Until Death Do Us Part
My fifteen-year-old daughter was sick recently. It started with a phone call to me at work on Monday. “I should not have come to school today.” She said. “I don’t feel good. I can’t concentrate. I think I’ll go to the nurse’s office and take a nap.”
I left work, picked her up and took her home. The next day she had a fever of 103.2 with flu-like symptoms. I stayed home and took care of her. The next day she said, “You can go to work. I’ll be okay. I can take care of myself.” Her fever was gone, but she was still lethargic, coughing and sneezing with a sore throat. I took another day off and took care of her.
I know she’d survive if I went to work, but I want to be with her when she’s sick, scared or sad. I want to cook her healthy food and make sure that she takes her vitamins and stays hydrated. I want to cuddle on the couch with her under a cozy blanket and insist that she take a nap. I want to bring her a heating pad or Advil or tissues when she’s too weak to get out of bed. I want to take her temperature, monitor her progress, and make sure that she’s getting better and not worse. I want her to feel loved and cared for; isn’t that what everyone wants when they’re sick? Someone to watch over them, provide what they need and nurse them back to health?
In three years she’ll be going off to college. After that, she will probably get her own place or get married. It’s likely that she won’t ask me to come over when she’s sick. But I can’t imagine that there will ever be a day when I won’t want to fix her when she’s broken. Whether it’s a broken heart, a broken bone, or a virus, I want to make it better. I never want her to feel alone in the world. I know that she can take care of herself, but I want her to know that she’s important enough for someone to take care of her.
When I was in the hospital giving birth to my daughter, my dad came to visit the day she was born. The next day he called. “How’s the baby?” He asked. “She’s fine. She’s in the nursery so I can get some rest.” I said. “Not that baby.” He said. “My baby. How are you doing?”
That’s when it hit me that this parenting gig isn’t a temporary position. It’s not until they can walk, or until they can drive, or until they turn eighteen, or even until they move out. It’s forever. Every day, until I leave this earth, I’ll wonder how my kids are doing; I’ll fuss over their well-being, I’ll worry if they are suffering in any way and I will always want to help. No matter where they are, no matter how far away I might be, if it’s within my power, I will go to them when they need help. Even when they don’t want to bother me, even when they tell me that it’s okay, and they can manage alone. What they may never understand until they have children of their own is that they could never be a bother. An interruption, yes, even an inconvenience at times – but I want them to need me as much as they want not to need me. So it’s not a bother when they want their mom. This mom wants to be wanted.
I can’t concentrate or enjoy my life when my children are in pain. If I had gone to work and left my daughter home alone with flu-like symptoms, I would not have gotten any work done at the office. I would have been calling and texting her all day to make sure that she was okay. And if she didn’t answer, I’d panic: did she have an asthma attack? Did she pass out from dehydration? Did she fall asleep in the bathtub? I’d end up speeding home at ninety miles an hour to check on her.
Perhaps I’m overprotective. Perhaps it’s because she has had serious health issues since she was four, and so I know how quickly an ordinary day can turn into a life or death trip to the emergency room. But I have a son, too, who does not have health issues, and when he gets sick or injured, I want to take care of him, too.
No matter how old or self-sufficient they become, my children will always be my babies, and I will always take care of them until I can’t. Then hopefully they will take care of me because being my child is not a temporary gig – it’s forever.