Square eyes for all

Me: Okay, now it’s your turn to pick.
M: [with a heavy sigh] Alright. You know, when you watch TV for hours, it kinda gets boring.

Well, no one ever said the stomach flu was fun, did they? At least it’s not you but your moaning, miserable sister. Just wait, little man: you’re next on the list.

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Another California Adventure

Small children don’t have a lot of surface area, what with them being small and all. Nor do handrails, with their narrow roundness. But it is absolutely amazing how those small children can manage to run every available square inch of their body over every available square inch of those handrails, given a place like Disneyland. That takes a lot of effort. And sanitizer. And a strong, strong stomach.

Read World

A few weeks ago, K took what I expected would be a mild cold. When she lay lethargic, one day in, I took her temperature to find that it was 102F. Right. All plans were canceled. I selected a stack of books and settled with her on the couch, my forehead occasionally pressed against hers, checking progress of the fever. We did puzzles and watched a few videos, but mostly we just read.

The next day her temperature had dropped to 99F and her spirits had risen. “I’m glad you’re feeling better,” I said. “Not all better,” said K. “I’ll get some books to read.” When I returned with something to drink, I found that she most certainly was feeling better, at least better enough to move three quarters of our books to the foot of the couch. She was already snuggled down. “Time to read!”

So we read. All. Day. Long. It was a bit more difficult, her being squirrely and so obviously full of more-than-just-couch energy. But still, she had been sick and was still sniffly. Surely it was wise to have a quiet day.

When we rose the next morning, the fever was gone and the sniffles were all but dry. And yet, more books were added to the pile that never did get fully read the day before. “I’m still sick,” she chirped cheerfully. I approached warily. “We’ve done a lot of reading lately, and you seem to be feeling much better. Maybe we should try being up for a little while today.”

“Oh no,” said K. “I am still sick, and we should read all day long.” And as we settled down yet again, she announced, “This is the funnest thing ever. This is funner than Sea World!” And that’s when I realized I was overshooting the sweet thing’s expectations.

Of course, the phase lasted no longer, which is probably good for my sanity, not to mention my voice box. Saturday came with brother home; regular play returned; Monday brought a new week with fresh interest in the outside world. But it’s funny to me how little shifts in the house atmosphere–like the unexpected fever–can bring about shifts in interests and needs. That bookshelf, it’s there all the time, often asked about, sometimes raided, occasionally ignored. And then sometimes, it outshines even Shamu himself.

Can’t we just play instead?

Me: Hey guys, what do you think–would you rather go to school tomorrow, or go to Disneyland?
K: Disneyland!
M: Hmm… can we go after school?
Me: Not really.
M: I’d rather go to school.
K: Me too!

And there it was, a mixture of disappointment and pride. Perhaps God gave me children with scruples just to keep me on track. Of course, instead of just trading Disneyland for school, we actually ended up with a limp-along sick day when M developed a sudden and unstoppable cough. During the night. Of which I slept maybe four hours. The magic kingdom this is not.

In this moment

“Will you come lay by me?”

M spent Tuesday through Saturday on the couch, hit worse by the stomach flu than anyone else. For days he couldn’t keep anything down, couldn’t do much more than stare morosely into space. We watched TV, he watched K and I play on the floor. A few feeble efforts to join us ended almost as soon as they began.

On Saturday night, I showered him off. It was the first time I’d noticed how wasted he’d become. Both kids are thin–naturally so, I suppose–but now I could see not only his ribs but all the bones of his sternum. His arms were the size of my wrists. His face was drawn from the emotional and physical turmoil. I wanted to do nothing more than swaddle him up like the baby he once was and nurse him back to health.

M is now above my waist, and one of his front teeth is loose. He occasionally answers me with a shrug, a mannerism I find alarmingly teenager-ish, and one time he cried because I picked him up in front of a friend. That’s not to say that he doesn’t run to hug me when I show up in his classroom, or that we don’t still hold hands while strolling through a store, or the we don’t say our love-yous regularly and with affection. But I do sense that he is growing up while my back is turned. After all, he couldn’t have added two inches overnight, and yet I swear that yesterday I couldn’t see his head in the mirror.

I can’t swaddle him. I can’t fix every problem any more. It won’t be long before I’m not privvy to every problem, either. But I can lie down at his side until he falls asleep. It’s the least I can do. Change, turmoil, time–they exist outside of this moment, the one I have with my son, who needs me.

As we lay together in the darkness, his nightlight twinkling green stars above our heads, he reached over and rubbed my shoulder. I in turn reached for and found his hand. Clasped together, they fell to the bed between us.

He squeezed and I squeezed back. “Mom, do you think we can stay like this until you have to leave?”

Honey, I’m not sure I know how to let go.