Thursdays are a dreaded day of the week in the Smith household as of 4 weeks ago. Thursday is garbage day. Garbage days used to be exciting adventures where we went outside to wave at the friendly garbage men who would cheerfully honk and wave back, a day when the 123 diapers which had spent time baking in the 97 degree valley heat got carted away, and a day just that much closer to Friday when we would soon have Daddy all to ourselves for 2 whole days. Oh, pre-august Thursdays. Thursday is now a day when many a tear is shed, 2 children are “collapse on the floor in melt-downs literally over spilled milk” over-tired, and Mommy is panicked and painfully aware of only having 2 arms.
Out of the blue my 23 month old son developed an earth shattering, fight or flight response to the sound of the passing garbage trucks. He literally threw down his beloved dirt devil and ran screaming in terror away from the sound as if it was chasing him. “Zachary. You like the trucks. There’s nothing to be scared of. Let’s have lunch and get ready for the glorious 2 hour nap Mommy waited for 15 months for you to take regularly.” And, it begins.
We live on the corner, so from the hours of 11:30 to 3:00, (an entire window of possible toddler nap times) there is no reprieve from the cacophony of truck motors, squealing brakes and electronic arms picking up each of the 3 bins, green, blue and black and throwing the contents with a vengeance into their vehicles. The first week this occurs, we all head into Zachary’s room for wind down time, 11:30 for a 12:00 nap. As I sit down to feed a 7 month old Isabelle, a truck rumbles and clanks by the window. Zachary begins to claw at me and scream “Mommy hold you! Mommy hold you!” Normally I find this backwards usage of the “me-you” pronouns endearing. But while holding a 7 month old, also screaming to be fed, the pleading and begging only serve to remind me of my limitations and raise my anxiety level to match his. So much for mommy being the nurturing and loving rock. I basically now have to decide which child’s needs are less urgent and therefore should be left to scream. Hunger, Fear, Hunger, Fear. I put each of them in their cribs on opposite ends of the house and run back and forth with toggling video monitors trying to get one of them to go to sleep. Every time one is put down, blood curdling screaming ensues. I make it about 5 minutes per kid until I can no longer bare it, and switch to the other. Back and forth for an hour and a half. Finally, Isabelle drifts off to sleep in her bed with little gasps in her breath from crying and I am able to hold Zachary, now completely petrified and exhausted, his breathing also displaying the aftermath of his distress. He sleeps in my arms for the next hour and I allow myself to break down and start to sob myself. How else could I have handled that? What should I have done? Even sound asleep, he trembles as every truck passes and every attempt to put him down, brings him back into hysterics. Blackberry in hand, I desperately write an email to his doctor asking what I am to do about these new developments. His response surprises me as we spent the first year of Zachary’s life being rather chastised by pediatricians and other Mothers for not letting him cry in order to sleep through the night. He had no answer for how to handle the fact that I have another child to tend to, (to be fair, I don’t think there is one) but with a fear such as this, I must go to him immediately and support him through this. He is not all that concerned with naps. I would like to invite him over at around 5 pm on a napless day to see if his level of “concern” rises. So, in summary, infants are supposed to be left alone to scream while the parents sit outside the door counting minutes, but once they become toddlers and said parents no longer have the capability of sitting to eat, let alone to stare at a timer, it is unacceptable. I really must learn who made these rules.
The following week, I attempt to add our sound machine to the one he has used from birth and just for good measure throw in my ipod to join in chorus (or more accurately, create mind numbing confusion)with the dueling white noise. By 11:45, I can barely hear myself think and am feeling awfully clever at the fact that I have surely beaten the trucks. But, alas…garbage truck number one of 258 begins his rounds 15 minutes past schedule. The tambour cuts through all of my strategically placed distractions as if it is a giant transformer unaffected and uncamouflaged by our silly ocean waves, rain storms and magic garden tunes from the 70’s. At the first sign of panic from my son, I pack the kids up, throw them in the car and head to the beach. How hard can it be to take 2 babies to the beach alone?