When the school nurse calls me at work, the first thing I need to know—and I need to know it immediately—is that Brooks isn’t seriously hurt.
Once that’s been established, as it was last week when a lousy cold sapped all my son’s energy, I can then begin to traverse the logistics of how I get him home from school early. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the synchronized choreography of calls to spouses and babysitters and co-workers that all somehow conclude in the early pick-up of a sniffly child.
It turned out to be my turn to get him last week, which was particularly challenging because I had to suspend a large project I was managing at work. Not the end of the world, but not my first choice either.
Brooks, of course, was his typical good-natured self. Not terribly sick, but a little off his game, so home we went to confirm the absence of a fever and wait for his baby sitter who thankfully juggled her schedule.
When I couldn’t find the ear thermometer, I decided we’d try the mouth one. He’d used them before at doctors’ offices, and even at home once or twice—he’s a first-grader now—this was not going to be a problem. Except that, physically, he couldn’t do it.
Even with all his miraculous accomplishments over the years, the ones I write about on a regular basis, my son cannot hold a thermometer under his tongue. And surprisingly, deep down inside, I still feel angry about that. I was certain I had moved on, but at that moment, while I was juggling hot chocolate for his sore throat and phone calls for work, I was all bent out of shape about the hand my son was dealt.
I behaved badly. I was not patient, I did not use positive reinforcement, and I only slightly backed off when Brooks started to cry “I can’t do it, Mom!”
Clearly, Brooks was not the only one a little off his game. I’m embarrassed to admit that I stomped around like a petulant child hunting down the ear thermometer. Found it—beep, beep—no fever.
The only redeeming action I took was that a few minutes later when I had calmed down, I apologized to my son. Although, as I often tell him, apologies don’t erase what we’ve done.
I realize that I’m inadvertently teaching him something I don’t want him to learn yet; that even the people you love the most will disappoint you sometimes.
The next day when I came home from work, Brooks ran to the door and smothered me with his delicious hugs and kisses—no signs of long-lasting mother-induced psychological damage.
I guess we’ve also managed to inadvertently teach him that there’s no shortage of love in our imperfect family.