Remember when they came storming in?

The day the first one came storming in.  January 13, 1998

The day the first one came storming in.  January 13, 1998

Mother’s Day means flowers, precious homemade cards, and feigning surprise with a sugar-filled breakfast in bed.   On especially good years, you might get a coupon for a spa day.  On the lean years, you’d be lucky to get a hurried coupon with a promise that your child will (attempt to) make your bed for a week.  My Mom regularly got the latter, along with a second coupon favored among eldest children that promised no fighting with their brother and sister for an unreasonably short amount of time. Although today, the value of those coupons would be reversed.   I imagine my Mom would pass on the best spa in the world to have me show up at her house every morning to make her bed.  No, I don’t imagine.  I know. 

So far this weekend, all indications were pointing to it being a lean year.   One of my kids is 7,000 miles away, the second kid is a country away at a basketball tournament, and my “baby” is sick.  There are no cinnamon rolls hiding in the pantry.  The school-made Mother’s Day Cards were eagerly presented, via the rear view mirror on the car ride home from school, days ago.  I’m nursing an eye infection, so even if brunch or posed photos with Mom were in the cards, I’d probably make up some lame excuse for staying home sans camera.

Except, as it turns out, it’s been a banner Mother’s Day Weekend. 

My baby is running a fever.   As I lay with him in bed last night desperately waiting for him to wake up so I could pump his body with more Tylenol, I ran through the gamut of possible causes.   As is the mind of a Mother of a 3am, that list got more and more troublesome with each rise in his body temperature.   When did he have that diarrhea? Was it 3 days ago? Why is he breathing like that?  It doesn’t sound right.  Maybe it was the plant he touched on the hike that caused him to break out??  I told him to stop whining about it. I’m a terrible Mother. His temperature is over 103.  He can’t breathe. I should wake him …  Do I really have 15 years of experience at this job?

(And that’s just the cliff notes version.  The unedited version has things like “waiting for the shoe to drop” and “what if this thermometer is broken and his temp is really 105?”)

However, we all know you aren’t supposed to wake a sick child who has managed to fall asleep.   Add in WWMHD (What Would My Husband Do?), so I didn’t.  Instead I looked into his rosy face and willed not to take his temperature for at least fifteen minutes.  It was then, when I stopped fixating on the one thing that I could control (the next dosage of medicine), that I was able to see that his breathing wasn’t labored.  It was the deep breathing of a feverish child.  That realization then led into a reminiscing about my tortured relationship with my family’s medical histories.  I allowed history to remind me that for all the hours I’ve spent in agony over my children’s well-being, the net result has been three healthy children.  And only one of them appears to have followed in my alarmist footsteps.   

It’s 4am, and I have a child with a fever, not malaria.  Happy Mother’s Day. 

But the gift did not stop there.  As I lay there basking in my return to level-headed thinking, my thoughts turned outward.  To the Moms I know with kids who are really sick, to Moms who are fighting their own battle with cancer, to Moms who can’t ask WWMHD, to Moms who are waiting for kids, for kids who are waiting for parents.  The list was long.  It’s 4am, and there are people who need my redirected alarmist energy.  Happy Mother’s Day.  And with that, my son’s fever broke.

The party continues today in a quiet house with just me and the feverish baby, who has reminded me more than once, that he’s a big boy.  A big boy whose fever has given me a coupon to cuddle as much as I want today and who’s well enough to pepper me with questions that would warm any Mother’s heart: “What are belly buttons for?”  “Do braces hurt?”  “What was the Pantheon again?” Followed by ones that can only be asked in the space of time and a quiet house: “Who built people?” “Why is cooking interesting to you?” “Why did you think I was going to be a girl?” “Was I a good baby?  Which leads to looking at old pictures and being reminded again that your baby is growing in vocabulary.  “Was I mischievous?”

The baby who's not a baby anymore

The baby who's not a baby anymore

And growing in other more important ways too.  “You know how on the hike yesterday how I waited to ask you that question … it’s because you don’t focus when you’re on your phone.  You say yes, but then when I ask again, you say no.  You normally don’t get it right when you’re not focusing.”

No, I don’t get it right when I’m not focusing.  Or hyperfocusing.  And then he asks, “Do you remember when there was nothing in this apartment and we stormed in?”   Yes, I tell him, I do remember that.  Stormed in.  That’s what kids do.  They storm in to our lives and fill it with so many wonderful things, along with the things we need to learn and hear.

So here’s to wishing you a Mother’s Day of coupons filled with weeks of unloaded dishwashers, made beds, and promises to walk the dog.  And if you’re smart, you’ll file a couple and save them for later – when you need a little more life storming through your door.

(Footnote: The big boy is currently asleep on a chair, with a luke-warm cup of tea  and uneaten piece of toast beside him.  He is certain he cannot eat anything due to his very sore throat, and I am *pretty* certain that he won't starve to death.  Please check back later.)