Friday, December 30, 2016
The month of December was challenging, which is why I've been MIA.
Actually, MIA sounds way too exciting for where I've been. MIA makes it sound as if someone kidnapped me and took me to a secluded island and made me change my name and live a childless life of pina coladas, tanned cabana boys and afternoon naps when really, I've been living a childful life of kid puke, snotty noses and no naps because EVERYONE in the house has been sick.
See, the town of Mulletville Lite is on the small side so when you hear someone coughing at the grocery store, you know it's just a matter of time before everyone in the town gets it. And that's what happened: I saw Mr. Heckenspeck hacking up a lung by the frozen meats on Dec. 1 and sure enough, Junior soon had it. Next was my husband Chuck. Then our middle child, Everett. Then my poor mother. Then toddler Cam.
Cam got it the worst. By the time he caught the bug, we were three weeks into December and I had accepted the fact that I wouldn't leave the house for the month, so I had stopped performing those basic and normal human tasks of, say, getting dressed and combing my hair. I was actually entering that sticky area known as crazy-sick-but-not-sick mom, where I knew I looked off but was coming to embrace it and maybe even enjoy it.
(Insert evil cackle.)
Along with Cam's cough came a fever and stomach bug. He was a trooper of a puker, but I'd forgotten the very terrible part of puking toddlerhood, which is that the kid wants to be held as he or she pukes and so you end up getting slimed.
So that's where I was the Wednesday afternoon before Christmas: Standing in the living room in my rattiest pajamas (I'd run out of decent clean ones) holding Cam as he puked down the front of both of us. Hair clipped up in a rat's nest/beehive thing. Holey socks. No bra. Dark circles. Etc. Etc.
Over the sound of Cam's wails I heard the bus.
The town's policy is that a bus driver won't let your kid off without seeing some form of parental life, so I opened the front door, stuck out my arm and waved. Of course--of course--as Everett was crossing the street he slid on a patch of ice, face planted in the road and started screaming.
I stuck my head out the door and called. "Are you okay? Can you get up?"
Junior, who's on the same bus, stood over Everett like a scientist who had just discovered a new, digusting bug. He yelled to me, "Mom, you should come out here. I think he's unconscious."
"Screeeeaaaammmm. Screeeaaammmmm." Was it Cam or Everrett? I couldn't even tell.
"He's not unconscious! He just needs help getting up!" I called. "Help him!"
The busdriver sat there watching. The kids on the bus sat there watching. I know I looked like an asshole--my kid was lying in the road crying--but I was covered in a screaming toddler and vomit. I was shoeless. Braless. I was trying to maintain a modicum of decorum but that's the hardest part of parenting, isn't it? We find ourselves grasping for the right way to be in the most uncomfortable and challenging scenarios. We find ourselves looking like an asshole when really, we've been living in a hovel of illness and puke for way too long and don't even recognize ourselves in the mirror, and what we need instead of judgment is a kind word or two.
I waved for the bus to leave but like a good bus driver she sat there.
"Junior!" I shouted. "Pick up your brother! Please!"
Junior must have heard the desperation in my voice because he leaned down, grabbed Everett by the arm and gently brought him to his feet. Everett was whimpering but unscathed. They made their way to the front door and came inside. When the bus finally drove away I put Cam down and assessed the situation:
Small man-child of a fourth grader why wanted to know why I didn't come outside
"Look at me," I said to them. "I'm doing the best that I can." Hearing those words made it worse for a minute: I was doing the best I could but it still wasn't good enough. There was still more that was needed of me. I went into the bathroom and started to cry. Then I laughed. Then I cried. Then I laughed again.
It's all okay though. I'm doing the best that I can. And for 2017 that will be just fine.
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