I woke up one morning not too long ago to my youngest son singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ in his room.
Quintin just turned four-years old, and there he was, laying in his bed, barely awake with the blankets bunched up in his little arms, staring at the wall, and whispering the words to himself.
That was the first time I have heard him sing. Now I see him mouthing the words to songs all the time.
And there he was earlier tonight, dancing in the living room and trying to sing along to ‘Old MacDonald’.
Quintin can also count to thirty in both English and French. Sometimes he’ll start in one language and finish in the other. I’m sure other kids can do this but, to me anyway, it’s still remarkable.
Quintin just turned four… but we’re still trying to get to know each other.
I was sick and unable to look after him for almost a full year of his life. That’s the problem. My recovery from the ‘severe uremic neuropathy’ (SUN) and the kidney transplant meant I missed a full calendar year of his life. And you just can’t do that without consequences. Especially the year when your baby is turning into a toddler.
Everything seemed to change during that year. Before my time in the hospital we had been together every day of his life. From the time he was 8-months old I changed every diaper, I fed him every meal, I taught him to stand, I taught him to walk.
While I was in the hospital, my parents became Quintin’s primary caregivers (when my wife and I separated in 2015, I got full custody of Baby Quintin and Little Victor. My wife had twice-weekly visits supervised by the Children’s Aid Society).
But the hospital was 70km from my home, which made it very difficult for my mother to bring him for visits. In fact she only brought him twice during the four months I was recuperating from the SUN… the first one I couldn’t get out of bed, and the second one I was in a wheelchair — during that visit he didn’t seem to recognize me at all.
Whether that was because his Daddy was in a wheelchair, or because of the time spent apart, I don’t know. All I know is it took me holding a bottle with chocolate milk in it for him to get close to me.
When I went into the hospital in April of 2016, he was only 20-months old. When I got out, he was about to turn two, but I was on dialysis and too weak from the neuropathy to be able to look after him. Between January and May, 2016, I had lost 80lbs, then I had spent three months in a wheelchair, and told I’d never walk again. In August, when I was discharged from the hospital, I was using canes to get around. I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t care for him properly. So he continued to stay with my parents.
I would visit with him daily, but between a new medication being slow to take effect, and the symptoms of the kidney failure, and then that thing and the other thing… I fell into a depression. And the once daily visits became twice a week, then once a week, and then it was January, 2017, and time for my kidney transplant.
And that meant another month in hospital and a recovery centre, and another month without access to my baby. When I finally got home, I was not allowed to lift anything heavier than a bag of sugar… for four months. That meant another four months of not being able to live with Quintin.
I was also on high doses of Prednisone, and that was screwing with my head. And that led to more prolonged, and deeper depressions. And further isolation from Quintin. From February 2017, until June we were together only 2-4 hours a week.
In August my wife and I finally went to mediation to sort out custody of the kids. The CAS felt she was… better, and capable of looking after her children. So after a day of back-and-forth negotiations, it was decided, with some drama, that we would share custody of Little Victor and Baby Quintin.
Starting at the end of that week.
I was terrified. Quintin was weeks away from his third birthday, and I hadn’t been around him as a full time father since he was 20-months old.
The second night was the hardest. After reading to him, I would sit next to him while he fell to sleep. On the first night he fell asleep right away. On the second night he cried for his mom every time I left the room.
That was hard for a lot of reasons.
Raising two young children was never meant to be easy. But most of the last year has been hard for a lot of reasons…
He still takes off on me when we’re out together… which has me worried enough that we rarely go anywhere alone. He listens to my parents before he’ll listen to me, which I find hard. He listens to his mom before me as well, which I find harder.
But I love him, and I think he loves being with me, and we’re getting better.
Some things about Quintin:
Quintin was born the day we buried my grandfather.
Quintin was born prematurely… he and I spent his first night in the NICU together.
Quintin’s favourite movie is ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’.
His favourite TV show is ‘Peppa Pig’.
His favourite food group is Pringle’s Chips.
He’ll only eat stuff that comes out of a can for dinner.
His favourite game is ‘lets hide stuff’… thankfully he’s not very good at it.
Quintin is now in Junior Kindergarten at a French speaking school.
He can count to thirty in French and English.
Quintin rarely stops talking. He’s nothing like Little Victor at that age. Victor was a quiet kid who could play by himself until you forgot he was there. Quintin has a very hard time being alone.
We picked his name while watching Jaws… Capt. Quint: