Friday, February 21, 2014

Love is... cleaning your child's throw up in the middle of the night

It was just before midnight. Everyone in the house was fast asleep. I was finishing up some work when I heard a cry coming from the kids' room. A soft cry followed by coughing. Then whimpering. It was Izzy and she was in trouble.  

What's that saying? Bad things happen in threes? Well, for me it's been one mean case of the winter blues (four months of snow and I'm so over it!), getting knocked out by a terrible cold, going crazy from too many snow days (if school gets cancelled one more day so help me God...) and then last night's very unwelcome run-in with a nasty stomach bug. I guess that's four.

I ran downstairs and found my poor 4-year-old covered in what looked like extraterrestrial goop. I immediately went into what I call Mother Commando Mode and carried out my mission with military precision: get child in the bathtub, clean her up, dress her in new pajamas, put new sheets on the bed, tuck her in. Done.

When the storm seemed over, I had to debrief. I was utterly exhausted but I needed sympathy. I wanted a pat on the back. I needed someone to tell me how selfless and undeniably noble I was.

"Love is... Cleaning your child's throw up," my text to my best friend, Sam, started out. "OMG just survived a marathon vomiting session with Iz." 

But of course in parenting things are rarely straightforward. 

And just when you think all is clear.

But the craziest thing is you don't want to be anywhere else. You don't care that you've got slimy alien goo running down your neck. You're just so happy (yes, happy!) that you're the one who gets to be there for her, holding her hair back when she needs to puke into the bucket for the umpteenth time. 

And you kind of have a flash forward moment and wonder if she'll trust you enough to hold her hair back when she comes home drunk from a party one day. You hope to God that she doesn't ever stumble home drunk in the first place, but if that night does come it makes you feel good to know she'll be safe in your arms.

It may sound silly that I was supposed to have this cold. But you should have seen me last night. I felt half dead and called on God to Please Help Me! And I can't explain it, but in that moment I came alive. I was on fire. Feeling ill and overwhelmed and exhausted couldn't stop me from being there for my daughter. 

And that's what love is. Cleaning your child's throw up over and over and gladly doing it again if you had to.

This is the face I did it for.