Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sick kids

The kids are both sick.

These words never struck fear into my heart before having children. Now they do.

They have colds. They do not have leukemia. They are not on life support. There hasn’t been a car accident, or an incident involving a sharp object. They don’t need stitches.

But what that means in the trenches is that I am woken up all night long. Lydia is coughing and can’t catch her breath. She wants me to lay on my back while she rubs my upper arm raw with her thumb. Sometimes both thumbs, on both arms, at the same time. Roland is in his crib and wakes up and can’t breath through his nose, so he can’t put himself back to bed.

Lydia begins each morning (healthy or not!) with a request. Usually along the lines of, “I want to go downstairs,” which is followed by tears, because she needs to use the bathroom, get dressed, brush her teeth, brush her hair. When she’s sick the tears last longer, accompanied by snot and possibly a bout of coughing that could turn to vomit.

Yesterday they would not fall asleep unless I was holding them. He wanted to be walked. She wanted me to lay down. After two hours of each of them waking the other one up, I loaded them into the car, figuring car seats meant they were sitting up, there was the ambient noise of our old Honda, and everything could flow out their noses uninhibited.

We drove for almost two hours, down quiet little back roads with shade (so the sun didn’t shine in any faces and wake them up). I was hungry. I had dried boogers in my hair, drool and food paste on the shoulder of my shirt.

At stop signs I would see young women listening to music with the window rolled down, older women in business suits going to lunches and meetings. And I was literally driving in circles, terrified of yellow lights, because if I stopped they would start crying.
Never in my life have I felt less in control. And never in my life have I had more to manage—my own frustration, lack of patience, and desires for solitude and quiet and five minutes without someone on me—and my children’s desires for mama-mama-mama, water, Kleenex, the monkey movie (again), the monkey movie (just the part with the music and dancing), being held, being walked, and singing Silent Night.

He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it.
Matthew 10:39.
My life is lost. What life I had before, the freedom I had before.

My life is found, in my vocation, in the literal lives of my children. I have lost my solitary life and found two lives, and hopefully more. I am to care for them in the place of God, to instruct and minister to them. To wash their feet, clothe their bodies, pray with them and pray for them.

All of which sounds very nice, and doesn’t appear, at first blush, to have anything to do with the baby projectile vomiting oatmeal onto my face, while I say, “It’s okay, he’s just sick,” to his sister, and try to keep as much throw-up on myself as possible until we hobble to the bathroom. But they have everything to do with each other. Motherhood is sticky and messy and sacrificial. It gives life; it nurtures life.
Like this, but dirtier.