My son stayed home yesterday after informing me that while he wasn't sick, his "nose [was] nauseated" and demonstrating the sort of hacking cough that was guaranteed to make me the target of many side-eyed looks of consternation. When it had already been established that mama's l'il mucus machine would be cooling his heels at home, my husband commented that when he was a caveboy in the Paleozoic era, children didn't miss school for a simple cold. He grew up in a rural community, so pretty much the only thing that would keep one home would be an unfortunate run-in with a rusty farm implement, but even then, you were expected to dress whatever remained of your pulverized limb and get your pansy ass to school. The culture of sick has certainly changed.
So my son stayed home today and watched an episode of The Jetson's, worked on his flying saucer (it now has upgrades, including a balcony) and drew many, many pictures of spaceships. He was happy, but I'm afraid that I'm not very good at being a nursemaid. I've had enough experience with this now to know that the day always starts out with me being all loving and maternal, but somewhere around the sixth, "Mom! I want a drink!" I start to get a little teeth-grind-y. By the eighth or ninth imperious demand, I organize little union for myself all Norma Rae-style and go on strike. "Get. It. Yourself. You. Can. Walk." I will respond sotto voce through clenched teeth. And he will because the mamas-not-foolin' vibe is undeniable. Anyway, we survived the day and his little nauseated nose appears to have found some relief.
Whenever my son is sick, I inevitably reflect back on my sick days as a child. I believe that I picked up some of my less nurturing traits from my mother, who viewed an unwell child with suspicion and a bit of resentment. There was always a "Just what are you trying to pull?" type of tone behind her interactions with us when my brother or I were sick and I think this has some residual influence on me as a mother today. I wish I were more nurturing sometimes. I have a friend who has three daughters and she never seems irritated by being a mother, never seems distracted or anything less than available to her children. I admire her a lot - her selflessness, the strong pulse of the mothering instinct in her - but I do not envy her. I would be completely depleted as the mother of more than one. My essential selfishness is a weakness of my character, quite clearly, but it is an honest assessment. It is not quite the same thing as stinginess: I simply don't have anything more to give than I already do but what I do have to give is given freely and with joy. (The rest of what I have in me has always been earmarked for various creative projects - now that is what I am adept at nurturing and it nourishes me right back.)
Despite my limitations as a mother and a human being, I am determined to do my best and keep growing, even when my little guy asks for yet another snack. Deep breaths are always at my disposal.