Monday, January 08, 2007

Sick Day

You can convince yourself that your child is growing up too fast. Go ahead, point to his habit of disappearing into his room, slamming his door and then, after a short pause. cranking his Gorillaz CD to migraine-inducing volumes.

Think of this as he sits, crammed into the back seat of your car with two other friends, doubled-over with laughter at the similaries between the word "weenus" (loosely defined as "elbow skin") and "penis" (we know what this is).

Yes, he is growing up, perhaps too quickly for some of us. I'm not really part of that groupthink, actually. I don't mind that he is growing up, and if I have to remind him that he's "no longer a baby" several times a day, so be it. I'm fine with it.

I was once a high school teacher. Even though I failed at it (shocking, I know), it wasn't because I didn't like the kids. I loved the kids. Because of that, I'm operating under the assumption that once the Jawa hits adolescence, I'll understand his motivations and concerns better than I do now that he is 9.

All of that seems pretty ridiculous right now, however. Though the Jawa and I began our morning in the usual fashion (me yelling, him lying with his feet against the heating vent in the living room, reading instead of getting ready for school), the phone call I got at 11:55 indicated that this would not be a normal Monday.

"Hello, this is Brandeis Hillel Day School. Your Jawa has a fever of 104."

Fifteen minutes later, I got another phone call.

(smaller voice than normal) "Hi, Dad. Mommy came to get me."

And then he started crying because he wanted to go to band practice today, but you just don't get to blow that horn, Dizzie Gillespie, when you're running a fever of 104 and appear at the front door with red-rimmed, glassy eyes an bright red cheeks. Instead of band practice, you get a makeshift bed on the downstairs couch, the remote, a glass of water and all the TV-watching you can stand.

You do not get GameCube, unfortunately, especially when, for you, GameCube is a very physical activity.

Remember staying home from school? Adulthood has never come close to providing the security and overall calm of a day spent lying on the couch -- with your pillow and the blankets from your bed -- watching TV. And I am sincerely sorry for kids whose parents won't let them watch TV in that situation, or will only let them watch PBS. They may grow up to be enlightened adults, but who knows if they'll spend their lives plagued by a nagging sense of insecurity, one which they cannot name?

So today, instead of sitting upstairs in the kitchen, I am on the floor downstairs, equidistant from my ill Jawa and 27 inches of "Tom & Jerry" with surround sound. Right now, after being hit on the head with a household object, Tom has not only lost his memory but also taken on the attributes and interests of a mouse. This has upset Jerry's equilibrium to the point that he feels it necessary to create a mine field of falling household objects with which to pummel Tom back into cat-ness.

A few minutes ago, I watched the Jawa's eyelids get heavier and heavier, finally settling onto his lower lids, giving him what will, with luck, turn into a couple hours of respite from illness, courtesy of the fatigue of a 9-year-old body battling illness, and, naturally, the makers of Tylenol.

He is the child who likes "Star Wars," hip-hop, Vans slip-ons with a repeating bug motif. Earlier this year, he "broke up" with his girlfriend, but she still hangs around to talk to him when they get out of school. He hopes to work at LegoLand someday and cannot bring himself to let go of an argument until he has had the last word. He doesn't like baseball, but he plays basketball, I think, because he knows we want him to play at least one sport. He still isn't comfortable being downstairs alone. Dave K. and his wife took us on a tour of Lucas Arts last Friday, which the Jawa said was "sweet." Right before he fell asleep, he begged me to let him play GameCube.

All of that is true, and when he wakes up I'm sure he'll be bugging me to play GameCube again, but right now all he looks like is a larger version of the sleeping infant I remember from 9 years ago.

It's just as well that I spend my afternoon watching over a sick Jawa. Maybe it will give me a chance for redemption after what now looks like a morning harassing a sick child in the service of getting out the door on time.

It's a parent thing. Once, a few months after the Jawa was born, I took some of my students to see Ethan Canin do a reading at the Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle. At the reading, someone asked him about becoming a new parent, how it felt, etc. His answer: "Well, if you don't have kids, my answer is going to be boring, and if you do, you already know how it is."

Second-best answer. Best comes from Joe Mele, a guy I knew in grad school, who at his kid's christening said, "The best thing about having a kid is that by the time I realized I had a hole in my life, it was already filled."


Anonymous the hammer said...

Awwwwww, poor little guy. I hope Jawa's back to his old self soon. I'll keep my fingers crossed that I'm not echoing many of your statements tomorrow. My little fellow was showing his true, little guy tendencies last night, trying to get to sleep without his favorite stuffies, who were sleeping soundly at your house. I hope our little boys only grow up a little bit and maintain little pieces of their innocent childhood.

3:38 PM  

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