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split screen

3:47AM

“Mommy my head hurts so bad and I’m freezing,” says the whispered voice in my ear.

I am awake. Check the clock. Groan (quietly, I hope; don’t want to psychically scar the sick child).  Usually these pre-dawn wake-ups are Caleb with a bad dream. He tells me about the dream, then flops onto what we call the dog bed (see above: children may well already be scarred, who knows). The dog bed is a crib mattress we put on the floor of our bedroom for nightmares/sick/can’t sleep, thus removing the whole “can I sleep in your bed” question. Because the answer to that, sweet darlings, is always “no.” No to horizontally spread children,  no to the outflung arm in the face, no to waking up shivering because all the covers have migrated to children and Husband.

Thus the dog bed.

I pat Liam into the dog bed, cover him up, bring him an aspirin (let’s hear it for no more bleary-eyed attempts to pour liquid tylenol to the correct measure and then force that little cup into an unwilling child’s mouth), some cold water, a compress for his feverish head.

Poor thing is miserable. His head hurts, he’s feverish, he’s whimpering a little.

I’m not usually prone to dramatic medical narratives but given all the illness in friends’ lives these days, I am suddenly convinced he has a tumor. Or cancer. Or a cancerous tumor. Or meningitis. Or lupus. Or meninlupaltumors. Or something.

I pat his hot head with the cool compress, murmur that it’s okay, that he’ll feel better as soon as the aspirin kicks in.

The very picture of a doting mamma, right?

Yeah. Well. Inside? I’m frantically flipping through my calendar for Monday, wondering if Liam could sit in my office for an hour while I taught, then maybe the sitter could come, and what’s Husband’s schedule and could we pass Liam back and forth until a sitter could be found, would the neighbors watch him in the morning, should I cancel a class, no can’t do that have too much to do, and oh god what if he has cancer, I really have to get him to the eye doctor maybe that’s what these head aches are, what time is it, maybe I should text the sitter now to  see if she could come over around 9 because maybe she’s still awake, and dammit why does he have to be sick, and why on earth didn’t Husband and I figure out that teaching on the same days instead of alternate days (as we’ve done for the past five or six years) was a really bad idea?

Pat, pat, pat, shush, shush, shush.

Somehow, you know, I think the working mothers interviewed by Gwyneth Paltrow in her “lifestyle blog” never find themselves half-asleep, draped across a crib mattress next to a feverish child, contemplating a 4AM SOS text to the babysitter.  And, furthermore, if they were to find themselves in such a position, there would magically appear a masseuse the next day to iron out the crib-mattress kinks from their necks and lower backs.

Good news: Liam went to school about half-way through the morning, Husband’s schedule allowed him to stay home, I went to work; we don’t think it’s lupameningitumor.  Bad news: it’s 9:42PM and still not one masseuse has showed up to rub my neck.

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One Response to split screen

  1. Melissa March 30, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    That bunch of insults to every working mother masked as everyday “interviews” on GOOP was such a travesty. I so relate to the syndrome of being in the moment and present with kids’ sickness – “honey, can i make it better” vs. the raging, internal monologue that just can’t be suppressed – “shit, why are you sick? are you dying? am i overreacting?”. The other week my 1 year old woke up with a fever of 103 and I literally thought she had scarlet fever and was going to die. Of course, we popped in some tylenol and she was fine the next day….

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