Hot Cocoon

September 20, 2010 at 9:47 am 3 comments

I felt a bit like a bozo the other morning as I wrote triumphantly of sickness conquered, of having fought my way through puffy tonsils into the land of the living, of having passed the baton of family life into Nathan’s hands so that I could sleep my illness away. I was up early the day I wrote, full of the kind of energy that one feels after having suffered the anti-energy of sickville. I packed Xi’s lunch, swirling about like Mary Poppins, giddy with health. I wrote the “I was sick but now I am better!” post in record time, hitting the publish button before the household had even roused itself for the day.

But almost immediately after that I realized a different baton had been passed to Echo, that icky tonsil baton.

She called from the bedroom and I scooped her up, a docile, hot cocoon*.

Like me the day before, she attempted to go about her normal business, but after climbing into her chair, the herculean type feat that toddlers accomplish all the time, she muttered softly to herself, Oh, I’m a little tired. Our girls never say those words. I watched her carefully, and she encountered each and every one of my symptoms within a matter of minutes. Mama? My throat hurts, right here. Mama? My tummy doesn’t feel so good, I don’t want this cereal. Mama? My head hurts when I walk.

I’ve passed a lot onto this child, it seems my mongrel genes are determined to carry on. To be fair, I can not be absolutely sure that any physical trait Echo displays comes from me, but when I look at her I can’t help but see myself. The creases on her forearm, permanent evidence of baby fat. The wild, Barbie-like tangles. The knees that hyper extend. These things are little winks, a genetic nod to our relationship. When I see them, when they catch me unawares, I am filled with love for her, but also for me, for the kid that I was once was.

But there are some things a mother does not want to pass to her daughter, like acne, a tendency toward tooth decay, or pain of any kind. As Echo staggered toward the couch my heart leaned toward her, feeling guilt for having delivered the illness to her door. The acute knowledge I held, of what exactly that kind of tonsil pain felt like, exactly what she meant when she said the spot over her eye ached, made it all the more difficult. I wanted to commiserate, tell her how accurately our symptoms matched, but I held back. I know what it’s like to receive oh that happened to me once instead of empathy. To meet a girlfriend for coffee for help with a breakup, only to hear how her boyfriend cheated on her too, and all the details preceding and following. Moments like that leave my feelings untouched, unrelieved and left at the bottom of my heart while the rest of my emotional being tends to the needs of another.

My girl doesn’t care if my tonsils felt the same the day before, or that I too experienced head pain while walking. Her experience is personal, unaffected by what came before for someone else. So I was careful, as Echo described her ailments, to keep my responses entirely empathetic.

Your head hurts? Darn. Right here? Ouch.

Does your throat hurt when you swallow? Shoot.

And with the energy of newfound health, I was able to give her empathy through action as well, holding her while her head ached, or carrying her if she lacked the energy to move herself from room to room. We soaked in hot water to soothe her tender ears, we read stories, and snuggled, her feverish body heat warming me against the rainy afternoon.

Of all the sicknesses a child suffers in their lifetime, fevers are my favorite. A fevered child is warm, docile, and sweet, one that craves closeness, one easily contented with blanket tucking and special stuffed animals. I like that. I also like the delirious, languid chatter. The not-forecasted statements, To me, all pigeons are boys, and the tender declarations of love:

Mama? I want to be buried under the same stone as you. I want to lay with you in death.

This girl. How firmly she has hold of my heart.

* Cocoon. Apparently only moths make them. The caterpillar to butterfly transformation is a classic theme in childhood, as we all know. I’ve always used the general term, cocoon, to describe the magical hammock that opens to reveal the surprise butterfly, and every time, apparently, I have been wrong, The proper term is chrysalis. I thought you might want to know this as well. Oops.


Entry filed under: empathy. Tags: , , , , .

Out of Commission I Know Nothing

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amy McGregor  |  September 20, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Tell Echo we are thinking of her and let her know that Jae, too, is under the weather and stayed home today. Even though they can’t be together, they can have an imaginary sick party with all of the ice cream that they can handle.

    Amy and family

    echo i’m so sorry your sick. i hope you get well soon!


  • 2. jessi  |  September 20, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    kudos to you natalie for thinking of echo’s emotional well being and offering her empathy instead of commradery.
    i am very bad about being the friend at the coffee shop who gives examples of how her life is similar. i have tried very hard to break this habit as i have become more aware of it over the last few years and the lack of love it conveys. i think it happens as a way to say, ‘i am similar to you, you are not alone and neither am i. i embrace and empathize with what you are going through, please tell me how i can be of service.’ at least that is how i hope it comes across because those are the feelings which i hope to convey.
    kudos for echo for having a mommy who can step outside of herself in order to better see and meet the needs of her daughter. i hope echo has a speedy recovery, give her a warm cuddly hug from me.

  • 3. carrie  |  September 20, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    I am same friend Jessi just mentioned
    The oh yes i just had that ect…
    I too am trying –striving to break that habbit
    I love the example here===with Echo
    how wonderful you can be so empathetic
    I find it much easier with my children and so much ,more difficult with spouse or friend
    happy health


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 31 other followers

%d bloggers like this: