My little guy is sick today. He’s got a cough and a light fever and a runny nose.
He’s a little out of it too, but I don’t think he’s figured that part out. He just goes on making noise and throwing toys like there was nothing wrong. It’s just that every few minutes he draws his forearm roughly across his little nose and face reactively and looks up with some confusion afterwards like he’d been struck by a wayward soccer ball.
“What the ... what’s up with my nose?” he seems to be thinking, his little weary eyes looking up at me appealingly, “Can you do something about this Dad?”
I’ve picked him up out of the crib once already tonight to give him some children’s Tylenol and a sippy cup with water. He sat on my knee too for 20 minutes or so watching Harry Potter on DVD while the medicine took effect. He’s back in his crib now, sleeping lightly.
I worry as much as anybody when either one of my kids is sick. They’re both so young. There both so precious to me. My head fills with awful irrational fears that they’ve caught something serious; even though my rational self (and his continued appetite) tells me otherwise.
“What if it is something serious?” I think and try to put those thoughts aside.
“You’ll know if it’s serious,” a voice tells me, “You won’t be guessing.”
I think this must be a common feeling among new parents, the worry over every little illness. The little twinge I feel every time I hear one of those loud coughs disrupt the night and pull me out of the light sleep that’s settled on me.
For him, I imagine, this is probably not a big deal. I’m sure it’s annoying, but he looks more confused than uncomfortable or really sick.
“This?” I hear him say to my imaged worry in our imagined conversation, “This?! This ain’t nothin’! I’m fine.”
But I think it is easier being the one worried about sometimes than the one who worries.
When I have these moments of angst, I can remember being a boy and waiting up with my mother for my father to return home from work. Some of the nights were dark and wintery and some of the waits were long (there were no cell phones back then). My mom, I could tell, was nervous and it rubbed off on me. I wanted the wait to be over. I didn't like the new fears that something might be wrong.
“If only I was with Dad in the car,” I remember thinking at the time, “Then I wouldn’t have to worry. I’d know.”
The thought seemed to comfort me a little at the time, though I still had no idea when he’d be home. I wish I could capture some of that comfort tonight. I wish I could feel like I was with my little guy in that car too.
But maybe that’s what happens when you have kids of your own - you can’t go back to that place with them. Maybe it’s only them who can see ahead to where you are. Maybe that’s one of the gifts that life gives to the very young; that inscrutable comfort that the imagination provides. I know I can’t find it tonight.
I hope he feels better tomorrow. I know I’ll sleep better when he’s breathing easy again. But I’ll just have to wait by the window and look out at the snow and wonder when he’ll come in out from under the weather.
Sleep well little man. I'll be up listening for you.