posted April 13, 2009

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Johnny has run a fever above 101 every day since last Wednesday (it’s Monday afternoon, as I write this).He seems to be suffering no injuries from his fall, but he is lethargic and congested and not his usual cheery, smiling self. We went ahead with his baptism on Sunday, and it was lovely, but my poor boy was sort of hang-dog throughout the whole event and slept all afternoon. When he woke up at 4pm, his fever was back up to 103. At Katryna’s urging, I called the pediatrician and the nurse initially said to bring him in Monday. Then five minutes later, she called back and said, “I have a weird feeling about this. Bring him in. Now.”

So on Easter Sunday, my wonderful pediatrician found a grade 3 ear infection that hadn’t been there on Friday when his ears were last checked. We have him on amoxicillan, but he still spikes a fever every twelve hours or so. I am holding him and telling him that Mama is here, telling him that he will feel better soon.

Nothing else matters when your child is sick. And I think I understand why parenting can be so discomfiting. It’s because the love we feel for our kids is so much bigger than we are; it’s too much for this container of a human body. The love comes from God, or from some source that is much greater than our mortal selves. The love is unconditional, universal, huge; as big as the sky. Yet I am a small human who needs eight hours of sleep and proper nutrition in order to function. I have limits, while my love is limitless. And I have two kids! So I go around all day feeling like I’m inadequate for each of them. (On good days, I remember that it’s not all about me, and that the best gift I ever gave each of them is each other. But on days when I am worried silly about my son’s fever, all I can see is how I am not tending to Lila, and on days when I’m focused on Lila and her dazzlingly growing world, all I can see is how I’m not paying enough attention to that sweet baby crawling across the room.)

But let me linger for one moment on that baptism. At our church, we baptize babies with water from the local river. The minister’s wife is a potter, and the bowl used is the color of water: blue green, with three feet to hold it off the table. We pass it around during the service, and each of the congregants places his or her hand in the water and blesses it, or asks for a blessing for the baby. I asked my seven-year-old niece, Amelia (who is also my goddaughter) to bring the bowl from pew to pew, which she did with such grace and reverence. At one point, right after I had blessed the water, she spilled a tiny bit, then simply resumed collecting blessings from the bowl. The superstitious part of me jumped a little in my seat, worrying that those specific blessings I’d asked for my son were spilled along with the bit of water. Then I remembered my insight about the divine love being stuck inside a human meat suit. The blessings were not spilled any more than the love will be lost on the days when I am tired and cranky or busy or being a less-than-perfect mother. And I’m not the only one who loves these kids. It’s not all up to me, and it never was. So I nuzzled my nose into the necks of my two beautiful children and took it all in.

The Comments

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  1. Feelings of inadequacy are not indications of weakness — they’re a sign that one is in touch with reality. All of us are inadequate in whatever we do. We just do the best we can, knowing that there is support out there in the form of family, friends, community, and (many would say) God.

    You appear to be a fabulous parent, but your abilities do not extend to clearing up fever and earaches.

  2. How beautiful that the entire congregation has the opportunity to bless the baptismal water, and how beautiful that your niece and Goddaughter was able to participate in the event.

    Sorry to hear that Johnny has an ear infection. Hannah got an ear infection with each new tooth that she cut from age 8 months to 21 months, and we always had to give her Tylenol every four hours until she was on the antibiotics for about a day and a half (otherwise her fever would spike). We also gave her a probiotic (Culturell, I think) to minimize the effects of the antibiotics on her system. I hope Johnny perks up soon – it is no fun when your kid is sick.

    As for your perceived inadequacy, I second what Jeff said!


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