblivious.

It was a standard scenario in the beginning. Ben and I drove to the hospital after my contractions were about 10 minutes apart and were given a lovely birthing room. An epidural was administered at my request and I thought all we had to do was wait and be patient from that point on. Wrongo-Dongo! To keep a long story short (too late) the next 36 hours were sheer torture. They included a wide variety medications, nursing changes, spiking a 104 degree fever, pushing for 3 ½ hours and one nurse actually saying to me, “well, you’re just not doing it right.”

This was a low point in self esteem for me. Here I was…coming from a large Irish Catholic family whose matriarch birthed six babies quickly and easily…on top of the fact that I had this fine tuned machine of a female body specially engineered to birth babies and I was failing miserably!!

Finally, after the baby’s heart rate dropped, they quickly wheeled me into the operating room for an emergency C-section. Many minutes of chaos ensued and they were finally able to pull the baby out. As I lay there semi-conscious, utter relief flowed through me as I heard him let out a loud cry and they showed our beautiful baby to us. All was well! We were both alive and everything would be fine from here on out. Wrongo-Dongo!

Soon the operating room was a frenzy of activity and hushed voices as they worked diligently on the little guy (well, not so little…8 lbs. 8 ounces…must have been all that stuffing and ice cream I ate). His heart rate had inexplicably shot up to 298 beats per minute. To put this in perspective, if an adult heart tried to beat at this rate it would go give out and stop quickly. The goal now was to get his heart rate down as soon as possible. I lost consciousness before any of this registered, but our baby was whisked off to the NICU where they intently worked on him for the next few hours.

I awoke in the recovery room and Ben showed me a video of our beautiful new baby boy (who on top of his medical issues was named ‘McCormick Renner Doolittle’…who does that to a kid?) . It took me a few minutes to realize that he was hooked up to numerous wires and I asked Ben to explain. He set down the video camera and sighed. He spent the next several minutes explaining the circumstances and that they were doing their best. I stated the obvious with my sobbing reply, “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Over the next several hours we waited, until a doctor and nurse team arrived in my room to inform us that our baby was not responding to treatment. They needed to transport him to another hospital where they had a more equipped NICU to deal with critical issues . So a team of nurses wheeled into my room, our baby boy who was now housed in a little “bubble”. I was able to stroke his head through gloves installed on the sides of the unit and say good-bye. I never was able to hold him.

So the next few days were spent sobbing in my hospital room wallowing in a Molly induced ‘pity party’ as I listened to all of the newborn babies crying with their new moms there to comfort them. Until my mother finally said, “Molly, you’re baby is still alive. You’re alive. Time to buck up and get on with it.” It was just what I needed to snap out of it. I will forever be grateful to her for that.

Soon after, word came that just as the doctors made the decision to give our baby’s heart a zap (stop his heart and restart it to hopefully reset the rhythm), he responded to the medication (another story in itself, but I'll let Ben tell that one). After three days I was able to be discharged and hold our baby at the other hospital. It was a surreal moment. I remember thinking that I would never ever let anything happen to him as long as I lived. A promise that realistically I cannot keep.

So you see…...again another of my long drawn out points…if you fell asleep, wake up...here's my point......From moment one, I was put to the test. I was ferociously protective of this guy as any mother is. Yet on top of that, every day for the first year of his life, we were regulating his heart rate and administering medications, hoping today was not the day his heart stopped. Mellow dramatic…sure. My reality…yes.

So it’s been a process of letting go of that protectiveness and I am convinced life on a sailboat is great therapy for that. I think those damn birds may have it right….sometimes you just need to let them fly so they can discover what they can do.

Maybe it’s best illustrated by a game our son J.P. would often play back home on land. From about four years of age, we would pull up to the driveway and he would say, “Hey, mom. Go inside. Let’s play the ‘Visitor’ game”. I would enter through the garage and he would make his way towards the front porch. As I walked through the house, the doorbell would ring. Opening the door I would find our little boy standing there smiling and saying, “Hello, my name is J.P. I thought I would come and visit for a while. Do you have a room for me?”

I would proceed to show him his bedroom which he would accept as suitable accommodations and say, “Yeah. I guess I’ll stay for a little while.”

And there’s the rub. They’re not mine….they’re not permanent residents….they’re just visitors soaking in what information they can until they learn how to fly. I guess it’s my job to give them their freedom. Not easy and at times not fun, but damn it…I guess I have to do it. Even if it means a scooter and a boy fly off the end of the dock.

Next up….the flashback I promised previously. A CLOSE encounter with a whale!


1 comment:

  1. Molly,
    YES!!!! The parenting changes, the new kid freedoms, knowing we only have them for a while, the way it's getting so clear who they're becoming- I'm loving this cruising life for making it all happen so smoothly. p.s. "Are we ever going to see Mickey and JP again?" is asked pretty much daily. Yes is my answer, We'll be back in La Cruz before Feb. 2nd or meet you somewhere on the way if you head south..