I brought Babybel to the doctor this morning where he confirmed double ear and sinus infections.
My stoic babe, I wish I could have taken away your suffering sooner.
When Danjo, my “less healthy” and—let’s face it—whinier child emits even the smallest of whimpers, I rush her to the doctor, one-hundred-percent certain she has an ear infection. Multiply that by about a million times and you’ll know what the past three years have felt like.
All the while, sweet girl, your germs were festering. And I only put two and two together when you woke in the middle of the night with your head throbbing, crying because you needed help falling asleep. You’re such a sound sleeper and haven’t needed help falling asleep since you were an infant.
I’m not writing this letter to rake myself over the coals.
It’s that, in this moment, I see myself in you. I see my inner five year old. And I want to tell her so many things.
Maybe it is my stoicism that helped me mask my mortal weaknesses like illness or depression or the simple ups and downs of life. Or maybe it was those things that lead to my stoicism.
Either way, I see the same thing happening in you. You act so strong and so brave; and I want to tell you that you don’t have to act that way. That you just are, even in your weakness, because of your weakness. We are born strong, reslient. You have nothing to prove.
No sooner had the doctor written out your prescription than you fell apart. I shouldn’t say you fell apart so much as you finally had permission or allowed yourself to be the sick five-year-old you have been the past few days. You suddenly felt sad and worried and just plain crummy.
And that feeling resonated with me—the floodgates opening after so many days, months, years of holding them shut.
As I held you in my lap while waiting at the pharmacy, cradling your barely-cradle-able body, you shivered, your body fighting back germs, and you fighting back tears.
All I wanted to do was to tell you that I’m here, that you’ll be just fine, that there’s no reason to cry. But, the truth is: I won’t always be here, that sometimes you won’t be fine and that you have all the reason in the world to cry.
(Dearest Readers, if you’re burnt out on my mindfulness and emotional coaching lectures, then you can stop reading three paragraphs ago.)
One of the hardest things to do as a parent, is to sit with you in your pain, to let you cry and feel sad, worried and crappy. To let the tears flow. To tell you that it is so, so, so okay to feel everything you are feeling even if it means more tears and even a little bit of hysterical vomit.
So, we let your tears flow some more, let them mingle with my own, reminding myself it’s okay to cry too (in our second week of illness)—let the people in the pharmacy line tilt their heads at us, wondering if they should call a relative, an authority, an emergency responder or some combination thereof.
And when I’m (mostly) done crying, I know it’s my job to coach you through those crappy feelings—as I have done so many times for myself.
I sat there, praying to God that the pharmacist would call our name already, wanting to go home too, wondering what I could possibly do—not to make you stop crying, but to help you through your pain to the other side, as I like to think of it.
And I imagined my most helpful ally in times of anxiety and panic: water—from whence we come, quenching thirst, the first medicine, the ocean, tears and sweat and baptism.
I told you a story about the waves. I asked you to imagine yourself floating in the water peacefully, maybe in a boat or on a blowup alligator. And you looked at me like the crazy, crunchy momma I am. And I told you that feeling sad and yucky is like a storm. The waves are really rough right now, but the storm will pass, you just have to breathe.
I’ll pause the mumbo jumbo melodrama for a second to say that breathing, prayer or reciting mantra will no more cure you of your sinus infection than they did my depression. But, it sure does help you make it through the storm.
You have to know that a storm can’t last forever. That you can ride the waves, let them wash over you. That soon the pain-reliever and antibiotics (thank you for modern medicine) will start working. That your fever will subside. That your pain will diminish. That you will find comfort and relief (in your lovey, netflix and mommy’s hugs). That your strong and wonderful body will do the work it needs to do to heal. That popsicles and crackers will sustain you.
That you can trust in all of this and in the knowledge that you are safe and secure. That you can let go of trying to feel better, let go of the yuckiness and finally rest (literally, please, go to sleep).
And in this small instance when you wake, the storm will have subsided. And, it is my hope, that you will have learned a little bit about how to weather life’s storms no matter how small they are or how big they feel.
Love you no matter what,
P.S. By the time I published this, you woke up, your fever was gone, you ate some jello, kept down your antibiotics. You were back to your healthy self, thoughtfully asking your sister about what you missed at school and whether you could eat the Valentine's candy she brought home for you. That is to say, you survived the storm, more importantly, Mommy did too!
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