It has been a week of tremendous pressure and stress, mostly related to being in three places at once, fulfilling all obligations that seem to converge on a one-week space, and the children struggling to transition out of one grade and into another. The school is lovely and celebrates with an end-of-year countdown. This causes my children some upset. It is a long goodbye.
There have been tears. There have been some silly behaviors in school.
Middle 6 was sick with what novelists would delicately call “malaise” on Sunday and Monday, exacerbated by non-stop activities for the last two weeks. I would probably term it a migraine, although he was able to handle light and some noise.
Little 3 has been struggling with insomnia for a few days. Oldest 6 this morning complained of a headache. Both have thrown up since 6 am.
This is where I fail as a mother. I should have seen Little’s insomnia as a sign of impending illness. She is never whining in the middle of the night otherwise. I should have seen Oldest’s behavior always tanks before he gets ill. It’s like clockwork, and I sadly excel in hindsight.
However, the children’s upset tummies are my greatest shame. More correctly, my handling of it. I have terrible emetephobia. The sound and act of other people vomiting throws me into a sheer terror. Like a toddler, I will run out of the room and cover my ears to block the sound. This is one thing when it is another adult getting sick. But when it is a child, a child who is scared and screaming, it is unacceptable.
This morning, as tummy aches were declared, I went into a private room (their father stayed with them) and I cried a bit. My heart raced. Then I came out. I made sure my shoes were washable, cleared paths from their sick beds to the bathrooms, and waited. Again, fortunately, their father took the actual by-the-side duty while they were sick. I cleaned, sat with them, cooled them down.
But I was not there when it counted. At the moment.
Oldest is already looking much better. He is playing video games quietly in his bed. He says he just wants to stay in bed, which is closer to the bathroom, “just in case.” If he needs me, I will be there. (UPDATE: Video games hurt his head. He’s lying in bed closing his eyes.)
Little is asleep on the couch. Rather than see this as recovery, my phobic mind sees this as a windup to round three. So I wait. If she needs me, I will be there.
This is, please understand dear reader, beyond just “ew, gross.” This is icy terror in my veins fighting that maternal instinct to protect and comfort. The worst battle ground. My only weapon are my permanently cold hands. Every sound the house makes now sounds a bit like a child moan or a child getting sick. The start-stop groaning of the washing machine, the occasional whir of the refrigerator.
Little and Oldest are now tiny little mountain ranges under comforting blankets, their peaks of moppish hair poking out on top.