Today Nels asked to come along on my lunch date with three grown-lady girlfriends; about halfway through our car trip to Montesano he changed his mind because he felt bad and his stomach hurt. The poor little guy – he hasn’t been feeling well. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned he has been sick – his tonsils swollen and infected with white patches, his skin quality poor and his manner listless. He is eating less than usual (and maybe it’s my imagination but he also looks thinner than usual, which is rather thin indeed) and although he has not once complained of throat pain it is clear he is Not Quite Right.
Here is an indicator of my friends’ caliber – instead of awkwardly ignoring his quiet crying in the backseat of the car and/or waiting for it to be over they immediately offered to turn around and bring us home (yes, despite being hungry and On Our Way for a lunch date). I told them we could stick it out and I resolved (internally) to give Nels a lot of TLC while we were at the venue – as he really wanted Me and the comfort I could afford.
Nels asked me to hold him almost the entire time we were at the restaurant (which has delicious fare but is rather slow for service and food delivery). He was mostly a tuft of blonde hair on my shoulder. He was too ill-feeling even to play his laptop – and that tells you something. I ordered for us (out of five people who placed orders, it was mother-with-child – the only kid in the restaurant – who had her order botched thricely. I’m trying not to read into it but… interesting) and after his ham sandwich he felt a bit better. I had a delicious coffee, salad, and sandwich. Soon my son, wan and suppressed a bit, was talking about his favorite subjects, currently including Pink Pamfer and the cool cat’s hijinx. On the car ride back he sat quietly, a far cry from his usual talkative self.
I felt glad for the experience and grateful for my growth as a parent. I thought of the many ways I would have handled his experiences and feelings in the past, including sending him out to the car/removing him to lecture him, apologizing for his behavior to my friends (his “behavior”? Being sick? Yeah.), feeling irritated I couldn’t have a “nice” lunch date (where my child behaved like a grownup or oversized doll and sat with hands in lap), etc. I felt glad for my presence and my ability to be present for both my adult friendships and my son who needed me. I gave myself credit that really, I juggle these kinds of things often, gladly, and with much aplomb.
Not only did I handle the needs of my son well but the entire table was all the more relaxed and civil and enjoyed themselves for it. A far cry from the many times in the past Ralph and I have taken the “mommy/daddy in charge” route which has proved awkward for the other adults at the table (especially non-parents). I suppose most of us are like dogs, smelling fear/anger and responding in kind. I suppose it’s nice to have someone who knows what to do.
I don’t mean to make this a bigger incident than it was – it probably was only a blip on the screen to the other grownups there. Nels was sad and sick, that’s all. I feel sorrowful I’ve at other times in my life had fewer resources and less wisdom to give my kids what they’ve needed… and glad I am in a better place today.
On our trip back my friends (driving us) were sweet enough to readily agree, despite (rare) bad traffic, to swing through Dairy Queen for an ice cream treat which included fresh-frozen strawberries. “This helps,” Nels said, and seemed to cheer up incrementally. My children are rarely ill and when they are it’s like the most fragile but amazing little thing, an oddity, a gift almost in that we can provide care simply be administering small but essential kindnesses.
The whole experience, though not without it”s little fraughts (especially the bad – for Hoquiam – traffic) was a pleasant one indeed.
Home. A bit of writing. A swim date for Phoenix and her girlfriend. A date for Ralph and I. Back to a calm and intimate house, a little guy who needs a little more love. I’ll be happier when he’s mended.