Monday, January 10, 2011

It takes a village (or, in this case, one nurse, one secretary, one frazzled Mommy, and about 6 strangers in a waiting room)...

You know how, sometimes, when you know that a challenging day is coming, you're able to sort of line your ducks up in a row to make it easier??? Then, everything goes horribly wrong...

Today was that day.

OK, it wasn't horrible, actually. And, looking back on it, now, several hours after all of the chaos, it's pretty amusing. Still...once in a while, I'd like those ducks to stay lined up.

This morning, hubby had to have a colonoscopy. Having been through this before, we knew that he would need me to be there to pick him up and to take care of his poor, sorry, miserable, drugged-up self for the rest of the day. So, I arranged to stay home from work, we timed everything so that we could drop the boys off at school in the morning, and then I'd be able to drive him to and from his appointment and take care of him all afternoon in a peaceful house.

Then, it snowed. Quite a bit for our little part of the world, although anyone from a state that REALLY gets snow (like Minnesota, for example) would turn their noses up at us and laugh at our wimpiness. Anyway, given the road conditions, the district decided to start school 1 1/2 hours later than normal. Sooooo, with no last-second childcare options at our 8 o'clock, I loaded the boys up with lots of toys, a Leap Pad, some paper and pens, snacks, etc., and took them along to drop Daddy off for his procedure. They assured us that he would be ready to be picked up at 10:00am, sharp. Since the boys' school wouldn't be starting until 11:00am, it seemed like everything would work out just fine. I'd take the boys to McDonalds to play in the tubes and burn some energy, while I enjoyed a cup of crummy coffee and an hour or so of relative peace. Then, we'd swing back by to pick up the hubster, I'd tuck him in at home, and I'd be able to easily get the kids to school by 11:00. Sounds great in theory, doesn't it?

Everything went smoothly until pick-up time. We showed up just before 10:00. Not ready yet. The boys played with their toys as time ticked on. They began to get restless. I appeased them with snacks. They began to get louder and slightly obnoxious. I appeased them by having them make "Get Well" cards for Daddy. Foster made a paper airplane and accidentally hit an old lady in the leg with it. (She was not amused.) I was getting slightly desperate. Then, the nurse came to get me.

"There really isn't room back there for the kids."

"Um. Well, I had to bring them, since it's a late start snow day. I didn't have any choice."

"Well, there isn't room." Then, she just stood there, looking at me, as if I could somehow pull a brilliant solution to this little dilemma out of thin air.

That's when the delightful secretary (who must be a fellow mom) piped in with, "They can stay in the waiting room. I'll keep an eye on them. They can just play with their toys."

With a grateful smile, and trying not to make eye contact with the old lady who had been hit by Foster's paper airplane, I went back to see the hubby. There he was, poor fella, all drugged up and goofy. The nurse assured me that the doctor would be "right with us", and then I'd be able to take him home. I told her the little guys were out in the waiting room, and that they were due at school in 20 minutes.

"Oh, don't worry. I just saw the doctor. He'll be right in. Won't be more than a minute or two."

Yeah, right. Note to self: Anytime a nurse says the doctor will be "right in", that's code for "I have no idea when the doctor will actually make an appearance, but I'm hoping, for both of our sakes, that it will be in just a few minutes."

The minutes ticked by. I didn't dare leave, because the doctor might come "right in", but I was picturing the havoc that my boys were potentially wreaking in the waiting room and it was seriously stressing me out. Finally, the nurse (NOT the doctor) stuck her head back in.

"Sorry, the doctor has been delayed, but he'll just be a couple more minutes. I checked on the boys, and they're doing just fine out there." Big smile. Which kind've made me want to smack her a little bit. Is that wrong? It really wasn't HER I was irritated with. It was the situation. The stress. Her cheery attitude in the face of my frustration. By now, I knew it would take a miracle to get the kids to school on time.

A few more minutes passed. This time, when she stuck her head in, I told her I had to duck out to see the boys for myself.

"Okey dokey. But, come right back. The doctor will be here any minute."

Here's what I saw:

Foster was standing on the arms of his chair, apparently trying to climb the wall like Spiderman. Spencer was sitting on the floor, drawing a picture, with his rubber rain boot pressed RIGHT up against the electric heater. I could smell the melting rubber.The old lady had vanished, the secretary was on the phone, and there was only one other person in the waiting room. He appeared to be half asleep and was sitting as far away from my boys as possible.

After getting Foster down from the wall and moving Spence away from the heater, I pleaded with the secretary: "Are you sure the boys can't come back there with me?"

"Oh, no, no, no, it'll be all right. I promise. Just go on back. I'm sure the doctor will be right there."

So, back I went. I gave up on worrying and decided to trust that the secretary knew what she was talking about. I figured the sprinkler system would kick in, if either boy set themselves on fire with the electric heater. I figured they'd come and get me, if there was a real emergency. And, I figured that they must have dealt with similar situations before, so they could probably deal with this one...

Fifteen or so minutes later, after finally talking with the doctor, helping poor groggy hubby back into his clothes, and trying not to laugh too loudly when we all heard the voice of an obviously sedated (but not yet sedate), older man yelling at the top of his lungs, "You are NOT putting that in my ass!!!" (a statement the giggling nurses, trying hard to be professional, insisted they had never heard before), I was heading back out to the waiting room.

This time, the view was quite different. This time, my little boys were the center of attention of at least 6 lovely adults, of all ages, who were now waiting in the waiting room. Spence was telling them all about his best buddy, Milo, and showing them the folders he had decorated with the markers the secretary had given him. Foster was showing the apparently captivated older lady next to him his Leap Pad. Everyone was smiling and laughing and surrounding my little guys with warmth and humor and caring. It was wonderful. When I came out, they all greeted me with huge smiles and exclaimed over my "adorable", "intelligent" boys. I thanked them all profusely and left the waiting room feeling warm all over and slightly choked up by the generosity of this group of strangers. A group of people who saw a need and jumped right in, just to make life a little easier for one frazzled Mom and two little boys.

Sometimes, it really does take a village. Or, a waiting room full of caring strangers.



  1. Oh Yikes...what a day. Sounds like us over vacation. My hubby had surgery during one of the worst storms CT has had this winter. It was a logistical nightmare with the two kids (considering I had it all planned out for weeks until the storm hit)

  2. It may have been a stressful day, Beth, but you just shared it with your trademark warmth and humor. Wish I could have your outlook! Hang in there, this year HAS to get better :)

  3. Momma Hunt -- So sorry to hear about the storm at the same time your hubby had surgery. Yuck! I hope you had someone there to help you. Noelle, as always, your words make me smile. Cheers!