Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Triumph, Tragedy and Train Tables

To alleviate any inadvertent fear-mongering this post title might engender, I have no serious full-blown tragedy to report. Just the usual highs and an arguably out-of-the-ordinary low, which gets puffed up a bit given my love of alliteration.

So Saturday was the little guy’s second birthday and really it was a lovely day, one which he certainly enjoyed to the fullest. The front half of the day was extremely low-key, with the possible exception of ordering pizza for lunch (ostensibly as part of the overall birthday party vibe because the little guy loves pizza, but let’s be honest here, my wife and I are never too mentally far away from ordering pizza for ourselves at any given moment) and then the birthday boy went down for a nap and my wife and I brought up his train table and wrapped his other presents and set them all up in the play room (which is alternately known as the living room, sitting room, front room or family room but given the arrival of the train table and all the other new birthday toys, play room is edging all the other descriptors out as Most Borne Out In Reality).

On the one hand an enormous burden feels like it’s been lifted from my shoulders as I spent so much time this summer wondering if I would in fact complete the construction of the train table in time for my son’s birthday as I had hoped, and now I’m over the finish line. It didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned. It could probably use a little more structural shoring up, and what did make it into the final product unquestionably has that uneven, homemade-soap charm to it. I also thought I might have decorated it more, painting the legs to look like steel trestles and the outer lip to look like a country stone wall, maybe with a few pieces of model railroad scenery like trees or hills in the corners of the playing surface. But, alas, time was not on my side for such niceties. Still, it’s done, and it’s at least structurally sound enough to support the wooden train playset and not have collapsed after several days of more-or-less non-stop playing. And because it’s underdecorated and generic-looking, it could potentially have a longer useful lifespan; once the little guy outgrowns Thomas the Tank Engine he can still use the table to play with robots or super-heroes or kaiju or whatever, without feeling like every game takes place on a quaint English island. Also I should point out I’m well aware of the fact that I spent a good deal of time agonizing over the aesthetics of something which is (a) at best, a background accessory, and (b) intended for a TWO YEAR OLD. He would not have cared if I had just loosely stacked eight milk crates in a rectangle, as long as he could walk around the whole thing pushing Percy, Annie and Clarabel along the wooden track.

Also while the little guy napped on Saturday, my wife’s folks arrived, and my wife and her father proceeded to assemble a brightly-colored miniature kitchen playset. So the birthday boy woke up to quite a bit of new furniture in his play area, and spent the entire afternoon happily breaking them in and occasionally having his attention diverted from what was already at hand and being convinced to open yet more of his birthday presents, with the last of the wrappings unwrapped just in time for dinner (kabobs – SHOCKER – although once again we managed to make it seem like this was entirely the little guy’s idea) and of course birthday cake and then the inevitable bedtime ritual, with the actual bedding down itself delayed just long enough for my Little Bro to make it to the house and say happy birthday to round out the day.

My wife and I have tried more than a few times to keep the little guy up a little later in hopes that he might sleep in later the next morning, but this has never worked. Something about the birthday, though, caused him to catch more than an hour’s worth of extra zzz’s on Sunday morning, which was nice beyond words. (Unfortunately this is not a sustainable long-term strategy.) We then proceeded to get ready for, and have, a Labor Day cookout which was nearly derailed by lack of propane for the grill but saved at the last moment by an incredibly helpful neighbor offering the use of his tank. (The same neighbor who helped me to shovel out the moving truck on our blizzard move-in day back in December, in fact.)

We had a slightly better turnout than expected, which resulted in even more food (especially desserts) than we could possibly consume, and the weather was perfect, and all in all it might have gone down as the perfect party except for the moment Sunday evening as things were well and truly winding down and the little guy was playing with a collapsible chair, climbing in and out of it, when in mid-climb-in the chair toppled over, dumped him on his shoulder, and collapsed around him. At first I was convinced the combination of fall, sudden stop and being swallowed by a canvas and aluminum beartrap was more than sufficient explanation for the traumatized crying which ensued, but the little guy is pretty resilient and usually bawls for a minute or two before dusting himself off and getting back on his feet. Not so much this time, and in her infinite wisdom my wife impressed upon me that we should really take him to the emergency room, so with apologies to our few remaining guests (including my wife’s brother and his fiancĂ©e) we did just that.

Thus at the age of two years and one day my son had his third occasion to visit a hospital ER – once about a year ago when he spiked a frighteningly high fever overnight with yet another ear infection, once a few months ago when he threw a tantrum at school and held his breath until he passed out, and finally for an arm injury. Three trips in two years – I guess that’s not the worst track record in the world but I have to admit it’s more than I would have expected before having a kid of my own. At any rate, it was challenging keeping the little guy entertained and getting across to him the idea that he shouldn’t move or use or lean/roll over on the arm he had hurt, and the entire process of having him lie on a radiology bed under the ominous-looking cannon of an x-ray camera while Daddy stands at arm’s length wearing the leaden tabard of a black knight and a stranger moves his boo-boo arm into different positions? THAT was trauma-inducing in a way that I can’t help but wonder if it won’t end up one of my son’s truly unfortunate earliest memories. But the good news was that nothing was broken or dislocated so the ER pediatrician gave the little guy a megadose of liquid ibuprofen (which he happily sucked down, teething-veteran and no-dummy that my son happens to be) and sent us all home, once again just in time to get the little guy home for bedtime.

He didn’t sleep in on Monday (probably because the painkillers had worn off and he rolled over or something) but a day off that starts early is still better than a day at work. It was just as well that we had no particular plans on Monday, especially once my and my wife’s respective brothers had set off on their return trips homeward, so the nuclear family could just lay low and keep an eye on the little guy and his pain threshold for the day, while the little guy kept his eye mainly on his train sets. For what it's worth the arm does seem fine and the little guy less bothered by it as time goes by. He also got to finish his birthday cake after dinner on Monday, and really any weekend bookended by homemade chocolate cake with chocolate icing is a net positive no matter what happens in between.

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