Grandma Passed Away and JSL is sick

Yesterday, JSL felt warm. We checked his temperature and it was high. We gave him Motrin and Tylenol but that didn’t take his fever down. Worried about another febrile seizure, we prepared to take him to Urgent Care. We were almost ready to go when the phone rang. It was my parents. Now, my parents don’t observe Shabbat as much as I do, but they *NEVER* call during Shabbat. The minute I saw their number come up on the caller ID, I knew it was bad news.

[thumb id=703]B got on the phone and talked with them. They told her that they were sitting down eating lunch with my grandmother when she said she wasn’t feeling well. She took another bite, then began to shake. My mother took her hand and she passed away. My parents called 911 but my grandmother was already gone by that point. Besides, she had a DNR. The fire department and ambulance left, but the police officer remained with them. My parents called the funeral home, but they refused to come get the body. They said that the coroner had to declare her dead and get the body. The coroner, however, refused to declare her dead and said her doctor had to do it. He was on vacation so they had trouble reaching her. This continued on for hours (hours that my father had to sit with the dead body of his mother in his house) until they got the doctor on the phone. The doctor declared her dead. The coroner said that the funeral home needed to pick up the body. When the funeral home still tried to insist that the coroner needed to get the body, the police officer got on the phone and ordered them to pick up the body.

Grandma was my last surviving grandparent. She was 94 years old, so she had a nice, long life. I have many great memories of her growing up. I’ve also taken it upon myself to collect the hundreds of photographs that she left behind and scan them in so that everyone in the family can have copies. (I’ll probably use a service like Scan My Photos.)

We finally did get to Urgent Care and found out that JSL has an ear infection. We got him antibiotics but even that, along with Motrin and Tylenol (dosed out every 2 hours last night), didn’t get his fever to drop. As it stands now, the funeral will be on Monday morning so I’m leaving today. B, JSL, and NHL will go to stay with B’s parents while I’m gone. I’m not entirely comfortable leaving them with JSL sick like this, but I also don’t want to miss my grandmother’s funeral. Hopefully, JSL will feel better by the time I get back on Tuesday.

Your Spouse is Not A Child

Tyler, from Building Camelot tweeted about an article titled Parenting techniques to try on your Spouse by Fernanda Moore.  In it, the author, upset that her husband hasn’t filled the ice trays, decides to try five parenting techniques that she has used on her children on her husband.  Overall, I found the article quite insulting in that it depicted husbands as being unable to do anything unless the wife "manages" them.  Marriage should be a partnership, not one member controlling the other member’s actions.  (Think about how insulted people would get if the article was a husband using parenting techniques to control his wife’s behavior.)  With a bit of modification, though, these rules might actually work.

Strategy No. 1: Reward good behavior

When my wife and I were first married, our lives revolved around each other.  I was the most important person in her life and she was the most important person in mine.  When NHL was born, it was a transition for me to accept that I was no longer #1.  I wasn’t even #2 (my wife was).  I was #3.  As time went on, I felt myself slipping down the ladder of importance even more.  At times, it seems that I only get my wife’s full attention is when I mess something up or don’t do it at all.  If I do something well, I sometimes feel like I might as well be invisible.

I would love for my "good behavior" to be rewarded, however, Mrs. Moore used it to control her husbands actions.  When she got to sleep in one morning, she rewarded her husband’s good behavior (by praising him) in an attempt to get him to "perform properly" more times.  (i.e. Get him to allow her to sleep in more often.)  When he didn’t "perform right" (he inquired about alternating weekends) she got angry that her attempts to control his actions didn’t work.

A proper use of this strategy would involve praising good behavior without expecting your spouse to "perform right."  If a spouse (or anyone for that matter) is praised when they get it right, it helps to offset the times when they don’t and helps the relationship overall.

Strategy No. 2: Keep it brief

In this strategy, she insults her husband’s intellect by assuming that he can only perform an action if she sets up the entire thing (puts everything in place, puts the tools out, etc) and gives him short, simple commands ("Baby gates? Today? Install?").  For a child, yes, they might understand the shorter commands better, but husbands are not children.  We do have adult-level intellects and will resent being treated like babies.  A better modification of this might be to keep your "honey do" list brief.  Don’t ask us to fix every last little thing, especially when we’re not in a position to do it right away, and then complain when we don’t do it all.  Strategy #1 applies here as well.  If you ask us to do 10 things and we do 9 of them, praise us for the 9 we did, don’t ignore those and berate us for the 1 we didn’t do.

Strategy No. 3: The time-out

Here’s where Mrs. Moore got ridiculous.  During an argument, she tried to apply the Time Out principal to her husband and yelled at him "go to your room."  She quickly realized that there was no way for her to force her husband into his room for a timeout.  She just doesn’t have that kind of authority over him.  (Neither would he have that authority over her.)  In the end, she "modified" the rule so that she confined herself to their room for awhile.  Perhaps this is the better application of a "time out."  If you sense that an argument is getting too heated, take a time out.  It is better to cool off for awhile than to say something that you’ll regret later.  (And, if an argument is heated enough, you *will* say something you regret.)

Strategy No. 4: Give quality time to get quality time

In this strategy, she wants to take a bath and he wants to play a game with her.  She tries distraction and various other techniques to get out of it, but finally decides to give him 15 minutes in an attempt to placate him enough so that he won’t object to time by herself.  Now I won’t deny my wife her "me" time.  I need "me" time every now and then also.  However, as a husband, I could also use some time with my wife where we aren’t acting as parents but as just husband and wife.  And no, the time doesn’t need to be spent doing activities that are X-rated in nature… not that those are bad, mind you.

As I said before, I sometimes feel like I’m at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to my wife.  I’m sure she feels the same way with me from time to time.  It would be nice to have a little quality time with each other.  And it would be nice if that quality time was, unlike Mrs. Moore’s, not an attempt to do the bare minimum required to placate me.

Strategy No. 5: Creative discipline

In this one, Mrs. Moore sits down with her "disobedient" husband (guity of the crime of being late) to "figure out together how he should atone and, ultimately, change the behavior."  In some ways, this is good:  They sit down and have a talk about the situation instead of her yelling at him for being late every day.  If the discussion is phrased properly, this can actually be a good thing.  However, Mrs. Moore’s intention was to use this discussion time not to work out their differences, but to bring his behavior back in line with what she demands.  In other words, he’s nothing more than a disobiedient child to her that she needs to lecture about doing what she tells him to do.  The discussion should be a discussion of equals, not a "parent spouse" talking to the "child spouse."

In the end, only twisting the rules around makes them a good idea.  As employed by Mrs. Moore, the rules are insulting and demeaning.  Instead of treating your husband (or wife) like a child whose behavior needs to be carefully controlled, why not treat them like an equal partner in the marriage?  Sit down and talk calmly with them.  Spend some quality, non-parent time with them.  Let them know when things that they do make you happy.  But never, ever, think of them as a disobedient child.

The Death of a Dream and The Adult-Parent Line

We went to my sister’s house this past weekend to celebrate my two nephews’ birthdays.  We had a reasonably good time, but there were two snags.

The first involved my older nephew (who we’ll call A).  He just turned 5 and wasn’t playing nicely with NHL or JSL.  For example, he has one of those pop-up play tents.  At one point, NHL, JSL and I were inside it together.  He walked up and pushed the tent over on us.  Then, when JSL walked out of the tent, A pushed him down so his head hit a table.  After making sure JSL was ok (he was), I politely told A that that wasn’t nice and JSL could have been hurt.  A responded by putting his foot on my face (yes, touching!) and saying "Smell my feet!"  Then he stuck his tongue out at me.  NHL told A that he was being bad and had to go to a timeout.  I corrected NHL by telling him that only A’s mommy or daddy could send him to a timeout.  I couldn’t do that and NHL certainly couldn’t.

NHL had said that he didn’t want to come to the party because he remembered A being mean to him at last year’s party.  Now he’s totally convinced that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with A.  This saddens me.  When I was growing up, my family was never very close.  My youngest cousin was 5 years older than me and we saw them only once per year.  To this day, I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t tell all of my cousins apart.  I wouldn’t be able to name their wives and kids if you made it multiple choice!  When I was a child, I made a pledge to myself that my sister and I would be different.  We would see each other often and our kids would play together.

The reality, however, is that we only get together once or twice a year.  When we do, our kids don’t play well together.  A & NHL are seven months apart, so age shouldn’t be *that* much of a factor.  NHL is going to be even more leery of spending time with A now and it really pains me.  I’m just glad that they get along with their cousin on my wife’s side.

But the bad playtime between NHL and A wasn’t the worst incident that day.  That distinction goes to my sister’s husband’s friend S.  She is, as my parents put it, "bossy," but what she did transcended bossy and crossed a line.  She threatened my child with punishment if he didn’t perform an action.  Specifically, she told him he wouldn’t get any cake if he didn’t help clean up.  (This is one example.  She did this many times that day.)  Not only did she do this, but NHL was already helping to clean up.  (Which couldn’t be said for A.)  And, just to toss some additional salt in the wound, she did this while B was standing directly in front of her!  B was dumbstruck by the audacity of a person who wasn’t NHL’s parent or teacher… who wasn’t even a RELATIVE of NHL, threatening to punish NHL *RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIS MOTHER*!

Can you tell I’m really mad about this?  After the party, I told NHL that what she did was wrong.  Adults can and should help control situations with kids.  If you see a kid running or beating up another kid, you’re more than welcome to stop the action and tell the child that said action is wrong/dangerous.  That’s called being an adult.  You can ask my child to help clean up a mess.  That’s being an adult also.  But telling my child that not doing what they say will result in the loss of something is crossing the line.  Only parents (and a few others) can do this.

Not only are her punishment threats hollow (would she have seriously kept us from giving him cake?!!), but they weaken any punishment threats we might make.  NHL might reason that S told him he couldn’t have cake and yet he had cake, therefore, when Daddy says "No TV", he can watch TV anyway.  She’s lucky that we were too shocked to actually respond.  Next time, I assure you, we will respond and will put her in her place.

How do you handle it when your children don’t get along with close relatives?  Have you ever had an adult cross that parental punishment line?  How did you react?

My Grandmother: A Life In Photos

Last week at this time, I was getting on board an airplane and heading down to see my parents and grandmother.  My grandmother, who turned 94 years old in October, isn’t doing that well.  Her memory has been going for some time, but lately she’s had other issues as well.  Conflicting reports from my parents either had her as heading downhill or at death’s door.  B and I decided that I should head down there to say goodbye as it might be the last time I get to see her.  The boys didn’t come because: 1) I didn’t want them to see great-grandma like that and 2) We didn’t want to pull NHL from school.  B stayed home with the boys, so I was on my own.

After seeing her in person, I don’t think she’s quite at death’s door, but she does seem to be giving up.  All she wants to do is sit and sleep.  I roped her into one game of backgammon but her only real contribution was rolling the dice.  About the only time that my "real grandmother" emerged was when I showed her some videos of the boys that I brought with me.  She smiled and laughed.  My father and I spoke about getting webcams set up so the boys could talk with Bubbe and Grandpa, but perhaps it would be theraputic if they were able to talk with Great-Grandma as well.  Something to think about.

While visiting, I got the chance to see a series of old photos of my grandmother’s.  My mother was trying to decide who to disburse them to when grandma passes away and I decided that they should first be scanned.  The scanned versions could be distributed to all of the kids/grandkids via CD or DVD (depending on how many photos there are).  This way, everyone gets all of the photos even though not everyone gets all of the prints.  My mother and I quickly went through the photos and organized them based on importance.  Photos of my grandparents and father/uncle while they were young got the highest importance.  Photos of me, my sister, or my cousins while they were young were the lowest.

When I went home, I took the 6 highest priority photos with me and scanned them in.  Here they are, along with a photo of my grandmother at her 94th birthday party and a photo of her from this past weekend.

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