Today was the first day in several weeks that Ethan did not spend the majority of the morning crying. I finally figured out a method that works:
1. Let him sleep until at least 11:00 AM.
2. Once you are cruel enough to try to wake him up, let him wake up slowly. Give him at least a half hour before bothering him again.
3. Put on loud, upbeat music. This morning's selection included The Bee Gees' Greatest Hits, The Muppet Movie Soundtrack, and Yanni: Live at the Acropolis.
(3b. For well-balanced household peace, let CG dance around the living room to the Bee Gees. Trust me.)
4. Don't make him eat.
5. Since you must make him take his medicine with food, give only 2 or 3 bites at a time, with breaks of at least 10 minutes before the next bites.
6. Let him sleep. As long as he wants. Even until 4:30 in the afternoon.
7. Lather. Rinse. And Repeat.
Needless to say, this worked today. On a weekend. When I had nowhere to be. But I can't do this Monday through Friday. I have to go to work sometime. It's bad enough that I'm paying our babysitter more than half of my week's pay while I stay home half the week. Somewhere in there, my math brain screams at me. Where is the logic?
But honestly, I would pay any price to keep Ethan happy as long as possible.
After he was first born, the flurry of doctors' appointments and worry kept my mind from drifting too far. But a few months later, I got depressed often thinking about the boy he could have been. The boy he should have been, if only bad decisions weren't made. What would he have been doing at 6 months? A year? Two years? The image of a "normal" Ethan was always in the back of my mind. I missed that hypothetical boy and felt as if a part of him, and me, had died.
Now, we've accepted who Ethan is and who he will never be. And instead, I find myself missing the Ethan he actually is, or was, before the surgery. He hasn't been himself since March 23rd. We see glimpses of the old him from time to time. Especially in the middle of the night, at 2 in the morning when he thinks it is mid-afternoon. He will talk and laugh and entertain himself like he used to. But the rest of the day he is tired, and cranky and annoyed. Just not happy.
Yesterday, representatives from the school system came to evaluate him. Of course, he was having one of his worst mornings in a while (I could have put money on that) and was sleeping when they arrived. They conducted the evaluation mainly through questions to me. Can he do this? No. Can he do that? No.
They asked a lot of questions about things he did before the surgery and cast. And I found myself having a hard time remembering. Things came back to me slowly. I forgot how he used to sit in his chair and bang his toys hard on the tray. And startle himself, but then laugh out loud at the noise. And how he used to wrestle himself for a toy - holding it in his teeth and then pulling with all of his might until either his hand or mouth won out. I tried to give them a picture of how he used to be - with the warning that I'm not sure he will be like that in the future.
On the ride to work, I was hit by a wave of sadness. Will he ever really recouperate? Will he ever be that happy boy he was only a month and a half ago? He is so different now that I had already forgotten. Before, he was happy from the moment he woke up until the moment he went to bed. He put up with so much and just kept on going with a smile on his face.
I worry that we broke his spirit with this surgery. Will he ever forgive us for putting him through all this pain? He seems so insecure now; he gets upset before you even touch him. He has come to expect the world to be a place where someone is always hurting him.
I know it is still very raw. Major surgery takes time to heal; it has only been 5 weeks. I just hope that as time goes on, he will be more and more like the old Ethan. Once the cast comes off, and he can sit again, and play on a tray, and go outside for walks, he will perk up. He will start to trust the world again.
In the meantime, I'll keep drying his tears and trying to soothe him as best I can. It breaks my heart, but at least I know at 2 AM, I can get up and see the old Ethan for a little while. And remember the boy he was. And will be again someday.