Friday night, Sophie was procrastinating bedtime. “I want some milk,” she whined. “I want some water. I want to get it myself. I need a kleenex. I’ve got boogers. I need another kleenex. My leg hurts. My head hurts. Can I have some medicine please? My foot hurts…” I wondered whether she was, indeed, experiencing an achy body — but I decided that she was simply attempting to postpone sleep by any means necessary. This is an issue that I’ve been struggling with lately: how much do I trust my own child?
Friday night I told her to be quiet, close her eyes, and stop talking. That didn’t work. Bedtime was starting to feel like as much of a struggle as naptime usually is — and that’s unusual for us. Eventually, I did give her some children’s tylenol, but I didn’t actually believe she was sick. Instead, I reasoned that baby tylenol can do no harm, and it might soothe her. I thought she just wanted attention, and I know how much my daughter loves the taste of baby tylenol.
Saturday morning, when she woke up, she was less whiny and more articulate. “Last night my head was talking to me,” she told me. “It was drumming. My head was talking to me like your phone ringing.” Sophie may not know the word “headache,” but she sure knows how to describe one.
Still, we didn’t change our Saturday plans. I figured that, even if her aches returned, a two-hour drive out to the desert to watch Ben race his mountain-bike would actually be restful. I didn’t know that the mountain-bike course was right next to a constantly used motocross course. We spent the whole day in a dusty parking lot, listening to roaring motorcycles. We also failed to resist the jumpy-castle. Sophie played with the other kids, I chatted with the other moms, Ben won his race, and it all seemed fine until we got home and Sophie threw up.
We tried to take it easy the rest of the weekend, but we failed to do that, too. Saturday night, we actually left Sophie with a babysitter (our absolutely wonderful 12-year-old neighbor) while Ben and I went out for a Valentine’s date of couple’s yoga and then beer. Then, on Sunday, it was just too tempting to make pink heart-shaped valentine’s cookies and deliver them to everyone Sophie loves. I lingered and chatted over a cup of tea with G’s mom and K’s mom and C. And then we dragged Sophie to a Valentine’s-party, where she happily played with her older friends (ages 60 and 7), wiggling her feet and eating icecream. Either we’re terrible at nursing a sick child or else we’re brilliant at continuing living, while Sophie sits on our laps.
On Monday, it was too tempting to go to the San Diego zoo with an old friend of mine who is in town, briefly, taking her 3 kids on vacation. The last vacation that Martha and I went on together was fifteen years ago, in Cambodia, way back before either of us was a mom, way back when there were so few cars in Cambodia that the only way to get around was to bargain with strangers to take us on the back of their motorcycles. Those Cambodian motorcycles and temples and fishing villages and killing fields and beers at sunset over the Tonle Sap and lightbulb-decorated medieval sculptures were all such a whole strange world away from our current domestic mom lives. It’s crazy how much we’ve changed — and how both halves of our lives have been good, the exotic backpacking-round-a-recent-war-zone half and the less-exotic eating-animal-crackers-at-the-zoo part. I wasn’t going to miss the San Diego zoo with Martha and her family.
And what would Sophie have done if I’d kept her home all weekend? Watched “Bob the builder” videos, refused to nap, and generally whined? Riding in my backpack-carrier as we walked around the zoo didn’t seem like such a bad option.
Or maybe there’s no good option. I will always find something to feel guilty about. Motherhood turns out to involve so many harder choices than selecting a motorcycle in Cambodia ever was.