late night shower in the dark

by humanmama on December 20, 2009


Although the title sounds erotic and intriguing it’s not. Actually, erotic and intriguing got me into this whole parenting thing in the first place.

It’s no fun when your kids are sick. Imagine, for those of you kidless, how awful and just worn down you feel when you have a terrible, terrible cough. I remember my freshman year in college having a really bad case of what turned out to be bronchitis, and pneumonia, and just not being able to lay down in any sort of position without coughing, let alone sitting up. Just total exhaustion, your chest hurts, your stomach hurts, you need sleep so badly but can’t–you’ll just cough. Luckily for me, a friend took me to the college health center where I got some antibiotics, and after Christmas vacation that year I was as good as new.

When your kids are sick it’s like that, but both of you are feeling the pain. You sit, as I did, at 11:30 pm (after going to bed at 9:30 because you’re sick, too, and the baby was sick the last week so you did this then too), and you feel pain. Pain that you can’t take away the hurt your kid is going through. Pain that they are hurting at all. Also, a little pain that your foot has fallen asleep while trying to hold your child in a sleeping position, and a little pain as your back is slowly turning numb because the steam in the shower is making the back of the toilet so cold and clammy. But anyway, it’s pain.

You can’t imagine feeling that way about another person until you do. I remember last summer–well, now two summers ago–when Helena began to fall down our outside steps. We live in Pittsburgh and there are only hills here, hills everywhere. We live in an “up/down” house, where you either park in the alley and walk DOWN the steps, or park in the front main street and walk UP the steps. One day I was walking up the back steps to reposition a sprinkler that I had set up to try to salvage some grass seed, and Helena followed me up. She was about 2, and a pretty great walker/climber, but I said, Helena, be careful…. As I turned around to look, she was (in slow motion) falling backwards down the concrete steps. There are about 15 of them.

I had no thought except “save her.” When Ben came around the corner of the house he saw what he later described as me “falling face-first down the steps.” It was a total mom moment–if it had been Ben falling I would have gasped, reached, run…but with Helena, I literally threw myself down, just hoping I could get to the concrete before her. She was fine, by the way, and I had a great time later on telling my neighbors “Oh, -sigh-, I just fell down the steps,” while they looked at my scrapes and bruises and pretended to give Ben sideways glances.

Ben has a gift of sleeping, and he can sleep through anything. If the world were ending, or the house burning down, I only hope I have the wherewithal to not only save the children but to remember to wake him up. So tonight, minutes and then hours pass as I alone lay awake listening to Helena cough and cough, a dry, hacking cough that I know means going to the Doctor AGAIN this coming week, and think about how it just makes me ache that she’s not feeling well. I think of my parents a lot during times like these, and although they’ve been divorced for 20 years I think about how they must have lain awake listening to me cough, taken me together into the bathroom to turn on the shower and hold me in the steam. I think about the countless hours they must have lost sleep and worried and prayed for me during the tough times in my life. It’s hard when you get older and your parents stop taking care of you, and start taking care of themselves again. Or not taking care of themselves. Or not in the ways you’d like or agree with. It’s so easy to forget the years they spent with sleepless nights or counting pennies for Christmas presents, and remember the little annoyances that exist as we get older. I sit in the steam with Helena and think of what it must be like to have older kids, kids with kids of their own. To have given so much time and energy and love to someone and just let them go, into the world. It’s so scary, on one hand, and so thrilling. It’s like most of being a parent: terrifyingly beautiful.

The steam helped. She’s back in bed. I’m writing this at a way late hour because I, exhaustively, can’t sleep. So being a parent either wrecks your life or completes it. I still can’t figure out which.

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Jessica January 6, 2010 at 8:24 am

I think being a parent tears your life apart and then puts it back together in some beautiful, complicated way that you'd never have figured out on your own.

And seriously, how do the husbands sleep through everything?!?

Great post. Hope everyone is nice and healthy by now.

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