I don't like the taste of chicken pox

E turned 2 a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, Marc and I were very sick in the days leading up to E's birthday and planned party. While I probably could have pushed through the pain to give E his two year old celebration as originally planned, Marc was too sick to participate. And we were both concerned about spreading disease. We took into account that our son does not know his birthday as different from any other day yet and decided to cancel the party. We ended up having a few smaller gatherings to celebrate E over the weeks following; it was still nice and my guilt about cancelling his initial party has totally dissipated.

A huge theme in our lives for the past few years has been avoiding social isolation. Sometimes we are so busy doing things with friends now days that we joke our social life is too filled, but we know what it feels like to not have a social life. And, out of thankfulness for our blessings, we never really take it for granted. I am always sensitive to the people we have met that have not been as fortunate as we have. Because of this sensitivity, I took E to a birthday party this weekend for a little boy, D. We have known D's parents for awhile. They just had a second baby two weeks ago. Even though I wanted to have a lazy Sunday afternoon with Marc and E, I decided to let Marc have time by himself (read: time to play video games) and I took E to Ikast. Ikast is two short train rides away. We live life without a car which means sacrificing flexibility to the train schedule, but the trains run hourly so its not a big deal.

We arrived half an hour after the party started (train schedules make us late too). I was surprised to just find D's parents and another guy that D's dad, Noah, worked with. It was not the toddler party I was imagining, so I was glad we decided not to skip it. E found some toys and got to playing by himself while I enjoyed some adult conversation and tried to explain to everyone what I'm doing with myself these days without sounding too wierd. D was napping and so was his new little baby sister. Another couple with an older child (about 4) arrived a half hour later. Initially, the older boy deemed E too small to be allowed play with the toy shark he brought. But, after a bit of time, the two started playing very well together. D's mom, Violetta, remarked that E was "so mature." I shrugged my shoulders and said E seems to play well with others and that I don't really have anything to compare him to (which is the standard line I use whenever E is complimented).

Soon after we were treated to some chicken wings flavoured with a spicy Buffalo Wild Wings sauce. As Noah is a fellow American in Denmark, he is excited to share this import with me. Oh how we miss the endless variety of preservative filled and delicious food choices! 'Merica! At this point Violetta is talking about how the first two weeks have been having two children. Stressful and sleep deprived, having a new baby is hard! Oh and on top of that D got the chicken pox, so he has been home all week.
We have already been there for an hour, E has probably touched everything D uses on a daily basis -even the diaper changing pad. I don't know if the other parents were as shocked as I was to find out that these parents planned a party for their just turned two year old in the midst of him having one of the most contagious childhood diseases, but the damage had already been done. All the parents confirmed they were immune, though neither child has had them. Then Violetta says the common line: "of course it is better for children to have it young. You know D only had a fever for two days, it wasn't so bad." sigh...

As if to prove his parents were not lying, D awakes from his nap and joins the party, his face and neck are covered in scabbed pox. We welcome D with the presents that we brought. As E has just had his 2 year celebrations, he is very excited about wrapped presents but understands they are D's and only encourages D to open them. With the presents opened, the three boys proceed to play separately. But soon, D wants the new toy E has. A small argument, then I help E to give up the toy and find another. "These are D's new toys, you have had your turn. You have to share." E sulks a bit, but is easily distracted by another toy. Eventually the original toy in question is free for E to play with again, as D has focused himself on the chicken wings and chips. But the chicken wing in his hand is not good enough when D sees E with his toy again and he attacks. D grabs E and claws at his face. Three shocked parents intervene. D receives a time out and I comfort E while checking for injuries. He seems ok, but his face is covered in cookie crumbs and chocolate smudges, so I'm not totally sure what is going on there. E wants to play again. D is in his time out cage... a baby gate-fence originally used to separate the open concept living room from the apartment's entrance way makes up two sides of a time out area in the corner of the living room... I feel like the situation has been handled swiftly and efficiently. 

The time out ends soon after though, and D comes right at E again with no provocation. E is just eating chips. I grab D and tell him no. I feel like maybe I have overstepped my boundaries, but I need E to know I have his back. This is not a "learn by handling it yourself, child" situation. The boys are separated on either sides of the living room and each given a toy to distract them. After a few minutes, I feel comfortable enough to give E some space and turn my back to grab my beer. Before I can turn around, D is across the room and tackling E from behind and, again, clawing at his face. I am beside myself! Noah has pulled D off E and I bring E into my lap to comfort him. I grab a baby wipe and clean E's face in order to see what is chocolate and what is not. E has two scratches that are slightly bleeding. He is screaming because the baby wipe burns. When Violetta asks why E is crying, I tell her he has scratches all over his face which I am cleaning. She seems to think E has been scratched while at his dagplejer, not from the three assaults he has received in the last 15 minutes from her son. Before I can correct her, D dumps the bowl of chips on the ground starts spreading them around on the floor... ya know because to dump them does not create a big enough mess.

I check my phone and see the next train leaves in ten minutes. If I don't leave now I have to be here another hour- a seemingly insurmountable situation for me to handle. I call Marc, pretending to be returning his call. "Oh I guess we can come home now...The next train leaves in ten minutes, but we haven't had cake yet....I know you wanted to have dinner early.....Ok, we'll leave now." Marc is understandably confused, as his end of the conversation is that we don't need to come home yet; we should stay and have cake; dinner can wait; what are you talking about?! I hang up the phone and announce that E and I should go. This is now a totally awkward situation. My child has just been attacked three times and suddenly I just need to rush out and catch the next train. No time to even really say good bye, just grad my stuff and run because, even though they live across from the train station, I really have no time to try and exit gracefully.

The last time we hung out with D and his parents, they were at our house warming party. I was busy hosting, but found out in the days following that D repeatedly slamming our DVD player had, in fact, broken it. D also unloaded a juice box all over the living room, which no one bothered to clean up or tell me about (my husband and mother included). I found out three days later because "where are all these ants coming from?!!" D's parents make the excuses that you make for your child when he is a toddler terrorist. "He doesn't understand what he is doing." "He doesn't realize how much bigger he is than the other kids." "He got bored at his dagplejer. His dagplejer mor was crazy; she was always sending D home saying he was sick or tired, but he wasn't."  So I know I am not the only person to feel like telling these two parents they are doing it wrong is not the right way to handle the situation. We have to give D a chance, maybe having a baby sister will help his social skills. Although I was not afraid to say "I want to leave this party because your kid is ridiculous," I didn't feel like that would be constructive, and it wouldn't help me catch the train.

So I am standing there awkwardly. E is in his backpack on my back, where D can't get at him. Though D did find an opportunity, as I was gathering our belongings after putting E in the backpack, to get one last attack in and push the whole thing over. Seeing helpless E on the floor like flipped turtle gives me a final dose of motivation to catch that train before it leaves. Noah is saying "But we haven't even had cake yet, are you sure you have to leave? you should stay." The other family is just staring at me. The older child secured himself and a lego toy within fort Mom and Dad on the couch when D started his rampage. The one time D went after the older boy, Noah warned him the the boy could beat D up. So the family, they are just staring at me. The mother is daring me with her eyes to leave if I can. And I, feeling sooo awkward, find myself saying something about how I have a hard time telling my husband no, and then I am "coming to the realization" that making the train now would be impossible, so yeah I guess I should stay". Though I know when I here the ding of the railroad signals a few minutes later it was totally possible. I could have been on that train.

So I have to regroup. I say I need to call Marc to tell him we're not going to make it home yet and I go outside with E still on my back. I tell Marc everything that has happened. I tell him how horrible I feel for not protecting E better. I have to stay here another hour, how am I going to pull it off? Marc counsels me and we decide that D has a restraining order. I will be the enforcer. No need to go off on Noah and Violetta, I will control the situation and E will know he is safe. I go back inside and sit down next to Violetta. I confess to her that I don't feel totally comfortable and am not sure how to handle the D vs. E situation. She tells me D doesn't understand. Yeah... ok... and here comes the cake. We sing and Noah is encouraging D to blow out the candles. D doesn't get it. I learned earlier that D didn't have the concept of "blowing" down yet when he wanted to make bubbles by sticking the wand in his mouth. I reluctantly allow E to approach D and his cake. E and Noah blow the candles out as D watches and claps for them. I am glad that I let E help so that I don't have to think of an excuse why we can't eat this cake..."um I don't like the taste of chicken pox..?" E is back in my protective zone before D can remember that it's fun to try and scratch E's eyes out.

We eat the cake. The older boy and his family have maintained their stronghold on the couch. D has not attacked E for almost ten minutes because of all the cake excitement which E, minus the candle blowing, has spent happily sitting on my lap. The older boy decides he wants to play with D's toy piano and brings it to his mother. D saunters up, seemingly just to watch, as the mother plays a song over her son's shoulders. Then D grabs the piano with one hand and smacks the boy in the face with the other. The boy starts the cry, his parents say he is tired and are literally out the door on their way home two minutes later. Lucky, little car drivers. For the next half hour, I play with D and E. Turning the five foot restraining order against D almost into a game. Pulling E out of D's reach whenever he gets close enough to swipe. Adding in some fake body slams, tickling and encouragement for the boys to jump and dance on opposite ends of the couch, I manage to thwart D's unrelenting attacks and E's retaliation. They get close enough to smack each other one more time and E walks away with one more scratch down the left side of his face. But, my boy took it in stride and heeded me when I told him not to touch D anymore. As I am repeatedly encouraging D to be gentle, getting smacked in the face myself, Noah and Violetta are telling me I should be a teacher or a dagplejer mor. I am happy enough to just be a person that cares enough to protect my son without ostracizing another child or their parents (no matter how greatly it may be warranted).

Maybe I shouldn't have let the social niceties of the situation rule my actions so much. It felt like the right thing to do at the time. I know E walked away from that party with 100% trust that I would protect him from harm. He was still upset even when we got home. As we had our night time nursing session, I apologized to him that my best still left him hurt and promised to try for better next time. He cried a little, remembering how D treated him, then settled back in to that constant source of comfort he has had since his first day of life. He woke up this morning with a smile on his face and kisses to give away. I'll let you know in a few weeks if he has the chicken pox.

the "damage"


doing my dreams

Today I start a new way of life.... again. E is in dagplejer! He started this morning. Dagplejer is part of the Danish government's system of child care and education. As a mother, I had three options of what I could do with E when he was big enough to spend the day away from me. I choose the option of keeping him at home and not trying to work. We could have sent him to a vuggestue, which is an institutional day care. "Institutional" makes vuggestue sound a lot more sterile and prison like than it is- a vuggestue is daycare at a school; the same type of school that E will start in nine months when he goes to the Danish version of kindergarten called børnehaven. The third option besides keeping a child at home and sending them to a vuggestue is, obviously, sending them to a dagplejer.

Dagplejer is daycare in a local woman's home. Our dagplejer mor (literally: daycare mom) is a short 5 min walk away from our door. One women will have three to five kids in her home during the day where they play, eat and nap. It's normal to start your child in dagplejer at 8 months old in Denmark, but we started E now, right after he turned 2. We choose a dagplejer over a vuggestue because we specifically wanted E to get used to being away from me during the day. We decided to start him at the børnehaven would be overwhelming for E. Imagine going from being alone at home everyday with just your mom to being in a school with 80 other kids. And this is not a "sit down at a desk and learn to read or write or glue something to something else" type of school. This is a school complete with ball pit, dance music and tree forts in the forest. So, we felt like a good step in between would be a dagplejer where E can process the idea of being away from me everyday without so much background noise.

So, in my first two hours of freedom, I have run :-) and done the normal morning chores. Now I am writing. Marc wants me to do my dreams (that is his line, not mine :-) so I am going to spend time writing everyday. I am going to write a book. I am going to re-vamp my blog. I am going to start putting some effort in getting page views. Because right now this blog is about me. Me communicating to whoever cares enough to want to hear what I have to say. But I want to be a writer. I want to call myself an author and I want to be self-published (though that is another topic all on it's own). I don't want to scrounge for whatever will pay me. I have done that as a technical writer for a few years and it's almost worse then not writing at all. I want to write about what I love and I want to push myself into realms of expression I have never had to be in before.  And I want to be able to do that forever.

The problem is the forever part, because eventually I will need to have a financial incentive to keep tapping on the keyboard in front of me. I hate it, but it is the reality. Our family basically lives paycheque to paycheque. Anytime we save up some money, it goes towards travelling and we don't even save up enough money to cover all of those costs. We are blessed by our mothers and siblings who cover the bills that we can't. But eventually, we won't be able to say to them "we can't pay that because Catherine has been trying to be a writer..." Eventually, I will have to be an income earner. period. So I hope today is the first day that I can work towards doing what I am truly passionate about (obviously that is writing) everyday for the rest of my life.

I'll keep you posted on how that turns out.
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