It was about 3:30 in the morning. I’m lying in my 5-year-old’s bed, awkwardly wrapped around stuffies and just-in-case towels and something pokey that was probably Mr. Potato Head's eyeballs that we had ransacked the house earlier trying to find. My poor son had been throwing up every 20 minutes since 10:30 pm. So there I was, feeling exhausted and helpless and impatient, since he had stopped even trying to dry heave into the bowl. Instead, he just lay there all limp and clammy and stinky, like a tiny, drunk frat boy. Only way cuter.
To add insult to injury, the day/night before had been Valentine’s Day, which used to be a big, romantic deal to my husband and I. Seriously nauseating schmoopieness. Handmade gifts. Flowers. Love notes. But that was many years ago, before marriage and kids and impending Noro Virus. Now V-Day had now turned into a tired family dinner and mandatory exchange of uninspired gifts.
Here’s how I’m pretty sure Dave’s and my passive-aggressive thought conversation transpired when we swapped presents:
Dave: “Oh, a trite, motivational book about pursuing my dreams! How thoughtful of you to pick this up near the register when you bought something for the kids.”
Me: “You’re welcome, honey. Maybe someone else’s words might inspire you more than my own. Oh, neat. A short, sheer, black robe. Does middleagedsuburbanhousewifelingerie.com take returns? “
So, I lay there, jammed against the wall in my son's bed, thinking about this and all the other stuff you think about in the middle of the night. Work and parenting and aging parents and marriage and the everythings that need to be repaired or cleaned or upgraded in our house. And how I could be doing them all better. How that TV commercial I wrote could have been funnier, or how I should have said something smarter in that meeting, or how I should have planned ahead and handmade a Valentine’s gift like I used to, or how I should be more patient with my parents and the kids because I expect the same of them and childhood is short and I will miss these days. And as usual, in the middle of the night, it all seems insurmountable.
I guarantee the very first molehill turned into the very first mountain sometime around 3am.
Shaking me out of my guilt reverie, my son gave the little chokey cry that meant he was going to be sick again, and I helped him. And we both settled back into our uncomfortable positions, mine more mental than physical.
Then, in his raspy, exhausted, sweet, five-year old voice, he said the words that he must have intuitively known I needed to hear. (Kids are amazing like that. I also believe they can communicate with animals, but that’s a topic for another day.)
He said: “Mama. I’m so glad you’re staying here with me. You’re doing a really good job.”
Wait. I was doing a good job?
I WAS DOING A GOOD JOB!!
I wanted to cry. Because I think that’s all most of us really want to hear. In every aspect of our lives. As wives and husbands and employees and bosses and parents and friends and siblings and kids and grown-ups. We all just want to know that we’re doing “a good job.”
And I realized that I am.
Because at any given time, I’m doing the best I can.
Oh, sure, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Especially in the timely and thoughtful gift department. But overall, as my delirious 5-year-old had pointed out, I’m not sucking pretty successfully.
So I kissed him on the forehead and said “Thank you, buddy. I love you.” And fell into the most restful sleep I’d had all night.
For about 23 minutes until he had to hurl again.
But when he did, I held that bowl and gently propped up his sweaty little head like the best middle-of-the-night-vomit-helper the greater Seattle area has ever known.
Cause that’s just what you do when you’re doing a good job.