As much as I love writing, every few weeks I find myself staring at a blank screen willing something, anything to come to me. It’s at these times that my family really sees the best of my personality as I go room to room begging everyone to give me an idea, any idea to write about.
Today, my youngest, Peter, suggested I write about a time machine. This idea grabbed me. What would I do if I could go back in time, especially as a mom to three kids, now 17, 14, and 11. What would I change?
The first thing that popped in my head was the time when my first child, Tom, was 15 months old and his doctor had approved giving him peanut butter.
I was so excited to introduce this food, because he was (and remains) an extremely picky eater. I carefully made him a sandwich with artisan whole wheat bread, organic strawberry jam, and peanut butter purchased just for this momentous occasion. I know, I know. Remember he was my first.
I then happily watched him eat his sandwich. Anytime I got that kid to eat something I experienced a high akin to sex, or a full night of sleep, both which as a new mom I didn’t have too much time for.
Once lunch was over I put him down for his afternoon nap and started to do some housework before we had to go out for his 2:00 p.m. play date.
About 10 minutes into watching a Law and Order rerun, I mean dusting the living room, I heard my baby cough. But it wasn’t just any cough. It was more of the croupy kind that had scared the heck out of me a few months before. The one that had my husband and me spending the wee hours after midnight in a steamy bathroom with the shower running, just like the nurse from our insurance company’s 24-hour hotline told us to do.
Why would he croup during the day? Isn’t that just at night? Then I started to panic, maybe he was choking on the peanut butter. I had thinned it out just like my baby bible, “What to Expect the First Year,” told me to do. But maybe I didn’t do it enough?
I ran into the nursery and saw my sweet baby crying and coughing. I picked him up and noticed that he was covered in big, red, angry welts all over his body. I fought the urge to faint and called my cousin Donna, who lived across the street and herself has a nut allergy.
Two minutes later, my sainted cousin came over pushing her two-month-old daughter in a carriage with a bottle of Benadryl as I was talking to the pediatrician’s office on the phone to find out how much I should give him.
Thankfully the medicine worked, and after a check with the doctor, he was happy once again.
But I was a wreck. I had caused my child harm. I did it, I fed him the sandwich, it was all my fault. What if it hadn’t worked out the way it had? It was the beginning of me feeling that as much as I tried to control things, bad things could still happen. I was not immune just because I read every parenting book on the market and did everything I thought a “good” mother did. Life and children were fragile.
This is a lesson I would continue to learn, just like I did a few months later when he had a serious virus that landed him in the emergency room, or the two other peanut scares he would have, complete with ambulance rides. Or when it turned out he needed speech therapy or was dyslexic. Don’t get me started with all the lessons I have experienced with his sister and brother.
Now that Tom is a senior in high school and preparing for college and life beyond our little nest, I can see how having to deal with whatever adversity, big and small, he has experienced through the years has turned him into an amazing advocate for himself. I’m in awe of how comfortable he is standing up for himself. He’s also a compassionate person, who is quick to offer assistance because he appreciates all the help and kindness he has been shown through the years.
As tempting as it is for me to jump in a time machine and erase all the painful and difficult experiences life has handed me and my family, I have learned that there is much value in knowing that we can survive and even thrive despite whatever challenges life may throw our way.