Fragility and Indestructibility

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This is a post about this boy…

…who yesterday, while I was running siblings to various lessons, punched (yes, I did say punched) the light switch in the kitchen, with this result:

But at three this morning, the cries started up in his room. I hauled myself out of bed and across the hallway to find out what was the matter, expecting a bad dream, but the choking cough alerted me that it was something more serious. My five-year-old has croup. The seal-bark cough, the stridor breathing, the absolute panic of not being able to draw breath.

As I gathered him up into my arms, it struck me how still, his little boy body fits so perfectly against me, like puzzle pieces. He’s all arms and legs now, shooting outward, just waiting for the weight gain to fill them out. But he still likes to snuggle with me—on top of me, although now when his head rests on my chest, his toes dangle past my knees. It’s about the only time of day you can get him to be still, that snuggle time.

He was wailing, panicking, and I thought of the many times we went through this with Julianna, and I felt a deep gratitude, there in the wee hours of the night, that I had those experiences, because I know not to panic. “Michael, I need you to calm down,” I said, holding him close against me. “Crying makes your body need more oxygen. You need to calm down. I’ve got you. As soon as you calm down, I’ll explain what’s happening to you.”

And he did. It took a minute, but he settled down against me, and I was able to convince him he wasn’t dying and he didn’t need to panic. It was a bit surreal, having a child with croup who was old enough to have a rational conversation about it. Even more surreal when you consider that this is the child who rips off drawer faces and considers tackles an acceptable form of greeting.

It seemed rather useless to put on the vaporizer, considering the windows are open and the humidity is already high, but I got some Vicks (well, Target generic) and smeared it all over his chest and back, and set up all his big stuffed animals with his pillow in front of them, and propped him up against it, then tucked him back in.

“What’s ‘oxygen’?” he asked sleepily.

You’ve got to love science lessons at three a.m.

After I explained oxygen and carbon dioxide, I kissed him goodnight and promised him we’d go see the doctor in the morning.

And although his breathing was still raspy, he shot upward and wrapped those long, lean, yet still so very baby-skin arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. “I love you,” he said.

These are the moments motherhood is made of.

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