Few things are worse than having a sick child. You are left with an utterly helpless feeling because your child thinks you can kiss away boo-boos, dry tears and make him feel better just by holding him. When I first had my own child I finally understood the plain truth in saying to your child (as my parents had said to me so many times), “I would take this pain from you, I would bear this illness if I could.”
My son has caught a virus that gives him fevers at night and a dry cough, which was probably picked up at day camp. He is a slightly muted form of his effervescent self during the day, although his loss of appetite and declarations of, “I’m tired!” after dinner shows that he’s just not himself (I mean, what 6-year-old ever admits to being tired?).
My family has implored me to stay away from my little guy so that I do not get whatever he has. Obviously, surgeons want you to come in as healthy and strong as possible before they perform the taxing procedure to your body. I’ve done my best by only kissing him on the forehead and washing my hands until they are raw.
For the last 6 weeks I have felt useless, guilty and paralyzed as a mother. I am supposed to be his caregiver. I am supposed to be up and playing with him during these humid days, matching his laughter and sweat and imaginative adventures. Instead, I’ve been mostly stuck in my bed, feeling drained and outside of my body, which has failed and confounded me.
Last night I heard my son’s faint little cries which quickly grew louder. He must have been jolted awake by a coughing fit and wanted his mommy. I have about 15 nicknames for him, so he has come up with one for me, because he says, it sounds like “Mommy.” He has reassured me it has nothing to do with bovines.
“Moo, Moo,” he cried out. I flew out of my bed, opened his door and saw him sitting up in his bed.
“Moo, I want to sleep next to me.”
“Honey, you know I can’t get sick. Let me find your chicken.” (A disheveled mess of fur, beak and a single eye; the aptly named Chicken is his beloved companion and source of comfort.)
“Please, Moo,” he begged.
No good mother would ever deny her child comfort in times of sickness. I laid right next to him, and he promptly grabbed my free arm, wrapping it around himself. He coughed a bit more, but then fell into a peaceful, deep sleep. After sleeping next to him for several hours, I woke up as I usually do at an ungodly hour. I surveyed the scene: the boy was still sleeping serenely and the humidifier and vaporizer were still running at full-bore. I kissed him on the cheek and quietly retreated to my own bed, leaving his and my doors ajar in case of further calls for comfort.
The last thing I want is for my child to be sick, especially since I go into the hospital tomorrow for at least a week. I’ll miss him with an undeniable fervor, worrying and wondering how he’s getting along. I’m sure he’ll be fine, but every parent has these irrational fears when away from their child.
I’m realizing now what a paradox last night was. My son was ill and I felt helpless because I was unable to cure him. However, for the first time in over a month, I was able to be his mother; not the ailing version he’s seen, but the one he knows that helps make everything better. I felt needed and was able to fulfill my role; something I haven’t been able to do, which has left a constant ache in my heart.
Last night was a small moment, just a simple gesture that any parent would do. But to me it felt important and moving and serendipitous. The last memory my son will have of me before I go into the hospital and begin my long journey of healing is simply of me being his mother. This little circumstance gives me the strength to go through hell and come back renewed.