As soon as you become a parent, you learn that there exists an ever-growing, long, long list of verbal (and non-verbal) utterances that can strike terror into any parent's heart. You learn this early on, the very first time your baby wakes you in the night with an unusual-sounding cry, or later, when your toddler is on the rampage and a long, long silence is punctuated by a high-pitched, sing-songy "uh-oh". You might find the ever-challenging, always exciting road of parenting peppered with sentences you never thought you'd hear, things like "but I thought it would flush," or this favorite of mine uttered by L. after a wobbly two-year old T. trotted out of a room one sunny day, "Mama, there's something brown on the chair."
But I think one of the all-time most chilling, cast-dread-in-your-heart sentences a parent can hear is the one I awoke to at 1:00 a.m on Tuesday night, when I found T. standing desperately by my bedside:
"Mama, I throwed up."
The very first time L. got sick he was only five months old, and while at that point I had been a mom for almost five whole months, I don't think I felt like a true parent until I had seen him through it; until I had called the pediatrician a half dozen times to check up on this and that, or sat up rocking him, worried that something unspeakably awful would take my new baby, and my new-found sense of motherhood, away from me in the night. And even when the rotavirus claimed me as a victim two days later, I felt oddly triumphant that I had weathered it all--forget about night wakings and breast feeding battles, I had taken care of a SICK CHILD--the first real trial by fire as a parent.
Of course then I couldn't know that one day, far into the future, I'd be sitting in a hospital room with my six-month old daughter, negotiating a nightmarish tangle of IV lines as I tried to rock her, to take away her pain, press her close to my heart, make it all better.
Kids get sick. Grownups get sick, too. But I think when my kids get truly and wretchedly sick in the small hours of the night I most keenly feel just how vulnerable they are--their little bodies turned in on themselves, their faces flushed, their hearts racing. And it's in the wee hours of the night, when I'm holding heads over the toilet bowl, and wrapping soaked and shivery bodies into clean, soft-smelling jammies again that I feel the most confident and assured of my motherhood: of myself as a soft and comfortable haven for my children, the fixer-of-ills, the supplier of ginger ale and saltines, the cool hand on a hot forehead, the steady voice, the light in the dark, the way home.
I may or may not be back tomorrow with a post--I have found that spending my day doing loads and loads of catch-up laundry, while tending to a sick child and another very NOT sick child tends to sap me of my creative juices.
L.'s family birthday party is on Saturday, so please keep your fingers crossed that we'll all be in good health by then! If I don't see you on Friday...
Happy 4th and Happy Weekend!