Margaret was sick this week. When she’s ailing, I’m the best mother in the world in her eyes. She’s clingy, gushy, emotional, attentive, and full of praise for me. She becomes downright sappy-when-sick. The truth is that I am located miles away from the state of perfection as a parent. Still, I have to admit, I bask in the distortion of such an illusion.
I take no pleasure in the fact that she’s sick; not being able to make her better is the absolute worst feeling. Like every other loving mom, I would trade places with her in a nano second to keep her from suffering. But since I can’t trade with her, I might as well enjoy the temporary status as perfect mom to which I am (however undeservedly) elevated.
Like most human beings, she hates being sick, which makes me fairly certain that she would take me up on trading with her if it were possible. I’m pretty sure she’s working on an app for that.
No matter what she’s ailing from, our dialogue goes something like this:
Margaret (teary eyed, with her pillow-induced-static hair going in a million directions): “Mommy (it’s only mommy when she’s sick or trying to manipulate me), am I going to get better?”
Me: “Yes, of course you’ll get better. You just have a bug.”
Margaret: “What if I don’t get better?”
Me: “Why wouldn’t you?”
Margaret: “I don’t know. But what if I don’t?”
Me: “You will if you drink a lot of fluids and get some sleep.”
Margaret: “Mommy, I love you so much. You’re the best mommy in the world. I don’t tell you that enough!”
The conversation repeats numerous times throughout the day. Which I don’t mind. I know all too well how this whole “sappy-when-sick” episode ultimately ends. Nonetheless, each time it happens, I let myself get drenched in it anyway.
The best part is when she documents her mushy feelings because it makes my false sense of perfectness last even longer. Though I must admit, on days I’m feeling like the most flawed mom to walk the earth, it achieves the opposite effect. Instead of feeling better, I am overcome with Jewish-turned-Catholic guilt – which as I’ve mentioned previously is the worst kind because it’s a double whammy.
Here’s one of Margaret’s sappy-when-sick missives from this week:
Margaret inherited her sappy-when-sick gene from her dad. The first time I got sick in front of him was when I had the stomach flu. He held my hair all throughout the night as I ‘prayed to the porcelain god.’ I kept saying how sorry I was that he had to see me like this and that he should just go home. He kept saying “oh, just wait until I’m sick.” I wasn’t sure what he meant. I learned quickly enough.
Ah but all lies must come to an end.
When the unwarranted praise begins to wane and the sappiness subsides, when the no-strings-attached compliments stop flowing and my words of comfort fall on deaf ears, I know my daughter is fast on the mend. And while the falsely attributed perfection is fleeting, as long as my baby girl is healthy I’m perfectly fine with going back to being an imperfect mom.