a celebration of earth, mindfulness, and mothering.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
The flu has had it's way with us. It came, and for the past two weeks it took my family over, completely. For the first couple of days, my husband and I put up a good fight; we stayed on top of things around the house despite getting little more than a couple hours of sleep each night. But three small children with raging fevers has a way of wearing on you. The first week, I was the mother of my dreams: I nurtured, I made soups, I kissed foreheads, I read books, I took great care of my three sick children. Something changed around the seventh day. It was when I realized I had forgotten myself, completely. I had not showered in seven days.
Showers are a place where a mother can be reborn. When I was younger, I used to accost my own mother for her long showers. Her complete disregard for water as a precious resource angered me. I was an activist, after all. I didn't fully understand the power of water then; I do now. For a mother, a shower is a spiritual experience. You feel your feet on the ground. You are reminded you have a body that is your own, and the water as it rushes over your head can wash all sorts of things away. Water can magically wash away a sleepless night; it can wash away anger and frustration; it can wash away the dread of having to deal with one more day in a house where the flu is taking over your three small children; it can center you in a way nothing else can. And so, on that seventh day, I showered the kind of long warm shower that would make my activist teen self cringe, but make my own mother proud. I remembered myself, fully.
As I stood in that shower having the kind of spiritual experience that only a sleep deprived mother can, I was interrupted by a small roar and the site of my son's green painted face coming around the corner to "scare" me. I am afraid it was in that moment, my shower induced nirvana stopped short by a sweet, well-meaning monster, that things started to slide downhill. The second week of the flu was a little less dreamy. I oscillated between compassion and complete disgust for the three sick children in my home. I wanted to take their pain away and my heart ached at the sight of their sunken, sad eyes and their fever flushed faces and I also wanted to keep at arms distance their constantly running noses and their half covered coughs that seemed to always be pointed in my direction. I both loved them and was completely grossed out by them. By day twelve things had unwound completely. Even our librarian knew something was up when I checked out six videos and no books. She just looked at me and sadly said "uh-oh."
Today, everyone is finally on the mend, and as my kids were back to their playful selves, I was left feeling guilty. Guilty I could not stay in that dreamy good-mother state for them, selflessly giving and endlessly nurturing. But I couldn't; fourteen days was just too long for me to forget myself, and so I forgave myself. Tonight, I read them one of the final chapters of Dr. Dolittle before bed, and afterwards we all snuggled in the same bed for sleep. Beneath the covers, squished between my oldest two children, I felt their little hands sneak into my own, and I knew in that moment, as we held hands after two weeks of the flu, they forgave me too.