Monday, February 18, 2008

Love in the Time of Fever

My horoscope today says something about being especially energetic and feeling like cleaning the whole house.

Yeah, right.

If ever there were an example to prove that horoscopes are hooey, today’s would be it. I have the all the energy of a battery in my son’s remote control car. In other words, I’m totally drained.

We were up several times in the night because my son is sick. Since Saturday night, he’s had the high fever and cough virus that’s managed to blast through every family we know. Half the school must have had it by now. The other half will get it this week.

So I spent a long night with Tylenol, thermometers, cool washcloths, blankets, humidifiers, stories, and lullabies, chasing away the fever nightmares and trying to get him comfortable enough to go back to sleep.

Every parent knows exactly what it feels like to sit up all night with a sick child. The emotions are so strong – the despair when he moans and you can’t make it better, the utter relief when you feel his cheeks grow cooler and hear his breath steady out into sleep.

It’s part of the job of parent, to spend long nights battling helplessness and worry. And that’s just over a virus that we are pretty confident will eventually wear itself out and fade away. Imagine what we go through when it’s even more serious.

But we do it because we signed up for it in the very beginning. Right there, at the start, when we said, “Yes, we want a child!” we knew we were signing on for sleepless nights, bottomless fears, desperate worry, and semi-permanent exhaustion.

You’d think sane people would know better. You’d think we’d look at the list of “Known Side Effects” of parenthood and say, “Whoa, maybe we should get a cat.”

But we didn’t. We went ahead and signed on the dotted line, took the baby home, and what’s more, we took the tags off so we couldn’t return him.

And right there, in the middle of the night, when the fever made him dream of boulders falling toward him, and his hair was damp and clinging to his neck, and he couldn’t stop tossing and turning, I thought about how hard parenting is, and how I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this universe. And the reason is this: every few seconds, he kept whispering, “I love you.”

Through the fever, the bad dreams, and the miserable feelings inside, the lifeline he held on to is the same one I hold on to every day. We cling to it, knowing that we can survive anything as long as that lifeline is there. He loves me, and I love him, and eventually the fever will break, but the love will still be there, stronger than ever.

So even though this morning I don’t have the energy to make my bed, let alone clean my house, there’s a different kind of energy burning strong inside me. And that’s what makes being a parent worth it after all.

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