Sunday, July 19, 2009

Little children, little problems...

When the kids were small, babies even, it seemed I could never go anywhere without getting a lot of unwanted advice.

At the shopping mall, there'd be the immaculately turned out mother-of-one, pointing out that my baby -- youngest of four -- had lost a sock, and "oh-by-the-way, your three-year-old just pocketed a packet of gum from the check-out display". Shame.

There'd be a grandma type, asking me why my newborn wasn't wearing a hat "in this weather", or my neighbor across the street saying, "Don't your kids ever wear coats?" Feelings of incompetence.

There was some other kid's father from school, who asked with irritating regularity, "Don't you want to give those boys haircuts?" Upsurge of mulish obstinancy.

And then there was the woman who said, as I complained to anyone or no one about the endless irritation of raising small children, "Oh, you know what they say. 'Little children, little problems. Bigger children, bigger problems...'"

At the time, I felt as if I'd run into some wicked witch in Grimm's Fairy Tales. What kind of thing was that to say? It was meant to be comforting, perhaps, but it sounded like a curse, and full of foreboding. Little children, little problems. Bigger children, bigger problems...

The day before yesterday, at a shopping mall's parking lot, I got out of my car, idly turning round to lock it, and I heard a woman screaming, nay, shrieking at her kids. "GET OUT! OUT! Get out of the Goddamn car! Get out now!" She suddenly saw me from across the lot, and I could see her struggling to regain some self-control. She brought the decibel level down a few notches, and I turned away. And I thought to myself, Little children, little problems. Bigger children, bigger problems... If only she knew.

I find myself thinking much the same thing when reading blogs of young mothers. So much whingeing and kvetching and moaning, and not enough enjoyment of little kids for what they are: little. They're little, and they're yours. Of course children can be exasperating and exhausting and tiresome and just a feckin' handbasket of aggravation. But they're a boatload of fun too, and even though clever complaining ups blog statistics, one has to hope that some of these kids don't ever read their mom's essays, later on. Because they'll feel awfully unwanted and unappreciated. But I digress.

Little children, little problems. Bigger children, bigger problems... Truth to tell, little is so relative. When your oldest child is five, a ten-year-old looks mighty grown-up to you. But when your oldest is almost 26 years old, someone else's twenty-one-year-old son looks little. A little kid, really, twenty-one years old. His whole life ahead of him, full of potential, opportunity awaiting.

Except not in this case.

I went to a visitation on Friday night, and a memorial service on Saturday, for the twenty-one year old son of old friends. He dropped out of university second semester of his freshman year, and was in rehab for long months. This spring, he moved to a halfway house in Florida, part of transitioning back to a new life, free of addiction. He was going to return to school, and was reconnecting with his family. He was a strong, smart kid. An outstanding sportsman. A quick wit, and full of laughter. So well-liked. So loved by his family and close friends. He had everything going for him, all the talent, and all the support you'd ever want.

And then three weeks ago he was found in his room, unresponsive, apparently from a drug overdose. He lingered for 10 days in intensive care, but died a week ago Friday.

How my friends would love to go back to the days of "little children, little problems".

"Bigger problems" are unbearable.



Mr London Street said...

Mommy blogs send me running for the little button marked "x" in the top right of the screen. But I could read your blog on the subject of pretty much anything. I was beginning to worry where you had gone - this is a great post, so human and so full of the perspective that it's easy to lose when you're blogging about what you've had for lunch.

Anonymous said...

How very true. Appreciation for anything and everything is something that a lot of people forget. Now matter how 'unlucky' we feel you can guarantee that there are many more people a lot worse off.

Faça a Diferença !!! said...

Children are a gift from God, we learn educate and understand them.

expateek said...

Ah! But Mr London Street, we can see the world in a grain of sand....

And in your case, we may paraphrase Blake and say that you "see the world in a grainy sandwich" -- and ever so insightfully too, m'dear.

Eternally D -- Lucky/unlucky: everything's relative. Once one's seen sights 'round the world (as we both have), it becomes difficult to unselfconsciously complain. There's so much misery in the world. A compassionate heart and an awareness of others can pull us back up, when we sink into selfishness and self-pity.

Things could always, always be so much worse.

expateek said...

Faça -- absolutely right. The older I get, the wiser small children seem. Certainly their innocent joy is always refreshing. We adults can learn something from them, too.

mo.stoneskin said...

Sad, sad tale.

On a plus note, I'm impressed you've got your 3-yr-old chewing gum already. Blow bubbles too?

Iota said...

How awful. How truly awful.

Re what you say about whingeing mummy blogs, just watch your email for a project that you might enjoy and feel able to contribute to... That's all I'm saying.

Suzy said...

This post was so beautifully written and so poignant. Truly excellent.

SkylersDad said...

My wife has a friend who was a bad combination of binge and purge eater, and binge drinker. She finally drank herself to death. Such a shame, nobody could help her.

Pond Parleys said...

Oh how sad. I must admit I am wont to say the "little kids" thing because most little kids can't possibly get themselves into this much trouble, and you're right - they are little and we should just try to enjoy them. I also try to make sure that anything I say about my kids (which isn't actually a lot) they wouldn't mind reading.
This is heart-breaking for the family.

Expat Mum

expateek said...

Mo -- Well, the gum thief is now 21 years old and (I think) has left her life of crime behind, so thankful for that!

Iota -- I'll keep my eyes peeled. I read an essay by Mrs G on the topic of "moaning mommies" sometime in the last year, and now of course I can't find it. Some posts really make me cringe...

Suzy -- Thank you for the kind words. I only wish I'd never had the reason to write it.

Skylers Dad -- Yes, addictions of all sorts are so devastating, and it's such a helpless feeling for those standing at the sidelines. People want to help, but sometimes things go wrong despite all the love and support. My heart breaks for these families.

Expat mum-- Yes, I try to really curtail my commentary about my kids. Of course, they're mostly grown now, so they're not so present in my everyday life. Still, I tend to guard my privacy and theirs. Privacy is so undervalued. You don't know what you've got til it's gone... or you've given it away!

Violet said...

Oh, what a sad loss for the family!

A beloved friend of mine is an addict - trying so hard to stay clean and failing often these days. I live with the fear that he will die either from an overdose or from being part of that world.

It is so hard to stand on this side of addiction and watch someone you love fight their demons.

Madame DeFarge said...

I'm not a mother, never wanted to be, never will be, but this was a fine post, insightful and touching.

Christine said...

How very beyond sad and heartbreaking. That is every parents worst nightmare. My heart goes out to his family.

Anonymous said...

I honestly thought that once the labour was out of the way it would all be plain sailing.

How wrong can you get


Anonymous said...

What a moving post. And you're so right.. I do hate it when people chant: bigger kids, bigger problems... That's a great help when your kid has wet himself and it's snowing out and you have to walk home in a snowstorm.. for example.

It's such a shame to whinge about kids instead of enjoying them.

My mantra before posting is: Do I want my kids to read this when they are older?

Good post.

Sorry about the world's longest comment! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I read and re-read this post (and commented twice, for the first time ever!!). It inspired me to write something real for a change. Thank you

La Belette Rouge said...

I am so sorry about your friend's son. I cannot imagine her inconsolable grief.

I was just at Target and I saw a young mother who was really not enjoying her son. I thought to myself, I would do almost anything to be in her shoes. I only wish she and all mothers knew how lucky they are.

expateek said...

Violet -- I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. Watching someone you love suffer and struggle is a unique kind of heartache.

Mme DeFarge -- Thank you.

Christine -- Yes, the pain of his family is impossible to fathom. I can't even go there, in my darkest imaginings.

Not Waving -- Labour and delivery: that was the easiest bit in retrospect, wasn't it?

LadyFi -- excellent mantra, m'dear. And never apologise for a long comment. After all, you're royalty.

About writing about one's kids, Mrs. G weighed in with this post on the topic... a must-read.

Eternally -- Thank you again. And your latest post (writing something "real") was absolutely breathtaking. I was blown away.

LaBelette -- Life feels very unfair sometimes. We so often don't appreciate what we have, and how lucky we are. I know I sound like such a Pollyanna, but after my experiences over the last 4 years, I thank my lucky stars everyday, for almost everything/anything.

That being said, I wish I could grant your heart's desires for you.

Anonymous said...

you're good ;-)
Long may you blog...packed or unpacked!
best from Oia...

Lola Lakely said...

Wow, I stopped by from MLS and this post was pretty amazing. Poignant, well written, and just generally thought provoking. I will defintley stick around for more.

Thanks for sharing this.