I have always had a bit of an ambivalent relationship with guilt. On the one hand, I can easily be convinced, in the words of a very good friend of mine, that “guilt is a useless emotion.” On the other hand, I also realize its place and its power to occasionally motivate. But the guilt a mother feels? Nothing ambivalent about that–not in the least.
This week has been a tough one for me physically. A fever on Sunday, too sick to go to work on Monday, dragging myself in on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning only to go home early on Thursday with yet another fever. I’m home today–listening to my body, sitting mostly still, drinking lots of tea and orange juice and giving myself permission to heal.
Last night, amidst fits of violent coughing, I suggested to Edgar that perhaps for tonight he should “read with Daddy.” The boys’ routine is generally Oscar reads with Don and I read with Edgar. Of course, on the rare occasion when one of us is out for the evening, the boys happily read with whomever is home. But when both of us are home, the routine is pretty fixed. The answer to Edgar’s crestfallen “Why?” to me seemed obvious as I alternately feared for the safety of my ribs and tried to keep the contents of my nose at bay. I said, “Mommy is sick. Please can you read with Daddy?”
Then the pursed lower lip. Then the tears. Real tears.
I got up from my slumped position in the chair, reached for his book of choice (Ian Falconer’s Olivia), invited Edgar to my intermittently convulsing lap, and read the story–twice.
Motivated by guilt? Maybe.
Motivated by love? Absolutely.
And we all slept well–Edgar secure in the knowledge that even when his parents are sick, they are still there for him. And me? Well, I’m sure the cough medicine didn’t hurt . . . but mostly because I was able to put Edgar to bed with a smile on his face.