I had a revelation the other night. It might not be a revelation to anyone else. Maybe it was the hour (2:30am) or the circumstance (holding a crying toddler, and covered in vomit) that made the significance greater to me, but at any rate, I had a thought that struck me sideways–
That bit in the wedding vows…the part about “in sickness and health,”? That applies to your kids too. Its definitely not something you think about on that rosy day when you don a pretty gown and look deep into the eyes of your one true love as your exchange rings. It kicks in later. Many years later. At 2:30am. When you are covered in vomit.
Our family has been absolutely SLAYED by a stomach bug this week. First my youngest got it. He’s twenty-one months and while he has some vocabulary, the words “Mama, I’m going to puke,” aren’t yet part of it. So, lots of low grade crying punctuated by mercurial outbursts of rage when he clearly felt terrible and wanted something but either didn’t know what it was he wanted, or didn’t know how to ask for it. And then, you know, vomit. With no warning.
It breaks your heart to see these little people in so much distress. You hope you are doing the right thing. You second-guess every decision. We wanted to give Townes all of our attention, he was so miserable, but we suffered guilt from not doing better trying to keep up normal life as best as possible for our older son, Elliott. The constant crying starts to wear on everyone. Bickering ensues. And here is where those vows struck me.
When we said those vows we were thinking about us. Just the two of us. That we would love and support each other through sickness and health. We weren’t thinking of how those vows would grow and stretch to encompass family members (those currently existing, or those to conceive of later), possibly friends. Whether a sick child or an ailing friend or parent, we pledged to stick through it. And break out the sponges and clean up the aftermath.
I know how lucky I am. My husband works in a children’s hospital and has seen children in terrible, chronic circumstances. He has witnessed parents and relationships strained to the point of breaking under incredible stress and sadness and sickness. Our week-long stomach bug is no comparison, but it’s a good reminder of how we buckle down and ride things out together.
I fell ill next. My husband cancelled meetings and ferried our oldest to school in the mornings and Townes and I would lay listless on the couch and watch TV. I’m fairly certain that he has watched more TV in the past week than his older brother had before he turned 3. A fact I am not proud of, but desperate times, y’all. Taking care of a sick child when you hardly have enough strength to make toast is challenging to say the least.
Elliott came down with the dreaded plague last night. Just when I thought we might have skipped over him. At four years old, he has all the vocabulary to tell you just exactly how awful he is feeling, which makes it all the more heartbreaking.
Seven days and counting here. And about seven times that many loads of laundry. I’m here to tell you that you can live on orange Gatorade, and it definitely helps to know my partner in crime knows how to yield Chlorox like a pro.