unexpected perks of older kids

by ck on July 19, 2013

I trudge up the stairs, my head pounding, my body heavy. I hear the cards slap down on the dining room table behind me, and the exclamations of I-De-clare-War! as my vision swirls. Bed. I just need bed.

I spent the better part of the afternoon sacked out on the couch, my face wedged between pillows, waking up to TWO’S purple blanket draped over my shoulders and the whispers of an argument over what show to watch next. I got up long enough to make dinner and was now leaving it all behind.

As I change my clothes and head into the bathroom I hear thumping up the stairs, and a breathless request:

“Mama? Can I tuck you in?” 

TWO stands there, a thick volume of My Little Pony stories under one arm, her blankie caped around her neck like superhero. I really just want to be left alone, but instead I nod. And smile. As I brush my teeth I hear the swiping of sheets. I peek into the room. TWO is making my bed and fluffing my pillows.

“It’s ready!” she sings.

I drop into the cool sheets and she yanks the blankets up around me, swallowing me into the promise of sleep. 

As she reads her own version of the pony escapades, my body relaxes, and my thoughts drift back to how hard it once was to be sick around her. Not because I felt the need to hide my illnesses, but because it was just hard. The absolute dread I’d feel when I’d wake up with a sore throat, or the panic that would set in if I realized I had a stomach bug and two small, energetic girls who weren’t interested in leaving me alone and watching movie after movie after movie.

For all of the wistfulness and nostalgia that comes when the youngest child races toward kindergarten, and the tension that builds as the oldest nears tweendom, there is also the beauty of returning space. Some of it is expected. People always promise you there will come a time when playdates no longer require constant supervision. Or when taking the kids to the pool doesn’t automatically mean you have to get in the water. But then there’s the unexpected things. Like the possibility of being sick again. Really being sick. The kind of sick that requires nothing more from you then passing out on the nearest piece of furniture and appreciating, though not requiring, a special blanket.

I’d forgotten just how much I missed being sick, no strings attached. It was one of the first hit-and-runs of new motherhood that left me for dead on the side of the toilet, because I knew I would no longer be left alone when I finished throwing up. Coloring and playdoh and dress-up didn’t stop just because I had a fever. The fourteen hours between “good-morning” and “good-night” didn’t move to the accelerated speed of my pounding headache, regardless of how many prayers I tossed up to that effect.

And now, here I am. Finally edging back toward the sickness experience I knew (and loved) in my pre-motherhood days. But this time I’m tucked in, kissed, and left with the whispered promises that if my nightmares return, I can climb into bed with her, and she’ll keep me safe.

And I will, too. You’d better believe that if the days of self-sacrificing colds, fevers, and flus try rearing their contorted, whiny heads, I’m jumping right into bed with her. Or her sister. That’s right. They’re old enough to go down with me this time.






thekitchwitch July 19, 2013 at 10:11 am

You are SO right. It’s a luxury to be able to be sick. Odd as it sounds…

ck July 26, 2013 at 5:27 am

And to wrap up in blankets with uninterrupted reading or TV and just fall asleep…
(I’m better. Can you sense my regret?)

Tara Wasney July 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I guess I can’t appreciate sickness because I don’t have kids…but I think your crazy!! In a good way of course, but still possibly certifiable!

I wanted to commend you on raising such beautiful compassionate and empathetic young women. The world does not have enough of them and I am so pleased to see that they are two of them. How sweet it must have been to listen to her tell you the bedtime story!

I hope you feel better soon!

ck July 26, 2013 at 5:28 am

hahahahaha! you’re so right. I’m definitely certifiable. :)

And thank you, by the way, for what you about the girls. It really was sweet to be read to.

Gigi July 19, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Oh, I hope you feel better soon! But this was beyond sweet – yes, the older they get the more empathetic they are to your illness.

ck July 26, 2013 at 5:29 am

It was so nice to be taken care of again.

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