Hoboken Adventures in Parenting
Hoboken411 reader Julie mentioned that her husband David had an article published in NY Times yesterday. A father of two, the Hoboken resident wonderfully details that despite life’s difficulties, there are shining moments in everyone’s life:
Out a Breath
By DAVID SEXTON
“Sometimes being a dad of young kids makes me feel like I’m back at practice, doing sprint drills for our relentless coach. For these we would all line up at the base of a long hill adjacent to the school and run repeatedly at full speed to the top and back. For my part, I never wanted to quit, but God, did I want a break. A little space to breath and let my heart rest.
I knew I had that little space two weeks back when I hopped on the train from Hoboken to Summit in New Jersey. It’s not my normal way of getting to work, but my wife needed the car that day. The train had just emerged from the tunnel beneath the Palisades Cliffs when I felt my shoulders relax and my lungs fill with air and knew that I should call home. I’d left the house in an angry mood, and now that I had time to breath, I was feeling remorseful.
The weekend hadn’t ended well. On Sunday evening my 3-year-old daughter didn’t like me asking her to put her toys away, and with a pushed-out lower lip and clenched fists she announced, “I don’t like you. Go away from me.” Her chants grew louder, like one of those ascending alarm clocks, until she reached a tearful hysteria.
I managed her tantrum poorly; my wife arrived — our 1-year-old son in arms — to intercede and send ME to bed. I was still smoldering as I left the house the following morning. I’ve put in better performances as a husband and father — it was time to own up.
“That’s what big presents are for,” my wife said to me with a laugh at my apology, then she switched the phone to speaker. “Here, talk to your son.”
“Ah-Dah!” he chirped with his bright syllables in response to my voice — that’s his version of Dad — and it makes me smile.
“Don’t worry,” she said reassuringly before ending the call, “We’ll be fine today.”
But I was worried. Our son’s neurologist recently confirmed that the baby has a form of cerebral palsy; that he suffered a pre-birth stroke that’s harmed the right side of his brain and is preventing the normal movement of his left arm. I was taking the train so my wife could use the car to take our boy to be fitted for a splint to assist his condition. His needs have become the center of our lives these days.
“I can’t move my arm too,” my daughter has begun to say, while tucking her arm up into stiff L shape at her side like my son does. Sometimes I think this is a form of tender empathy and it melts my heart; sometimes I see this is her way of asking for our attention back and that also breaks my heart.
It’s been hard not to revisit the image of the MRI in my mind, to see again those dark clouds that rested on the right side of his brain like unfriendly continents. I think of them and I feel miserable for all the times I was angry at the little guy when I mounted the stairs at midnight and 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. to help him get comfortable and settled. I think of them and wish there was a way to have protected him. I think of them and wonder what they will ultimately mean for my boy. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t looked.
There are unexpected comforts, though. The train moved that day from the busy disorganized landscape of Jersey City and Newark and the Oranges into the quiet wooded towns of western Essex and Morris counties. Broad Street, Brick Church, South Orange, Mountain Station — the station names sounded off and marked the time gently as I rested my eyes. I think this must be what Samuel Johnson intended when he talked about journey by stagecoach. He called that time in transit “… an interval of liberty,” a place suspended between competing restraints. I never thought in my life I’d thank God for New Jersey Transit, but there it is. You replenish your hope at the wells you find.
There are other reasons for hope, too.
With a lot of help from us and his wonderful physical therapists, my son has begun to move; thrusting himself forward from a seated position with his good arm planted between his legs and pushing up with his thighs. He looks like R2D2 when he scuttles along like this. My wife affectionately calls him “her little crab cake.” It’s a delight.
“He’s going for the cat kibbles,” my daughter peals and giggles as her brother heads off into the kitchen — he’s overturned several bowls of cat food on us lately. It makes a mess. It makes me proud.
He looks up at me for a moment with his round blue eyes as I steer him back to the toys in the living room (and temporarily away from trouble). His little face shines with pleasure as he sets off to his next stop; the perfect warrior. It’s an image that I carry with me every day now. It gives me hope.
This progress may be, of course, just a pause between difficult intervals for us. He still has to crawl, to walk, to speak — we don’t know exactly what besides his arm is really affected or where the next challenges will come from. But it’s a little space of freedom for all of us. It’s the pause that gives us time to breath. It’s the pause that puts the heart at rest.