Saturday, March 17, 2007

Two Households, Two Mindsets

I'm involved in one of those frustrating parenting situations that I'm sure married couples experience, but which is made more difficult by the fact that my son's dad and I parent from separate households.

On Friday morning, as I was getting the kiddo ready for school, I saw that his eyes looked a little red. I wasn't sure if they were just irritated from the dust kicked up at the previous day's tee-ball game, or if this was the onset of pinkeye, so I gave him a bath and a shower (he loves to rinse off in the shower), called his dad to let him know what I'd seen, and decided to take him to school. I visited him at school right after lunch, to see if his eyes were getting better or worse. They looked more or less the same, or possibly a teensy bit better -- it was hard to tell. His dad picked him up after school and said he would monitor the situation.

All sorts of contagious diseases float around the kiddo's school, as they would any other school; I swear, since the kiddo started kindergarten, he's had more colds and coughs than he ever had in the preceding years combined. I'm sure the sore throat I've been enjoying this week is due to my time working with the kindergarteners. Prior to this year, I think I got about one cold a year, usually around Christmas. Now it seems I get one every few weeks.

Anyway, since the kiddo is at his dad's for the weekend, I called him this morning to see how his eyes were doing, and to see if we needed to take him to the doctor. I have to explain that I'm not being particularly neurotic here. My behavior is based largely on what happened back when the kiddo had strep throat. He'd developed the symptoms of strep at his dad's house on a Saturday, and although I told his dad that a contagious disease report had been sent home from school, saying the kids had been exposed to strep, his dad minimized the situation and didn't take the kiddo to the doctor. As a result, when the kiddo came home that Monday morning, his throat was all swollen and he had rashes all over his body, as well as a fever. I took him to the doctor and guess what it was? STREP. So my goal this weekend with the eye thing is to prevent that sort of situation from happening again, in which my son's dad minimizes an illness and the kiddo has to suffer all weekend, and then a full-blown illness lands in my lap come Monday.

And don't even get me started on the time the kiddo swallowed a lollipop stick while in his dad's care.

So this morning when I called my son's dad, he said the kiddo's eyes were looking great, weren't red at all, and had no discharge. This afternoon, I went to the kiddo's tee-ball game, took a look at his eyes and they were a little red, with a little yellow discharge in the corner of one eye. I should mention that my son's dad does not see well up close. He had laser eye surgery to correct his vision a few years ago, and now needs reading glasses to see up close. On certain occasions, when he's been in a good mood and I've needed him to read something, I've offered to hold the item across the room to make it easier on him. Like any self-respecting fifty-four-year-old, he loves this. ;^) I, on the other hand, am nearsighted (meaning I need glasses in order to see far), so when I take off my glasses, I can see every little detail of my son's face with microscopic clarity. And his eyes were still red. (Earlier this morning, my son's dad had laughed when I asked if the capillaries in the kiddo's eyes were still inflamed, but that's how I see them.)

I mentioned to my son's dad that we should probably take the kiddo to the local urgent care center to have them look at his eyes and possibly prescribe an antibiotic. My son's dad told the kiddo we were going "because *Mommy* thinks we should go." (Whatever. I gave up long ago on hoping for even a hint of a united front.) When we got to the urgent care center, the place was packed, and my son's dad started talking about how he didn't want to wait in the room for two hours while the kiddo was exposed to "all the germs in the waiting room." I said I thought we should stay, so we could get the kiddo's eyes checked and start making them better, and I got The Stare in return. I mentioned the strep weekend, and he misunderstood and said he didn't think the kiddo had strep. (So, yes, I explained what I meant.) He was paying, and it was "his" weekend, so I felt like I had less control than I should have had, and I was very frustrated.

Finally I asked him to please bring the kiddo back in the morning if his eyes were still red, and although he said he would do so, I have a feeling he'll ignore or just "not see" any symptoms. I left the waiting room feeling very upset and frustrated, and wondering if I was doing the right thing. I had to get out of there before I started saying things I might regret, but I did tell my son's dad I was super-annoyed by the whole situation, which confused my son and had no visible effect on my son's dad. He's like a stone wall a lot of the time.

Anyway, I'm going to see what happens tomorrow (Sunday), but my gut feeling is that my son's dad will do nothing about the situation, and on Monday I'll be taking a kid with a full-blown case of pinkeye to the doctor, and the kid will miss school for a day or two. I may just ask my son's dad to bring the kiddo to the pediatrician's office on Monday. If the kiddo's eyes are better by then, I'll just take him to school from there, and if they're not better, we'll at least be at the doctor's office already.

I realize I may sound like I'm making more of this than I need to. For me, the whole thing rides on my history with my son's dad, and the way he has always behaved with me, even before the kiddo was born. I have always felt that I have a lot of practical knowledge when it comes to childcare, having been the oldest in my family and thus having seen and practiced a lot of conscientious childcare in my own family, as well as in the numerous families for whom I babysat. My son's dad's approach is alternately "suck it up" or "try every trendy New Age herb at the healthfood store." We are so not on the same page, and it's frustrating. I do realize that there's a place for the "suck it up" approach, and I do practice that with the kiddo in regard to daily bumps and bruises (he gets a band-aid [if necessary], a hug and "go back and play now"). When it comes to more serious stuff that requires antibiotics, I want to be on top of it. Part of me wonders if I should have insisted that we stay at the urgent care today; it would've been hard, because the kiddo didn't want to to be there, so I would've had two oppositional people to deal with. Maybe I should insist on taking him there tomorrow. That gets tricky, though, because technically that's my son's dad's time and I can't just go over there and take the kiddo someplace.

I hate this two-household thing so much I cry over it a lot. I also realize that pinkeye isn't the end of the world, and at the very least, I'll have the kiddo back on Monday so I can handle the situation as I think it should be handled. And I know that the kiddo is getting older and easier to take care of (in the sense that he's getting better at recognizing and reporting his own symptoms when he's sick, instead of my having to play detective), so that's reassuring. I just wish I didn't have to deal with his dad and all that entails, because it's so very hard to be in disagreement so much of the time, and not always have the ability to take matters into my own hands.

This is very hard to explain, but maybe other separated or divorced moms will understand it best. Maybe tomorrow will be better. I'm so tired right now.