In Just 16 Minutes

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

4:00am

That’s what the clock read. Is it raining? I should go look out the window to see if it is raining because if it’s not I can turn off the alarm and sleep a little later.

But I can’t get up to go check…tooooooooooo sleeeeeeeppppppppyyyyyy…

“LUCAS!” I heard myself scream. All of a sudden I am out of my bed so quickly that I forgot to get my glasses, running towards the stairs. I don’t know what I heard, but somehow I knew he was in trouble and he responded with a sound. I can tell from his voice he is on the stairs. Is the monitor working?

He started crying loudly.

I picked him up, halfway to the top of the stairs, and held him close to me, whispering soothing words, trying to calm and quiet him down. After a short period of time he was whimpering into my shoulder.

“Let’s go upstairs and check on Dorit,” I whispered to him. I thought I heard her stirring up there and can only imagine how our outbursts have frightened her.

I carried him upstairs, while he wrapped his arms around my neck. When I opened the door, I checked that the green light on the monitor is on (which it is) and I wonder why he didn’t say anything before he started the dangerous trek downstairs in the dark.

I put him down and checked on Dorit, who clearly seemed like she had been jolted awake. But my little girl is extremely good at falling asleep – I could not possibly count how many times she has been woken up by Lucas in the middle of the night and though we’re both a bit out of practice, I am sure she will fall asleep without my help.

Lucas and I sat and talked a little. I asked what happened and he said he heard a noise. That is often the case and my only guess is that he had a dream that woke him up and he was unable to go back to sleep. Instead of crying out loud, he started the journey from his room, through their playroom, to the stairs and down the stairs. If I hadn’t heard him on the stairs he would’ve had to go through the dining room, then through a small hallway leading to our bedroom. We use to keep a childproof device on the doorknob so he couldn’t get out, but have since decided that is no longer safe. It’s just that it doesn’t feel safe without it when he starts that adventure on his own in the dark.

I reminded him he is going to camp tomorrow and he needed a good night’s rest and he smiled. I reminded him he’ll see his teachers and new friends and he smiled some more. He finally seemed ready for sleep and I asked him to get into bed and he did without struggle.

“Tell me about your Happy Thoughts.”

“All the people that love me,” he says.

“That’s a good one…You know I’m one of those people, right? You know I love you, Lucas, don’t you?”

“Yeah”

Then I say my usual goodnight greeting. “SSsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssoooooooooooooooooooooooooo much I love you, Lucas.” In the winter, he had gotten scared by the hissing of the radiator in the middle of the night so I thought maybe I could associate that hissing sound with something positive and it has stuck.

“So much I love you, too, Daddy.”

“Oh good,” I said smiling at him.

I kissed Dorit goodnight, made sure she was okay. I think she was still a bit shaken but seemed ready to fall asleep – if only we would stop talking.

I kissed Lucas one more time and opened the door.

“Daddy?”

Uh oh.

“Yes, Lucas?” I said cautiously.

“Maybe…”

Oh no.

“Maybe tomorrow after scho—Maybe tomorrow after camp…”

Please don’t ask me to pick you up Lucas. I can’t. I have to go to work.

“Maybe…”

Please, please don’t ask.

“Maybe we could call you?” he said finally.

“Absolutely! I would LOVE that. Let’s remember to tell Mommy in the morning okay?” I said with relief dripping from every word.

“Good night! I love you” and I closed the door and walked downstairs.

When I returned to my bed, finally, my heart still racing, thumping in my chest from the adrenaline rush of his first, almost unheard, cry. I looked at the clock and couldn’t believe what I saw.

4:16am

 

Best Part Of My Life, Daddy

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

On Sunday we went to the mall with my Okapis. While Lucas, my 3-year old son, got a haircut with Mommy and Abuelita, I got Dorit, his twin sister, all to myself. And it was lovely. One of the biggest frustrations I have during the week is not only do I not get enough time with my Okapis, I don’t get good time with my Okapis. I get the worst time of the day with them, the time when they are their most tired and that is the most structured. They need to eat. They need to take their vitamins. They need to change into PJs. They need to get nebbied. They need to brush their teeth. They need to go to bed. They need to do it within 1.5 hours of me coming home. I just don’t understand why it doesn’t become a lovefest every single night.

I also almost never get time alone with either of them. We keep meaning to change that, but keep running into challenges. Of course, the time I had with Dorit was lovely; we even got a chance to look at some clothes for her. She is ridiculously smart, very observant and does wonderful things with her tone of voice – not only does she pick up new vocabulary very well, she is astute enough to mimic the tone, as well, appropriately. I don’t get to see that side of her enough at home, but at the mall with all of that stimulation and the fact that she has been there more than I have because she goes with my wife – especially when it is cold or wet – it really comes out. I was having a great time when Lucas, my wife and her mother met up with us.

Then it was as if I had disappeared.

Before I knew it I was standing alone, and the transition from special time with Dorit to being invisible was jarring. I was so taken aback by the shift from being The Daddy to all of a sudden being what felt like nothing. I get special time with my Okapis – we call it Los Tres Amigos time, but I don’t get one-on-one time and was amazed at how special, how enjoyable it was and then, as I was just getting warmed up, it was gone.

I did recover and even got some nice one-on-one time with Lucas when we went to buy little basketballs to play with in our backyard. Then we quickly grabbed some lunch and afterwards, I was left behind at the table while everyone else started walking to the car. It was that same sensation of no longer being visible. I was carrying the loot we had purchased (my wife calls me “my pack mule”) and trying to catch up, when all of a sudden Lucas dropped back and wanted to hold hands with me. So my wife took the cup I was holding and I held hands with him. Then Dorit fell back so she could hold hands with me and I gave the bags to my mother-in-law. I went from wonderful individual time to a jarring sense of invisibility back to being The Daddy again, holding hands with my beautiful Okapis and loving every minute of it.

“This is the life,” I said to them.

“This is the best part of my life,” Dorit said.

“It’s the best part of my life, too, Sweetie Girl.”

And another weekend sadly came to an end in the Okapi household.

My Two Worlds Colliding

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

I have written quite a bit about how hard leaving my three-year old twins every morning is for me.  To sum up: I hate it. I hate leaving them every morning and feel there is something fundamentally flawed with a society that makes it so difficult for parents to stay home with young children.

Yesterday that difficult experience took a surreal turn. Yesterday, I didn’t leave my children to go to work. Instead, I brought them with me! My wife and I and our children took the train and the subway together to get to where I work. I kept reminding them this is how Daddy goes to work every day and they seemed like they were trying to absorb it all.

I took the opportunity to bring them to work because my wife had a meeting elsewhere in the city. When we got to my stop, we all got off and said goodbye to Mommy. They handled it very smoothly and we started walking out of the subway into the building I work, while she got back on the subway to head to her meeting.

When we got inside they were SO shy. Everyone was excited to meet them (apparently, seeing two bulletin boards of pictures and the hundreds of pictures on my screensaver is just not enough) and this was a bit overwhelming for them. I’ve been working there since before they were born and many of my colleagues have heard quite a bit about my children. Now, they are closing in on 3.5 years and haven’t been to my office in over a year.

After awhile they did get comfortable and behaved very well – even letting me get some work done while they were there. At one point, I stood up from my desk to go talk to a colleague and bumped into my children. For a brief moment I had gotten lost in what I was doing and I was taken aback to find them there. Something about that unnerved me, but I wasn’t quite sure at the time what it was.

I had been wanting to bring them in for some time and I think they really enjoyed it – especially Lucas who has more trouble than Dorit with my leaving. That place, my work, is the cause of so much pain for him, I’m quite surprised he didn’t spit and stomp all over it. Instead, he enjoyed seeing the place that takes me away from them. When we had lunch afterwards he said, “Remember we went to your work?” When my children ask me if I remember something, they usually ask about something that has significance to them – not necessarily a positive experience, but a significant one. When Lucas does it, he tends to be asking about stuff that connects him to his parents. It is possible that seeing my work was another connection to me for him – rather than the cause of pain it has always been.

For me the experience was captured by that moment where I was taken aback to find them there. Work has always been separate from my children and having them there was like the bringing together of two worlds that were meant to always be separate. How many times have I been at work, looking at their pictures, wondering why I do this every single day? How many times have I gotten a phone call from Gem and wanted to leave work right then? How many times have I walked out the door, still hearing their screams in my head? How many times have I heard my children ask me, “You have to go to work?” and wishing I could say no, but having to say yes. I have carefully built a firewall between these two lives of mine, my two worlds. Work is the place I go everyday, where I am without them, where I try to simultaneously keep my connection to them, but not think too much about them so I can get through the day. It has been a balancing act.

Today, when I was leaving for the train, Lucas said, “I’m going to miss you, Daddy,” but it didn’t have quite the same pain that saying goodbye has often had in the past. Maybe seeing work, sitting in my chair, playing with stuff on my desk, seeing all of my pictures of them, is helping him with my leaving.

When I walked into work this morning, however, as usual they weren’t with me, but I remember them having been there. Those same images that might help my children deal with my leaving better seem to threaten to ruin my firewall configuration, to blur the line between my two worlds; the world where I want to be, the other where I have to be.

More Than Just A Stroller

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

It seems like such a little thing. The double stroller for my children, 3-year old twins, is sitting in the basement taking up valuable space, but I just don’t know what to do with it. It has been in our family for over three years now and somehow shoving it in the garage doesn’t seem a just ending for this device that has been with us for so long. It used to live in the back of our Outback and was there when we needed it. It has been to Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Florida and even Ecuador with us, not too mention the mall, the park and hundreds of other places.

I can remember shopping for double strollers, still shocked that we were having two babies instead of one. When we registered for items, I went along with my wife, but I deferred to her most of the time; I just got to use the UPC gun which they developed solely to get us fathers involved. But when it came to a stroller, I felt like I wanted a much bigger input into our final purchase and became more actively involved. I remember checking ours out, comparing it to other double strollers, calculating their strengths and weaknesses in order to figure out the best one to buy. I even remember buying this one because I actually had to do it myself since my wife was on bed rest at the time. I don’t know how many times I called her from the Buy Buy Baby in Manhattan worried about whether I was getting the right sheets or diaper genie.

After our kids were born, it was too cold, and they were too small, to take outside for anything except doctor’s appointments. But when the weather warmed a bit, I remember the first time we took them to the park, in their double stroller, all bundled up. Dorit slept the entire time, but Lucas was wide awake and one of the best pictures we have of him is from that day, with an incredible smirk on his face. We knew then he was going to be a pretty good looking child.

I can remember anytime we went somewhere together that I always wanted to push the stroller, partly to give my wife a break, but also because there was something about pushing them that helped me feel like I was doing something important for them, that I was doing something fatherlike. That was a big deal for me because I didn’t feel much like a father in those early days and thought that meant there was something wrong with me.

But the best part of the stroller for me was the incredible sense of pride I felt pushing the stroller – especially when I was by myself with them, while everyone would stop us to admire how cute our little twins were. “Yup, I’m their Daddy.” In the beginning those were some of the best feelings I associated with being a father.

I remember when we moved to the suburbs and put the stroller in the back of our car. We never took it out (even when we needed to like when we went to Costco and had too much stuff). That double stroller sat in the back of our car day in and day out for over a year, always there when we needed it.

I remember, once our children had started walking, that my wife and I would ask each other if we should bring the stroller? Ironically, she often wanted to and I often didn’t. I felt it was cumbersome, a burden. Let’s let our children run free now that they can, I believed. I also felt it was so hard to relate to them because we would be pushing them from behind and couldn’t see their faces or hear them when they talked.

One day, in the past few months, one of us took the stroller out of the back of the car and it never got put back. There is no way to tell the date of when we last used it or even thought we needed our double stroller, but its days are over and it sits in our basement like an old racehorse put out to pasture with nothing to do, no longer able to serve its purpose, to do what it was built to do.

Considering how much I wanted to stop using the stroller, I find myself particularly surprised at my reaction. Shouldn’t I be happy it is no longer an issue? But to me the stroller symbolized my children’s babyhood, a difficult time in my life as a father, yet also a time that will never return. Our children are getting older and older every day, but it is only moments like this when we really notice. For my wife, it is every time they outgrow their adorable clothing. For me, it is no longer needing or even being able to use the double stroller, the first real twin purchase we made, the first real admission that we were getting two instead of one. Now the stroller sits where my wife and I spend our time together after our children have gone to sleep, intruding on our time, reminding me of how it is all moving so fast.

Where does the time go? How can I make it slow down?

Pee and Poop…There, I’ve Said It!

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

While I have written many articles on what it feels like to leave my three year old twins to go to work or the challenges I’ve faced in helping them to sleep on their own during the night, I have been avoiding one particular subject that is a major part of our lives. The main reason I have avoided the subject is that I am so uncomfortable by the whole discussion. I have actually handled helping our twin 3-year olds learn to use the potty better than I thought I would – especially considering the issues and major levels of discomfort I feel, but that doesn’t mean I like talking about it.

In my family, no one ever went to the bathroom. In fact, in my own mind, if people knew that I went to the bathroom (as if they don’t already), they would see me as less of a person, as if going to the bathroom is a weakness, a flaw in my being, as if the whole world doesn’t do it every single day, too. I have worked hard to get comfortable actually going to the bathroom and trying not to care whether other people know or not. But talking about it with other people, well, that’s a whole other issue.

If it wasn’t for my wife, I would probably have made essentially no progress on this issue. Ironically (or maybe, fortunately), I married a sexuality educator and she has no issues about this stuff whatsoever. In fact, she has the opposite of issues in this area, she has strengths and skills that she is (unknowingly) teaching me. Of course, there is also something about changing diapers every day that is like trial by fire – you either get used to dealing with poop and pee or you crack under the pressure running and screaming to the nearest mental institution. In the early days we were always feeding and changing diapers, about every three hours or so (yes, that was about 12-14 diaper changes a day). The only way to stop changing diapers was to stop feeding them and, as you can imagine, we didn’t think that was a good approach to the problem.

Of course, as our children get older I am constantly challenged to grow as well. Once I got used to changing diapers and talking about pee and poop, then we had to talk about what kinds of poops they were. How many times a day is it happening? Then we started with helping our kids understand that we don’t use diapers, we use the…toilet. Ugh, I hate the whole terminology of this. Really. I am cringing as I write this – my fingers are afraid to touch the keyboard since I wrote that word.

The women in our family, their mother, Tia, Nana, and Abuelita, all would let our children into the bathroom with them to help show them how people use a toilet. It took me a long time to be able to do that. Long time like months and months, not weeks. I’ve tried to never let anyone know I actually go to the bathroom, to let someone (really two someones) come with me and watch was so far beyond my comfort level it made me anxious just thinking about it.

As in all of these situations, what helped me was the idea that my role as father is more important than anything I feel as a person. My children need to see their father go to the bathroom, too, that both men and women use the bathroom and that men use it differently than women. Who else is going to show that to my son if not me? I have to rise to that challenge even if it makes me terribly uncomfortable, because it is not about me, it is about them.

Interestingly, despite our best efforts, our children had refused to participate in toilet education. They didn’t really mind diapers (though they hated having them changed – if it was up to them, they would just wear them all day regardless of whether they were wet or dry, empty or full), they didn’t care about how they looked in them, they didn’t have much interest in being like us. We tried so many different techniques, including flat-out bribery and nothing was working. Finally, on the same day, but separately, my wife and I concocted a new plan (in case you haven’t noticed, parenting is so much about problem solving – one of the things I actually like about it). We were going to let Lucas off the hook since he often doesn’t respond well to pressure and focused on Dorit since she does and she likes the limelight, likes challenges and rewards. This approach worked and once Dorit got it, Lucas came along shortly thereafter.

Of course, with Dorit using the potty, I find myself sitting next to my little girl while she is peeing and/or pooping, encouraging her, congratulating her, helping her to clean herself, and even cleaning out the potty (more cringing) after she is done. How did this happen? What have I become?

I have become a man who understands that to be the kind of father I want to be, I need to be more than I am, I need to be what they need me to be. It is even more important because I don’t want them to carry my issues about this subject. I don’t want them cringing or uncomfortable about something that they will do several times a day. My children need their father to help show them how to use the toilet, they need both of their parents to show that using the bathroom, talking about pee and poop and toilet are okay, they are just words like any other.

What’s amazing is the more I say them, the more that becomes true.

Making Note of My Parental Power

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

Our parental power is not something that comes up in casual conversation when we’re complaining about how out of control our children have become. In contrast, many parents talk about how powerless they feel. But regardless of what we feel, we parents have tremendous power.

Parental power is another way of thinking about the influence we have over our children. Our children – especially our toddlers and early school-age children – see us as the model for being a man or woman, for being human. What we think, what we say, how we treat them defines how they think of themselves, how they view other people, and the health of their relationships. They strive for our attention, our acknowledgment, our love. We have an enormous impact on their lives, which for many of us can be rather frightening. Mostly we think of it negatively – what if we screw up? But our parental power can also be used for good, for helping our children get through challenging times.

The power I have as a parent became very clear recently in dealing with my three year-old son who has had enormous difficulty falling asleep (without screaming, crying and banging on the door) and sleeping through the night. My wife and I have tried literally hundreds of things to help our children, especially Lucas, sleep through the night. I joke that we are currently working on Plan R because Plans A through Q didn’t work out so well – and that’s only from when we started counting. The only one that had any real lasting effect on my children was the concept of happy thoughts. However, in the past couple of weeks something else has had a powerful impact on whether my children sleep through the night. It is my leaving them a note.

I have the pleasure (and sometimes the frustration) of putting my children to bed every night. I have often believed that one of the reasons my son has had such a difficult time with going to sleep is separation anxiety. He doesn’t get to see me much during the day because I have to work and then I put him to bed at night, leaving him in the dark. Even worse, when he would have trouble sleeping, he would often wake up early to find me still at home, but when he slept well, I was already on the train, gone. I never would get a chance to tell him how great he did when he slept well.

One morning, after Lucas had a very good night going to sleep and didn’t wake up upset during the night, I had the idea of leaving a note. I found some construction paper and some fabric markers and wrote him a note – including a stick figure (I am a terrible drawer – I can’t even call myself an artist). Later that day, my wife told me he loved it – especially the terrible stick figure drawing. The incentive of the note encouraged Lucas to go to sleep and sleep through the whole night without any problems for 10 straight nights and challenged me to keep coming up with new ways to say he slept through the night and new drawings for him to look at. Nothing else I have ever tried has worked that well (including bribery efforts).

Even more interesting, the nights where I have forgotten to remind him about the note, he has had trouble sleeping, getting upset and banging on the door. But when I remembered to remind him about the possibility of a note if he fell asleep and slept well, he gave us not even a single peep. One morning he even woke up with a jolt saying, “I want my note. I get a note!” How incredible that something I write with fabric marker on construction paper with stick figures could hold such influence, such power for my child. It is terrifying and mind-boggling all at the same time. I think many of us forget how much power we have because it is difficult for us to comprehend. I think underestimating our power leads us to not giving our children enough positive reinforcement.

I know this experience with leaving notes has made me rethink a lot of what I do and say to my children. Maybe I don’t need to reward them as much with material things as much as showing my love, my pride in what they have done and who they are. They mean the world to me and I think the world of them. They shouldn’t have to guess that – they should always know and feel it.

Now they have one more thing every morning they can look at that reminds them of how I feel – even when I am not around.

All About I Love You

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

Because I pretty much never heard the words myself or even really felt loved growing up, I’ve been telling my boy/girl twins I love them since they were born a little more than 2.5 years ago. In the beginning, I felt kind of silly and uncomfortable; fortunately they couldn’t understand what I was saying anyway. But by the time that they could understand, I was so comfortable telling them and felt it so strongly that it felt natural to me. Thank goodness I started practicing early. What I didn’t realize was that by showing them love from early on, I was also teaching them how to love, creating a loving family I never experienced.

Saying “I love you” is not enough – especially for children. They need to feel it completely. Both my wife and I are very affectionate people – with each other and, of course, with our children. Our children get so many hugs and kisses from us everyday it would be hard to keep count. There’s the Morning hug and kiss when they wake up in the morning and after nap. I give them a hug & kiss if they are awake when I leave in the morning and again when I come home from work. When I take them upstairs to bed, they have their Special Mommy Hug. When I tuck them in to bed I give them a Special Daddy Hug and kiss goodnight.

Even beyond the hugs and kisses, we are always touching each other affectionately, always expressing love through our words, our compliments, and our joy of spending time together. I will always worry about whether my children feel loved because of what I went through, but I feel as certain as I am able that they understand that we love them completely and unconditionally.

I don’t actually believe they know what “I love you” means, yet. But they know it means something special and important between me and each of them. I know this from the way Dorit, my daughter first told me she loved me.

Somewhere she had learned about secrets and one night we were out having dinner and she turned to me and said, “Daddy, I have a secret for you.”

I looked at my wife. I had never even heard her use those words. My wife raised her eyebrows and shoulders slightly.

I leaned close to my little girl with my ear to her face.

She leaned right up to my ear so when she talked I could feel her breath and whispered each word as if it was a separate sentence, “I…love…you.”

When I lifted my head up I had tears in my eyes and I looked at my beautiful little girl and she met my stare. I smiled at her and told her the exact same thing. Did she know what she was saying? I wonder, but I do believe she knew she was saying something important to me, something of substance.

Very quickly this became Dorit’s and my way of telling each other we loved each other. When I put her into bed at night, I say,

“I have a secret for you,” with a smile.

She turns one ear to me and I say, “You’re my sweetie girl,” and she turns her other ear to me so I can say “And I love you.”

When I pull my head back and look at her face she is always smiling at me. Then she tells me,

“I have a secret for you,” and I lean my ear to her mouth.

“I…love…you,” she whispers in the exact same tone, making each individual word carry its own weight.

Ironically, the first time Lucas said “I love you” to me, I almost missed it. I was putting him to bed one night, like every other night, and I told him that I loved him and gave him a kiss. As I got up to turn off the light, he lifted his head up from the bed and said, “I love you, too, Dad,” and put his head back down as if he hadn’t really said anything at all. I didn’t even catch it until I had turned the light off.

The next night, as I was tucking him into bed, I told him I loved him as usual and he again responded by saying, “I love you, too.” But this time I was ready and I gave him a big smile and another kiss on the cheek. My boy has such an angelic face that it can literally make me cry or break my heart. He smiled back at me and closed his eyes.

But in the same way that my wife and I don’t only tell them we love them with those words, my children show their love in other ways as well. It is the utter joy and excitement they display when we share my cereal together in the morning before I have to leave for work. It is the way Dorit caresses my face or mimics rubbing my back. It is the way Lucas looks at me with his beautiful brown eyes. Or the way he reaches out to hold my hand and skips alongside of me when we’re walking somewhere. It is the way they share with each other. It is the way Lucas asks Dorit if she wants some of the food he is eating. It is the way Dorit reminds him of his happy thought when he gets scared at night to help him fall back to sleep.

Everything I have done, everything my wife has done, the way we treat each other, ourselves and our children has been watched by them, observed by them, absorbed by them. When they watch love, they learn love and they share love. This only makes our family more filled with love and only increases the gulf between my family now and what I experienced growing up.

CNN Interviews Jeremy for a Father’s Day Special

Renay San Miguel of CNN interviewed Jeremy for a Father’s Day special on technology and parenting. Renay asked Jeremy about his online column and working with parents not only in person, but virtually as well.

To hear the interview in its entirety, please click on the screenshot below.

No Patch, She Said

By Jeremy Schneider, MFT

Yesterday while I was getting ready to put the eye patch on my 20 month old daughter, Dorit, she looked right at me, shook her head and said, “No patch.” I wanted to congratulate her on putting that sentence together to express herself, but all I felt was my heart breaking at what I was doing to her. If someone else made her feel this way, I would kill them with my bare hands. But the culprit is me and somehow that’s supposed to make it okay.

When my wife and I hopped into the cab on the Friday night marking 30 weeks of her pregnancy, we never believed she’d give birth to our twins almost 2.5 months early. To make matters worse, at the end of their one month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), we found out that there was a problem with their eyes.

Premature babies can often get something called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), which causes blindness in 2,000 babies a year.  ROP occurs when a premature birth can end up leading to retina detachment and blindness.  So every Tuesday morning during the bitter winter cold we would once again hop in a cab, this time to visit the retinologist. There are master torturers who could learn a few tricks from this guy. We held our children tightly so they couldn’t move and whispered soothing words while he put drops in their eyes and examined their retinas. I sometimes wondered if people from Child Welfare were going to bust in over the sound of their screaming. Hanging in the balance of this awful weekly adventure was whether they were going blind or not. That is the only reason we got through it each week; otherwise we wouldn’t have survived their painful cries. Sometimes with tear drops on our cheeks and tiny four pound screaming babies in our arms unable to give each other a hug, my wife and I would look at each other trying to provide at least some comfort through our own good eyes.

At one of these dreaded visits the doctor turned to us and said matter of factly, “Lucas is doing well and I don’t need to see him for a couple of weeks. But I think we should schedule Dorit for surgery next week. The sooner the better.”

One of the cruelest things to do to parents of preemies is to tell them their child will have to return to the NICU.  On the morning of the surgery when we walked into the NICU, the memories of that place – visiting our children there and going home without them everyday for a month – made us want to grab our little girl and make a break for it. Despite delays that made us wait hours for something we had hoped would never happen and a last minute decision to operate on her supposed “good” eye, the doctor reported success.

For about one-year we have gone back to the doctor for check-ups. A few months ago, however, the doctor said her brain was beginning to ignore what her right eye was telling it because that eye never developed as strong as it needed to be. If her brain continued to ignore her right eye, it will atrophy and she will be blind in that eye. The solution; she has to wear a patch every day for one hour.

At first I had visions of my little girl looking like Captain Hook, but the doctor explained that the patch is really a large band aid that covers her left, stronger, eye so her right eye is forced to build its strength and her brain is forced to pay attention to the signals it sends.

Dorit, to put it mildly, is independent. She is already her own person and knows what she wants. We were pretty certain she wouldn’t want the patch. We didn’t realize it would be the worst hour of every day, the one we would dread the most and that would last the longest. It is rather a common occurrence to go through two or three patches an hour because she rips them off, when we least expect it. In fact, she has worn, and ripped off, so many patches that you can see skin over her eye in places where she used to have hair.

We have tried so many different things to help her (and us) get through this. We distract her in as many ways as we possibly can. We save the patch hour for our big activity of the day so she is most distracted. I even talked with her every time I put it on, explaining to her how important this was and why we were doing it. We applauded and yelled “Bravo!” when she lasted the full hour and gave her as much encouragement as we could muster after the exhausting 60 minutes. It doesn’t matter. She still fights it and has gotten very good at ripping it off in one quick move. She has really learned and adapted quicker than we can keep ahead of her. Sometimes even when I’m holding her and I turn my head for two seconds while holding one of her hands against my body, she still yanks it off. We get so frustrated and angry because we don’t want to do this in the first place! We hate it. We would much rather enjoy the time with her.

Yesterday, however, was something completely new. She learned the word, “patch,” within the first week or so. I can remember feeling pride that she could learn that word and anger that she would even know what the word means. Other kids don’t know what the heck patch is, because they don’t have to wear one! For the past few weeks, she has begun to fight us when it is time to put the patch on, challenging us to find the balance between forcing her to wear it and gentle persuasion. But when she looked right at me and said, “No patch” I really wanted to pull her close to me, tell her how much I love her and promise never again, never again would she have to wear a patch. Instead, I pulled her close to me, told her I loved her and put her patch on against her will.