birthday celebration, phase 4: on shaky ground

The future of tomorrow’s play date party is uncertain.

Jonah spiked a fever today. I took him to the pediatrician because he was also complaining about being dizzy.

But he’s fine.

I asked the doctor if we should cancel the party and I swear the man looked at me like I was COMPLETELY nuts.

“Give him Tylenol every four hours and see how he feels in the morning.”

“But the 24-hour rule?”

Again, with the look.

“It’ll be fine!”

I should say, this is not our normal pediatrician. She would use more words and only make nice faces at me. This is the same-day-appointments-on-Saturdays guy. We saw him two weeks ago also, checking out Jonah’s rash before our big trip. I was worried it was food allergies. He dismissed it as “lip-licker syndrome” and “prescribed” Vaseline. I promptly purchased an organic emollient cream from Whole Foods and an organic lip balm instead. Because that’s how I roll.

Based on his demeanor, I’m suspecting this doctor is not loving his Saturday shift. But I’m not about to try to see him on a weekday to see if he’s any more charming.


I do think the parents of Jonah’s friends generally subscribe to that 24-hour rule. We do. You know the one? If they’re fever-free for 24 hours, you can send them to school/care. If they haven’t vomited in 24 hours… ditto. If the mucous is not running continuously… are there any others? I’ve also heard that they are shedding viruses most strongly for 24 hours before they come down with something so there’s always that window of contagion that one cannot control or avoid. So, technically, all his preschool friends have already been exposed. Possibly.

If Jonah is feeling well in the morning, I will email and call folks and give them the lowdown on the fever’s passage.

We’re thinking we could just erect a card table at the base of the front stairs. We could hand out plates of snacks and cake and goodie bags and people could drop off their gifts. Drive-up window service.

Today I decided that some other day, I should just surprise Jonah with a “sick day.”

Because when he gets sick, I become the greatest mom on God’s green earth.

He watched about six Dinosaur Train episodes today, plus a few other shows. Two episodes of something called Noodle and Doodle. A few minutes of a movie called Robots. The entire live-action film, Andre. The waning moments of a good-night show on Sprout that featured a lullaby and all the puppets were tucked into bed.

He had as much “syrup milk” (milk mixed with maple syrup) as he wanted. Which was about 4 glass-fulls. He also got to sample the frosting for tomorrow, and one of the star cookies that broke. In fact, I gave him the option of selecting a piece of Halloween candy before going to the doctor. He chose M&Ms.

First I was using it as a bribe. He loves going to the doctor. So he may over-report symptoms just for the excitement and drama. I tested him by offering candy as a trade. That didn’t work. But I felt bad about trying to bribe him. Then, I was hoping with the candy to bring up his blood sugar and make the dizzy feeling go away. It didn’t work.

But he did enjoy the candy.

Are you nominating me for mom-of-the-year yet?

He did eat an actual meal for dinner. A meatloaf sandwich. So that’s some good beef and whole-grains yang to balance out all the sugar yin.

And then, everything fell apart.

Scott was out on an important errand buying the boy a present or four at TRU, and picking up missing parts at Ikea — for the latest piece of office furniture he was trying to put together earlier.

Jonah and I had just finished watching the lullaby show. I said something complimentary about the barrette in his hair, a blue-glitter heart that his friend Sabine gave him at school yesterday. Jonah loves barrettes. The prettier, the better. He also adores Sabine.

“I have another barrette,” he tells me. “I think Asha gave it to me, or Sabine. It’s an orange butterfly. The wing is broken off, but I don’t mind.”

He couldn’t be beaming more blissfully as he’s describing this to me. And my heart is sinking into the center of the earth.

As we were cleaning up the house today in preparation for the party, I threw away that barrette. It was amongst all of the other bits and bobs that pile up everywhere, and it had lost more than just one wing. It was literally a silver clip with a little knob of broken-edged orange plastic.

I screwed my courage to the sticking point and told the boy the truth. I battened down the hatches. I held on tight because a storm was a-comin’.

And it came. Oh man. It came.

He screamed. He howled. He WAILED. His face turned bright red. Tears poured down his face. “I want you to get it back, RIGHT NOW.” “NO NO NO NO!!!!” “GET IT BAAAAACK!” “I want a NEW one RIGHT NOW.” “NOOOOOOO!”

With every “No” he wagged his finger so furiously, it was a blur.

I stayed calm. I heard the pamphlet in my head, the one I’d read recently about crying. The pamphlet voice in my head said, “This is his opportunity to heal. He is using this as an appropriate moment to heal from something entirely unrelated. Don’t talk him out of it. Just let him be angry. Let him cry.”

I held fast. I agreed with him about how sad it was. I apologized for making a mistake. (Part of me so wanted to blame the house cleaner, or pretend I hadn’t thrown it out and look all over the house for it with him.)

He stood on the couch and pounded the pillows. But he didn’t hit me. At one point, he wailed, “I wish I had told you how important the barrette was to me!”

I so understand what he was feeling. And I told him I understood.

Eventually, the storm/tantrum played itself out. When he was calmer, we talked about how this was similar to the Train Balloon. How sometimes things go away and you cannot get them back.

I told him he could have one of my barrettes. We went to the bathroom together and I gave him every one I had. Which was two. One gold sparkle one, and one with rhinestones. We found a special box for him to keep his barrettes in, so this sort of thing won’t happen again. We discussed when might be a good time to shop for a butterfly barrette, which will be tomorrow, after the party, or instead of the party if no one comes.

We sat on the couch in his room for a while and cuddled. He told me that he never wants to leave here ever.

“Right here, snuggling on the couch with me?”

“No. This house.”

“You never want to leave this house?”

“I want to stay here forever.”

It’s entirely possible that he may have heard Scott and I talking about how we don’t like our house, and how we might sell it someday. We may have even discussed it with him. Blithely. It’s a strong fantasy for us, dumping this house. Jonah does not feel the same way.

“I don’t ever want to lose anything, ever,” he says.

So we talked for a while about that. I tried to tell him that things are just things. We can always get more things. Even though we’re sad sometimes when we lose or break things. That the people we love are the most important (and I stop there and pray that he isn’t worried about losing people; but he might be).

He says, “Like how grandma broke that plate?” Last Thanksgiving, Scott’s mom was helping do dishes and she broke her mother’s fancy gold-edged china serving platter which Scott had pulled out for the occasion. She felt terrible. She’d saved that heirloom plate, passed it on to us, and it slipped in the grease and soap in the sink. I think I may have told that story to Jonah when his train balloon flew away, and/or some other time when I was trying to explain about how things that are important sometimes get broken or lost, but the people are more important than the things.

And then it was over. He turned to examine a printout of a dinosaur picture, taped up on his wall, showing combat between a Triceratops and a Deinonychus. “There’s Deinonychus’ terrible claw,” he says, pointing to where said claw is rending the opponent’s flesh. “We should color some blood on this.”

So we take the picture down and the boy goes in search of red crayons.

Daddy comes home with dinner for us. Jonah sets out his ladybug tea set and serves us pretend tea. We have to wait a bit, he informs us, because it’s steeping. But eventually he pours, warning that we’ll need to cool it off by blowing.

And then it’s time for bed. He puts the tea set away, brushes his teeth.

We read A Color of His Own, one of my favorite books from my childhood. Scott sings songs. And the boy, in his space sleeping bag, surrounded by 14 stuffed animals, some decorated with monster-truck stickers, falls asleep.

4 comments for “birthday celebration, phase 4: on shaky ground

  1. December 4, 2011 at 7:45 am

    We go by the 24 hour rule too. That has happened to us a few times. I usually call everyone let them know the gist and let them decide if they want to risk it. I hope he’s feeling better.

  2. PopPop
    December 4, 2011 at 9:28 am

    What a beautiful post. Both the content and writing are beyond words that adequately describe how deeply felt and expressed. Thank you. You and your family are a blessing.

  3. Nana
    December 4, 2011 at 10:30 am

    You are so brave. What a wonderful life lesson he learned. What a wonderful mother you are.

  4. Lisa Kaseff
    December 4, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I hope I can remember all this for when Jordyn is Jonah’s age. Such important life lessons that you handle so beautifully with love…

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