In the week before Christmas I jokingly published a post I called My Actual Christmas List. It contained items I wanted, but knew I couldn’t have, like clean floors and bathroom privacy. As I wrote at the time, sometimes parenting drains the life right out of you. It’s only natural to be wistful about the loss of freedom and degree of surrender that comes with the territory, at least occasionally.
Of course, I should have known that by writing about something like this, I would be invoking the Curse of the Internet. The Curse of the Internet dictates that you’ll likely live to regret whatever you say online. Having a long history in blogging (almost 10 years, now, in fact), I can tell you that I have unwittingly invoked it more times than I can count. And so, on the day when I was asking for a little bit of peace and quiet from my normally-boisterous children, my son Jacob suddenly fell violently ill.In the end, his stomach bug lasted almost exactly 48 hours. He got sick on the Wednesday afternoon, vomiting, sleeping and occasionally vomiting in his sleep for two days and two nights. He didn’t do much of anything else until noon on Friday, when he suddenly declared himself all better. And, miraculously, he actually was. I tried to cajole him into going slow when it came to eating and drinking, but he just looked at me and repeated, “I told you already, I’m all better.”
I’ve been at this parenting gig for almost eight years now, but truthfully, neither of my kids are pukers. Hannah, especially, pretty much never throws up. So while I have lots of experience with rotting fruit and messy floors and waking at all hours of the night, a true stomach bug still freaks me out. It takes the wind out of me, seeing my child that sick. And I quickly become terrified when a kid isn’t keeping any food or fluids down. Any parent who’s ever had a sick child knows that feeling of powerlessness, and the internal debate that can arise over what symptoms to be worried about, and what symptoms to brush off.
So it was that I found myself sitting beside Jacob on Wednesday night, holding a large bowl lest he should be sick again, crying silently to myself. In that moment I knew, once again, that I will gladly accept all the little inconveniences of parenting. I’ll take the night wakings, the 30 minutes it takes us to get out of the house, the dirty floors, the rotting fruit, the loss of privacy, the public temper tantrums, and the complaints over my shepherd’s pie. At least when my kids are doing those things, I know that they’re behaving like the normal, healthy children that they are. It may be wearing sometimes, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to the fear and exhaustion of the alternative.
Having children has humbled me, and it continues to humble me. The way that my own needs take second-place. The way that my kids exert their own personalities, regardless of what I do (or don’t do). And the way that one sick little four-year-old boy can leave me completely bereft, until I’m wishing that he would make some noise and leave a mess somewhere, after all. Maybe those messes aren’t so bad, all things considered.