If there’s one thing I don’t deal well with, it’s sick kids. The escalated mood swings, the snot ribbons, the midnight sheet changes, the spike of fear at a cry at 3am knowing it probably won’t be a quick resettle, the unmistakable acid stench assaulting your nostrils as you gingerly ease open the door… And that isn’t even taking into consideration the deeper fears of whether these symptoms are- as Google always seems to predict- deathly or in need of urgent medical attention.
Both Hudson and Ivy have fallen prey to a mystery illness this week, and are redefining the depths of the word ‘miserable’ as a result. Hudson has barely eaten more than a bite of every meal since Sunday and Ivy, a usually cheery and independent baby, decided she must return to the bounds of in utero and be attached to someone all day Tuesday.
This morning, Hudson hardly touched his weet-bix but asked for gallons of milk. I should have known better than to oblige because now I can tell you from first hand experience that the human stomach is the perfect temperature at which to create cheese. At first, I thought I was handling it amazingly. Even with Ivy on one hip, I managed to get a container under Hudson’s chin just in time to smoothly collect the contents. Then the next wave came….all over the entire kitchen floor, up the cupboards and pantry doors and all down Hudson’s clothes. As fate would have it, there was a loud knock on the door at that moment and I opened it to find Grandma. In a cruel twist though, she was there merely to drop something off and couldn’t stay to help. Eli overheard Grandma from his limited perch on the toilet and spent the next ten minutes screaming that he wanted to see her.
Hudson was standing there in shock half undressed, Ivy screaming on the rug and I was desperately trying to rid the floor of the residue to the soundtrack of a pre-schooler ironically howling the exact sentiments that I felt at her departure. The shimmer of hope at the miraculous timing, to the crush of having lost something I would most likely have managed to cope without in the first place. At the ten minute mark I lost it and screamed back at Eli at length to stop screaming. Yeah, I know- hypocrisy is so clear in hindsight.
The morning didn’t really improve from there. I wasn’t exactly in the mood to act like the perky kindergarten teacher and if the kids got a monosyllabic response from me, they counted themselves lucky. Eventually Eli took matters into his own hands. “Come on, Hudson, let’s go do something to make Mummy stop being angry”.
He went into the playroom, busily constructing the Lego and came out with a proud look on his face and a ‘boat’ that he had made for me “to make you happy, Mum”. Then he had another surprise, choosing to miss out on watching Postman Pat so that he could clean up the entire playroom, leading me by the hand to show me his handiwork. As I surveyed the spotless room, perspective came flooding back and and with it an overwhelming shame from his ‘gift’ to me. Later, when I snapped at the kids again for something, he said in a weary voice, “Mum, I think you should go look at the playroom again”.
My four year old is schooling me completely in emotional resilience and maturity. As proud as I am of him, it does hit hard that I couldn’t be the one to rise above and process the chaos and calamity with more peace and perspective. We had a good chat about it later and I apologised for my grumpiness and praised him for handling his emotions way better than I had. The look of pride in his eyes (and the gleam of competitiveness) was priceless.
Mind you, he has still displayed many of the usual hangups of being four today. As I was writing this I was interrupted by the sound of him roaring at his clock in rest time, making it the scapegoat for not displaying the time that would allow him to come out. Throwing his tool box around in his room and snarling at anything that would listen, including his sleeping sister and brother in the neighbouring rooms. Though even with all these realisations, I still overreacted in dealing with him and turned it into a ‘whoever blinks first’ loses game, escalating the loss of privileges as he refused to calm down. Sometimes it is so damn hard to figure out the best response on the spot and keep from backing yourself into a corner of having to be consistent to a course of action you would never have proposed if you just had 30 seconds to think and not just flame and react.
Well, clearly I’m not fixed or about to be a new level of mother. But I’m picking myself back up again and choosing to see the shards of hope and focus on their glimmer instead of the murky cesspool that is the self-flagellation of regretted decisions in motherhood. There will be apologies and cuddles and tear-stained faces. And we will choose to learn from our mistakes….even the ones we seem doomed to repeat.
Postscript: I apologised to Eli and he was very gracious, “That’s OK, Mum, we all make bad calls”. Then he did the vacuuming and cut up all the salad ingredient for dinner. Back to being schooled….