Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 70

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There’s an axiom that the best sound is of someone else’s kid crying. I’ll expand that to include the relative joy I get from seeing misbehaved kids and frustrated parents that are not my kids and are not me. After being told yesterday that my son was well-behaved, our hot streak continued. Last night Shawni, trying to set my daughter up with a friend, approached a little girl and asked how old she was. The little girl scowled. She proceeded to have a conversation with this little girl about when her birthday party was and what she was going to do for it and the little girl became meaner and meaner. My little girl is shy, but she’s not mean to adults, so we won that round. We didn’t learn that the little girl was recently adopted and moved to a new country until a short while later, so we had a moment to savor our parental victory.

I had a similar moment. There is a little boy here who sits through every class and every service politely and answers questions with such self-possession, while my boy runs in and out on a loop, asking if he’s allowed to run in and out anymore. But last night, after my little boy had just run out, a group of people got up and started singing and dancing in a circle- yes, Jews still behave like they did in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. The father of this Good Boy was the first one up to sing and dance, and each loop around he motioned for his son to join him. Finally, in a moment only seen by me and his son, the father said, “Can’t you do one thing for your father?” It was classic bad parenting– giving your kid that much control– a rookie mistake I’ve made a thousand times. But what it showed me was that things aren’t always as they seem– I gave the Good Boy more credit than I give my own son because I don’t live with the Good Boy. My son, by the way, is a good boy, and has been a star on this trip (I’m about to take him to a bonfire where he will announce ‘I’m bored’ yet scream when I take him home, so I want to get it down that he’s a good boy before that happens).

UPDATE: Just got back from the campfire where the Good Boy broke out his guitar and started playing along with the professional musician who was leading the sing along. I don’t know who I resented more: the Good Boy or his father who was beaming with pride and clapping and singing along much more strongly I guarantee than if his kid was sleeping on his legs like mine was. “Caleb, do you want to learn to play guitar?” “No.” “Why not? Don’t you want to be able to play guitar like that boy?” “No.” “Okay, we’re going to start lessons when you get back.” “I don’t want to.” “Can’t you do one thing for your father?”

I don’t know why I can’t stop, but I just can’t. I know my kids will thank me later if they’re still talking to me. The big (non) event today is that Shawni pointed out that Sasha has what appears to be a swollen lymph gland on the back of her neck. Shawni pointed it out to be punitive: I was once again obsessing about Caleb’s front tooth that has yet to come in. The reason this is an issue for me is that Caleb lost that tooth when he was three and it was my fault. It was the first time I watched him alone and Shawni told me not to let him fall asleep with his pacifier in his mouth in Sasha’s bed because he could fall off and hurt himself. What are the chances, I thought. It turns out, 100% and that little alfred E. neuman gap in his smile has tortured me ever since.

Anyway, Shawni said if I wanted to worry about something, I should worry about the little lymph gland on the back of Sasha’s neck, and since of course I want to worry about something, I took her up on it. Like the missing tooth, I blamed myself immediately. Not for the obvious reason: I gave her my chronic cough that I’ve had for two weeks and now she has, but because of the other obvious reason: since my kids were born I have prepared in my mind the worst case scenario for them. I know, it’s awful! But I have pictured bad things happening to them, followed by intense panic attacks on my part. i blame myself for Sasha’s little lymph gland because just this morning I was thinking, what if she were to get really sick. Now, deep down I know there’s no connection with what I dread and picture and what happens– after all, every Wednesday night that I play basketball I picture the young Asian kids struggling to carry my lifeless body off the court, trying to retrieve bits of my exploded heart from the mirrored walls so we don’t lose the deposit on the gym.

I made the mistake of googling swollen neck lymph nodes which is the worst thing for a hypochondriac to do. Needless to say, all roads on the internet lead to bad things. I’m sure she’ll be fine– apparently a chronic cough can be a sign of a cold or flu that would drain into that particular lymph gland, but I’ve yet to find the website that would be able to diagnose her for me and put all doubts out of my head, on-line. In any event, I have pledged to make a large donation to a children’s charity as soon as I get the good news– which is how I wind up giving most of my charity, by the way.

I know every little thing happens for a reason, and maybe the reason for this little bump is just to have me focus on how precious my little girl is and to stop hounding her for every little thing. And while I’m at it, I should probably lay off my little boy, too. There are more important things than playing the guitar (although at this late hour I can’t seem to think of one). I should get some rest and put my mind at ease and not waste so much time preparing for the worst. Besides, we have a hike tomorrow and if we get blown up by an unmarked land mine, we’re going to have bigger things to worry about.


Written by 100daysoff

April 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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