On the occasion of my beloved little boy’s 4th birthday last week, I’ve spent some time these days thinking of what a wild ride parenthood has been so far. The better part of the past four years has been filled with laughter, wonder, silliness, lots of cuddling, and so many lessons that I now ask my husband with some regularity, “how do non-parents learn all this stuff?” Then there’s the truest cliché of all, that the heart swells with the most transcendent, indescribable love. This is why we thank our children for making us their parents. We thank them for a love we never thought possible, and which is now a daily occurrence. If my boy could see what I see when I look at him, he would never, ever, waste a minute of his life questioning whether he is good, worthy, lovable enough, exactly the way he is. Sure, the stresses are magnified when you are a parent. Naturally, this is because everything is magnified, including the joys too.

Birthday cupcakes

Another true cliché is that if I could take away any form of hurt and pain in order to spare my boy, I would gladly take it on myself. And don’t go thinking I am one of those parents who’s scared to say no, to spare my child any disappointment. Ha. No, trust me. I am not talking about pissed-off-ness over not getting that extra cookie or TV show, or over relinquishing a toy because another kid had it first, or being reminded that he’s not actually the boss-man of our house. I’m talking about real physical pain. Fear. The injustice, confusion, heartbreak of rejection. Oh I so wish I could spare him! But I know I can’t. I know it, okay? But I will still wish, not even secretly, that I could. Always. And it will break my heart into a million pieces when I can’t.

A couple of weekends ago, I came down with a bad stomach episode. All I could think was, “Thank goodness it struck me rather than the little man.” Fast forward two weeks, and my husband and I are rushing the little man–two days after his birthday–to the hospital, to treat him for dehydration after several jarring hours of sickness.

Here are some of the lessons and observations from last Friday night.
1. The hardest one, that I can’t keep my kid from getting sick. Period. Ugh. But also that when it does happen, it’s not my fault. Oof, this is at least as hard for me to embrace as the fact that illness happens.
2. I still need my Mama. One of the first things I did Friday night was to get my mother on the phone, and my sister on text. What a difference it made. They had advice and comfort to offer (more comfort than advice), and wanted to stay informed every step of the way. The anchoring, soothing effect of having the women I love there with me when I need them, even if they are physically hundreds of miles away, is a blessing in my life.
3. The temptation to become a germophobe is a very real fact for me right now. I prided myself, once we were home again, in getting the surfaces of our house to a hospital-operating room-quality of sterilization. I’m not kidding, I should buy stock in Lysol. Check out my shopping basket below. And my knuckles were bleeding for days from so much hand-washing.

There was already plenty of disinfectant at home. And this additional supply has been used up–and replenished–since this photo was taken.

4. When you have made it four years without having to take your child to a hospital emergency room, you have a lot to be thankful for. Here’s to (at least) four more years! And may I never go a single day without thinking of, and praying for, parents who are in a hospital this minute with a child who is unwell.
5. You lose weight. It just happens. Before I knew it, I was in a state of panic thinking I had caught the stomach virus too (or again?), because I was queasy and dizzy. Turns out I was just hungry, lightheaded, gassy. Because I had barely eaten for days! But hey, I woke up this morning and discovered a bit of hipbone that I hadn’t seen or heard from since at least 2005. Just like the sun is always there, even behind the darkest clouds, so hipbones are still there underneath the extra padding. I will remind myself of this when the padding comes back. And that will be just fine, too. Besides, this is not a method of weight loss that I would recommend.

6. Kindness is real. When Monday morning dawned, we were under a few new inches of snow, and my husband was in bed after catching what our son had. So, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to go out and shovel the snow. Who was going to watch our recovering son, take care of my sick husband, cook soup, and keep up with laundry and the Lysoling of the house? I thought of asking the neighbors. But I was embarrassed. I’d asked for Pedialyte Friday night, I wasn’t about to ask for someone to shovel our snow come Monday morning, too. Next thing I knew, someone had already done it, without me ever having to ask. I nearly cried when I saw it! Kindness moves me like that. And I received two emails from neighbors, each about a different issue, but each wishing us well, each a kind gesture of concern.

The view from our front door Monday morning. Next time I looked out, all the snow was gone from the front of our house.
7. I married a man who is wholly, selflessly devoted to his wife and kid. Wow.

8. Everything passes. It was, after all, just a 24-hour virus and nothing worse. And now everyone’s fine. And the fear of the next time it happens–a recurring problem of my anxious personality type–is tempered by seeing just how well we all are now. By knowing that just because illness happens sometimes, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been blessed with good health. By the trust that we’ll get through it again just as we did this time. By the absurdity of me smiling when I found my long-lost hipbone this morning, and the kind of perspective that gives me.

I wish you health. And just in case, ask for help. We’ve got plenty of Pedialyte to share! And I am happy to report that I already used a lot less Lysol yesterday, and even less today. A recovering chronic worrier-germophobe, one day at a time.
What are you grateful for today?

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