When Bad is Good
I’ve had to take a time out from my self-absorbed melancholy to focus on a sick child this week. My daughter brought home a virus with a high fever, from that bastion of bacteria and snot, her elementary school. No longer newbies to the high fever (see my March post), 105 has become the new 102 in our household. We’re calmer and once she cleared the strep test, we were able to settle in to wait this out.
There is a silver lining to having my daughter at home during this bout with illness. Yesterday afternoon, she and I sat out in the sun on the deck eating strawberry popsicles and pointing out butterflies to each other (and at least one stink bug). Talking and laughing, we were having one of those magical moments in time that I wish I could freeze forever in my mind. It would be cataloged in my memory along with the mental movie of her as a four-year-old, flying back and forth on our backyard swing set, singing at the top of her lungs – the embodiment of happiness. I knew in that very second that I should not forget this picture, that I should commit it to memory. Someday, when I am on my way out and she is out in the world, I will flip through these savored, kept memories and taste that joy again.
Our moments have been far and few between lately. My daughter is coming into her own as I have been struggling to retain what is my own. She has, in all my efficiency, become something on a “to-do” list to take care of, along with grandma, the cats, my job, my marriage. I’ve been spread pretty thin and have started missing some of the joy that is there, waiting for me to take it in. If only I were forced to stay still and quiet for stroking a fevered forehead. If only I would listen with true, not habitual, compassion and concern. If only I would quickly shuffle through my priorities and come up holding only the truly important ones.
Today we poured through art books, talking about the different painting styles. I’ve never been drawn to visual arts, but I’ve caught her enthusiasm to learn more and we’ve begun planning a summer of museum-hopping. Even if I wouldn’t wish for illness, it reminds me to make room in our lives for those moments to happen. Unlike the “list”which I go through with grim determination, I come away from these brief interludes energized and hopeful. My daughter is an amazing, resilient person. I can’t imagine how many moments I have missed when I was busy multitasking. What will her memories be of me? I can do better. Life is short and time with your child, even shorter. I’ll still enjoy taking her back to school when she has recovered from this virus. I really enjoy showering without someone yelling dramatically through the door, “Mom, the cat threw up!” But that’s an entirely different kind of moment.