Our four-year-old was in the hospital this week.
I held her hand in the operating room as the anesthesia took her away. Ken stroked her hair as all three of us snuggled in a tiny adjustable bed. We listened through the night to her labored breaths and whimpers. I brought her juice and water and popsicles and applesauce, and did my best to explain why all of this happened.
In return, she called me the worst mommy ever and spit medicine into my hair. She screamed and hit and peed her pants.
A sick child is pitiful. There is almost nothing I wouldn’t give to trade places, to suffer myself and take on her pain.
But yesterday, punch drunk and nerve-fried after yet another battle over those chalky, pink antibiotics, I hid in the hallway, downed an entire box of Junior Mints, and wished she would just shut up. I cursed Ken for eating the last Ramen noodles. I yelled at the other two for spilling Gatorade on the carpet. I WAS the worst mommy ever.
And this was just a 90-minute procedure. A couple of days in the hospital. A couple more recovering at home. Minor surgery.
But minor surgery is what happens to other people’s children. When it comes to our own, there is no such thing.
Even though I will be fine and Lizzie will be fine and all of this will pass, I’m grateful for the friends and family who have swooped in and saved me from myself. Who have asked what I need. And when I said, ‘nothing,’ dropped off chicken soup and coloring books and balloons anyway.
Today, I’m tipping my hat to parents who regularly nurse sick children, who live these weeks of sleep deprivation and ingratitude all the time. It’s okay if you are not always up to the task. You don’t have to be. We are all out here, and we can help.
When I emerge from this post-surgery frazzle, I’ll look for those silently suffering moms and dads. That gal in the preschool pickup line whose clothes look like jammies. That fellow in the park with a five o’clock shadow at noon. I’ll drop by with a fresh loaf of challah bread and some coffee, or even a box of Junior Mints. When it comes to caring for these kiddos, no one should have to go it alone.