No Superhero

Around 3 p.m. on Thursday, I received a text from Abigail’s nanny that AG was uber-cranky and running a fever.

Of the many things I remain surprised by about myself as a parent, it is how relatively even-keel I remain in the face of kid-related illness or health problems. Abigail has, of course, been blessed with health, but still. I pegged myself as someone who’d treat each runny nose as a precursor for a Contagion-like germ outbreak. Instead, I don’t give most things much mind, and ride out fever spikes and colds, not to mention myriad bumps, scratches and bruises which Abigail, like most kids her age, acquires on an almost daily basis.

I don’t know. I guess it’s true that in many ways, whether you like it or not, you parent like your parents. My parents were not the type to overly react to aches and pains, and I suppose I am the same. Along with, “Glin! No!” in our house you’re most likely to hear, “Shake it off! You can do it, AG!

But when it comes to being sick, just whiny, miserable, personality-shifting sick, as I’ve said before, I think, I’m as indulgent as truffle cream. So even though Abigail’s fever dropped by the evening, and even though it rose slightly and dropped once again by Friday afternoon, there were extra moments with Elmo. There were more times than not where her demands for “Up! Up!” were greeted in the affirmative, no questions asked, even if the end game was just so that she could be perched in my arms to whine up close and personal directly in my face.

(God, no one tells you how much you have to steel yourself for the onslaught of a toddler who can communicate but not articulate. Honestly. The incessant whining is nerve-fraying if you don’t remind yourself to have as much perspective as the good Lord will allow.)

But yesterday morning, around 3 a.m., AG woke up screaming and crying and burning up. She was inconsolable. By 3:30 a.m. we were in the emergency room where she was diagnosed with not one but two ear infections. These are, of course, benign in the spectrum of Childhood ER Results, but I had a tough time not feeling like Mother of The Year for letting it go a day and a half. In my defense, she was eating and drinking and playing and not pulling on her ears. She’s been cutting at least two (perhaps three) teeth. I really did just think she was teething.

But I’m not a doctor. I’m not superwoman. I don’t possess the ability or equipment to diagnose my child’s maladies in a fashion that would keep her from ever feeling discomfort or pain. I am, however, ridiculously human and along with that comes all of the ridiculousness of the condition. Despite what she may think now, or even perhaps for the next decade, her father and I are not infallible. We will indirectly do things that will do anything but shield her from the aches of life, physical or otherwise.

I suspect, as most parents do, that I will spend the entirety of my life apologizing for that in some way. Though I know experiencing hardship in small and larger doses builds character, builds strength, seeing your child suffer on any level leaves a person slightly gutted. I mean, I can tell AG to “shake it off” when she lands on her keester, knowing that if she can’t learn to manage a tumble on her butt God help her later, but oh I know it stings just the same.

As we sat in the waiting room of the ER, waiting for the doctor, watching the Olympics which had just kicked off the night before, I sat with my legs propped up and my daughter snuggled in my arms, against my chest. As she had the day before, she fell asleep right there, even amid the cacophony of janitors, patients and the commentary on the men’s cycling race. During more than one occasion in the subsequent 24 hours, one of the only things that seemed to bring her solace was cuddling up on my lap. Or her dad’s.

There will be a time in her life, no doubt, when she’ll wake up and realize how much we suck as a superheroes, as a defenders against the dark and evil that threaten her life. How it’s all been smoke and mirrors and platitudes and seemingly arbitrary rules regarding bedtimes and curfews and balanced diets.

It’s in that moment, though, that I hope she begins to see us as what we more aptly are: her most trusty sidekicks, her fellow travelers on this journey, where we hug each other and eat Goldfish and extra smoothies because it’s really all we can do to fight another day. Together.