Yesterday. Monday morning scramble. Amelia comes downstairs whimpering, “My stomach hurts.”
She is pale and panicked. I grab The Bucket, make her a pallet on the floor, and continue the mad dash to get everyone dressed and fed and backpacked and out the door to school. I make breakfasts. I pack lunches. I fill water bottles. I get a wet cloth for Amelia.
The pallet is moved to the bathroom floor as things become more imminent. The whimpering continues. I rub her tummy. I yell to the older kids to come eat. I ask if everyone has brushed their teeth. “Yes.” I ask again. Owen goes back upstairs.
I realize there are few things in the world I want less than to put a nauseated 4-year-old in the car for the drive to school. I call The Ex and ask if he can swing by and take Avery and Owen to school. He says yes. I say silent thanks for my efforts to play nice with him—in addition to the psychological and emotional benefits to our children, this is my personal pay-off: help when it is most needed.
As a parent, I’m constantly amazed by what I can stomach while caring for my children. I hate the throw-ups. Mine, theirs, anyone’s. I was the kid who freaked out, hands over ears, when any other kid got sick. That part right before? When you know it’s going to happen but everyone is playing that miserable waiting game for the inevitable? The waiting is the worst. That part makes my heart pound and my palms sweat and my gut knot. That’s when I feel panic. Once it begins, I am calm.
The Ex and the older kids are barely out the front door when Amelia finally gives in. I hold her hair. I rub her back. I tell her it will be over soon. I wipe her tears and her mouth. I say, “I know, I know” and “I’m sorry, baby.”
It’s over and I marvel at how well it went. Nothing, even, to clean up. I say another silent thanks that my kids are growing older—that they can tell me when they feel sick and gauge how bad it is. With the exception of those unexpected middle-of-the-night arrivals of illness, they all now make it to the bathroom in time. Even “the baby.” A milestone. A miracle.
Amelia spends the rest of the day in my bed, watching movies while I try work next to her … except for those frequent moments when I am completely overcome by this job of Mothering and must stop, must cuddle and care, must soothe and snuggle. She is needy in the sweetest possible way. She wants me close. She craves my touch. I think, as I often do when my children are sick, that there is a blessing in these times. I hate it when they are ill, for me and for them … but truth be told, there is a small place inside of me that appreciates those moments of focus and clarity.
I never feel more indispensable, more appreciated, more certain of my role, more like a mom, than I do when my children are home sick. I am oddly grateful for those days like yesterday, and just as grateful that they don’t come around very often.
By afternoon, Amelia was 100%, eating twice as much as usual, bouncing around as though the morning had never happened. But it did. And I’m glad I was there with her, being her mama.