But when my kid throws up at school, someone is by-gosh going to get her and take care of her. And yesterday that person was me.
On the thirty-minute commute home, I pulled the empty plastic container out of my lunch box for her to hold in her lap in case she got sick again. It filled my car with the smell of stewed chick peas, which is not nearly as appetizing in a cold wet car as it is in a warm kitchen. Also, the vomit still caked to her shirt had a little odor to it, too. I cracked the windows to give her a little air and I tried to keep her occupied with conversation. I asked her to run down the day and see if she could pinpoint when she’d started feeling sick and what happened. I was trying to ask her when she’d first knew she felt sick, but she heard it as me asking her when she first knew she was going to throw up.
“When it happened,” was her answer. “I didn’t know the throw-up was going to come out of my mouth until it did.”
“Yeah, that’s how throw-up works,” I grimly agreed.
We got home and got her changed. Grandmommy and Granddaddy came over. She watched Strawberry Shortcake on TV. She ate some crackers and soup. I let her take some toys into the bath with her. We bent some usual rules. By the time her grandparents left, she was her usual self: bouncing off the walls, hollering and laughing, clearly feeling fine. I would say I felt suddenly thankful for her apparent recovery, but I’d actually been feeling thankful for a while.
In that time that I was leaving my office and driving to pick her up, I didn’t know anything about how she was doing other than she threw up. I expected a fever; I expected more vomit in my car; I expected holiday travel plans would be canceled; I expected less sleep and burned-up PTO. I expected… well, not quite the worst, but much more worse than it turned out to be. And in the midst of my hurry to get to her, in the midst of anxiety and fear, in the midst of my mobilization of every internal emotional resource of strength and support that I could muster, you know what popped up? Gratitude.
Driving to her school, uncertain of what the next hours might bring, I was so grateful to have the chance to give care to my child. I never wish her sick, of course, but she’s got a human body susceptible to world just like all of us, and I’m glad I know what it’s like to so powerfully give my life to someone I love. I had already decided she was going to puke in my car again – might even puke on me – and that didn’t even slow me down. I’m thankful my child has someone like me to love her, not because I’m the amazingly perfect parent, but because we all need someone to love us. She has two parents who will nurse her when she’s sick; she has grandparents who would take her to the hospital if needed; she has a school with teachers who wipe vomit off her shoes; she has a doctor who is good with kids. And I have these things, too. I’m glad I can be a part of a community that cares for her – and others as well.
Driving to her, uncertain and anxious, I didn’t know that thanksgiving would bubble up from my heart until it suddenly did.
Because that’s how thanksgiving works.