Oliver is under the weather. I noticed it first when he climbed into bed next to me in the early morning. He wouldn't tolerate the thermometer for long but the digital readout already displayed 99.7 when I could no longer hold it in place. After some tylenol and a leisurely breakfast we chanced a short excursion to the arboretum for our Sunday walk and then returned when Oliver said "take a nap." I can't remember the last time Oliver voluntarily took a nap and so when he woke two hours later we lounged together on the couch watching Elmo. He was in fine spirits but unusually sedate.
After my last entry in which I confessed to feeling pretty lousy over the past week I find myself today feeling pretty good. Yes, it was 70 beautiful degrees today and yes, Nik did come home finally from his trip to California but I was startled to realize that there is another reason for the shift: Today, I was needed. Oliver, of course, needs me everyday -- but today was different. I was the classic mom in action, today. I soothed and stroked him. I murmered softly. I kissed warm forehead, nose, and hands. I gave "magic pills" for fever and let him sip my tea. I made sure he drank plenty of water, drew him a warm bath and watched over him while he slept.
All this is in sharp contrast to how I was feeling a day ago, a week ago, when I started to notice old behaviors resurfacing. I believe that many of these behaviors are Oliver's way of reacting to stress, frustration, anxiety, anger and even boredom. But too often I am slow at making the connection. And sometimes I never make it at all and am left to draw from my big bad of mom tricks feeling entirely inadequate. If only a little fever were the only test.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking that if only Oliver could tell me if he were hungry, tired, cold, hurt, bored, etc. then my job would be a lot easier. But I know that's not really true -- he is communicating with me if I really pay attention. Language isn't all it's cracked up to be: after all, how many times do I expect others to know what I am thinking by how I am acting or the look on my face. Oliver didn't tell me what he needed today in so many words but by curling up in my lap and pulling the blanket up to his chin he let me know loud and clear. So maybe the trick isn't so much knowing how to mother, but knowing how to listen.