Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I got this.

Saturday night at about midnight, Ella came down the stairs and said she had to use the bathroom. Weird, I thought, because she will usually just go by herself and go back to bed. But I thought nothing of it. I took her back to bed and we curled up under the covers for a minute, talking about what we would do the next day. "I need a sip of water, Mom," she told me. I went to the bathroom and filled her little pink cup, brought it back to her room, and was instantly greeted by the sounds of an almost-five-year-old throwing up in her bed. And everywhere else within a five foot radius of her bed. About 10% of my brain was horrified, sad for myself for a fleeting moment for what this meant for me: a loooong night of hair holding, scrubbing floors and beds, changing sheets, and definitely not sleeping. But the other 90% of my brain kicked into Calm Kick-Ass Overdrive, sweeping around the house gathering supplies for the long night ahead, planning ahead for things that she might need in the midst of this stomach bug, all while comforting a crying, frightened girl. "Go time," my brain told me. "I got this. I GOT. THIS."

As terrible as it is to have an illness sweep through your family, leaving stained sheets and carpets and crying kids in its wake, I find that it's in these moments that I shine as a parent. I instinctively know what needs to be done: Gather all of the towels in the house, make sure we have plenty of washcloths and changes of clothes for the sick kid and myself, prop up pillows in my bed, and hunker down for a long night of caretaking.

There is something about taking care of your sick child that just defines the word "mothering". During the course of a normal day, of course I parent my kids: I enforce rules such as "No Hitting" and "No Throwing Crayons In The Toilet Or Air Vent". I make lunches and apply band aids to scrapes. But when my kids are truly ill, I can see clearly my mission: Make it better, because they REALLY need me right now. With a stomach virus, especially, for they are not only sick and feeling like complete shit, but they are scared, terrified, of what is happening. So hair is held back, cold washcloths are placed on hot foreheads, backs are rubbed, and the tiny words of Helping are uttered in the wee morning hours: It's okay, it will be okay, I'm right here, I'm here. I'm here I'm here I'm here.

As the night wears on and things seem to be looking up and I am laying crooked in my bed with a child passed out on my chest, breathing their flu directly into my nose, I make bets with myself about when this will all hit me. "Will I start throwing up tomorrow, or will I have a few days of thinking that maybe I am lucky enough to have not caught it and then BAM?". For I will almost certainly catch whatever it is that they have. But then I think to myself that it's okay. It's okay if I am ten times as sick as they were, because for one night, I made it all better for them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The most fun that the world can offer.

I love music. Like, love LOVE music, in a maybe kind of unhealthy way, a way that makes me obsessed with a certain band or artist or song for months on end and when I have good music playing all is right with the world and nothing bad can happen and I just love life so much that I type really long run-on sentences. If I had to choose one thing to keep (aside from my family, of course), music would beat out books for the win. There are different songs and albums for different moods and days, and I have very often been in the car with two screaming kids and thought to myself, "Nap time is coming. I can put on THAT song, lie on the couch and listen to it, and everything will be okay." Music is like church, like a superhero who can come flying in to rescue my day from mediocrity, like a band aid that fixes things, if only for three minutes and twenty seconds at a time. I have loved to attend live shows of my favorite bands for as long as I can remember, and I can recall the first time I was in the audience at a really great show and my breath left my body and it was good. As you can imagine, having young children and a busy life are things that do not lend themselves to late nights spent out listening to music, so my concert-going days have been limited over the last few years. Rarely is there a show that I want to see badly enough that I am willing to go through the whole finding a babysitter-getting tickets-showering and getting dressed in real people clothes routine. But? A few months ago I noticed one of my favorite bands was coming to Nashville, and to a great venue, no less. I had to have tickets. I needed to go. And so the sister and her fiance and the husband and I decided to make a night of it for my birthday. Tickets were bought, then re-purchased for the night before when we had an "oh shit" moment and realized that the concert fell on the night we were supposed to take the kids trick or treating. The sister drove in and we picked them up and had a lovely dinner and many adult beverages, and I was feeling good. Great, even. We headed to the auditorium, tickets in hand, listening to the men folk cracking jokes about all of the scummy hippies who had beards. I didn't care: I knew what was about to happen, and not even snide comments from the peanut gallery could bring me down. We visited the beer line (thank you, Ryman Auditorium, for selling really, ridiculously large beers, by the way), took our seats, and waited. I was seated between the husband and another man who was holding a half empty cup of something that was most definitely NOT beer, and from the sound of his conversation with his group of friends, this cup was probably about his seventh. Or twelfth. "You guys fans?" he asked the husband and me. "'Cause I'm not really. I mean, I don't listen to their albums or anything. But I will drive to any one of their shows, any day, any where," he said. "They are unreal when you see them playing live." And oh, my. They took the stage and there was no talking to the audience, no "performing" and trying to be our friends. They were there to play. From the very first song until the end of the encore I was in that happy place, with eyes closed and hands clapping, and maybe even jumping about like a crazed lunatic every now and then. Words fail me when I try to describe how, how...just amazing they were. The drunkard next to me was right: they were unreal. The show reminded me of every single thing I have ever loved about music, real music, good music. And I'm with you now, drunk whiskey man sitting next to me: I will travel to any show they play near me happily, and enjoy the feeling of losing myself in pure greatness while I'm there.

I found this video of my favorite song of theirs, and one of the comments says this: "The last minute of this performance is so perfect it makes me cry. It looks like the most fun that the world can offer." Amen, youtube commenter. Agreed. The show felt just like this, although probably slightly less smelly and dirty, since this video was taken at Bonnaroo, after all.