The things we do for love.
This past week, I have been more aware of how we who are parents change while we are on vacation- we become even better people than hopefully we already are. Not a real coincidence that all this happens while parents are on vacation from the real world. But, it is still an interesting phenomena. How patient, unrushed and generous we are with our time, our money and our resources: all we need is a little break from reality, and we parents are some of the nicest people on the face of this earth. Who knew? I am usually the one wearing my crabby pants out the door in the morning, although they seem to fall off when I pull into the school parking lot. Then, by the time I arrive home for supper each night, there they are again- right back on as if they had never had been shed. It’s nice to know that crabby pants are not needed so much on holidays. Although, I did pack a pair just in case. One never knows.
While vacationing, I try to be a little more slow-paced than normal. Thus, I am able to indulge in a favorite past-time of mine: people watching. And it is amazing to see how many variations and differences there are in people. I have particularly been watching parents lately, and this is what I see: the parents I am watching are by-and-large true examples of model parents. Granted, it is not hard to be such when life is lived in the ideal world of no real home responsibilities and no employer breathing down your back. But, let’s be serious. Are parents ever really off the hook? Even on vacation?
So, when I see parents being “model parents” as per the textbook definition (ha! of course there is none!), I feel a real sense of sentimentality toward them. Because I know that even on vacation, parents are still in the trenches. Parents may be on vacation from work, but they are never “off the hook” from parenting. And here are a few examples.
Last night, I was in the washroom with my second youngest daughter. We were getting ready for bed, and were the two lone night hawks still cruising the campground. We were just about ready to head back to our camper, when into the bathroom came a mother gingerly holding a quilt at arm’s length, with a shivering, feverish daughter in tow behind her. I did not make immediate eye contact with the mom because I have been there. Mothers dealing with sickies are not up for curious onlooker’s prying questions. So, I minded my business while they showered off both the quilt and the daughter, and then the pair joined my own daughter and me out in the sink area to further sanitize the items, now that the larger mess had been cleaned in the shower.
Before having children, I would have thought to myself, “Gross. Note to self: don’t use these washrooms tomorrow. Take your disgusting laundry and wash it elsewhere, lady.” But now that I am a mother, and have learned that this is all part and parcel of signing on for the position, I felt great compassion for this mother/daughter duo. I listened as the mother lovingly hummed a soft melody for her child as she carefully washed away the sickness from her daughter’s body. I saw the mother gently wash the quilt all while, in the next sink over, her baby girl lathered up soap to her elbows so as to rid herself the traces of a feverish night. I soaked up the love, for it was pungent. And then, I felt it was the right time to ask.
“Do you need anything?” I ask, not wishing to pry. But, I have been right here, in this state before; and I remember what this feels like, as hours inch towards midnight, to have a child throw up and feel desperation. A mother’s on-call nursing duties are never on vacation.
“I have some acetaminophen,” I offer.
“Sure, I guess I will take some,” she says looking at me gratefully. I understand this look, and I hope she realizes that we can bear this burden, even for this brief expanse of time, together. We both continue on with our duties, and then I wish them well, and daughter and I head off into the night.
The things we mothers do for love.
The things we parents do for love. I love watching parents with their children in the pool. I love seeing new mothers with their precious babies- they have eyes only for that one perfect child sitting on their lap. I love watching fathers horse around with their older children- making them squeal with delight as they toss them in the water or splash them with their cannon-ball jumps off the diving boards. I love watching fathers and mothers teach their children to swim- fathers are often such patient swim instructors and mothers go the distance- allowing their children to swim to them again, and again and again. Their children sponges ready to learn and soak up their parent’s knowledge. I watch as families swim together- in groups of six, by times. Fathers and mothers taking turns to help both little and older ones with their various needs, loving the time spent together. I watch as moms and dads observe from the sidelines, cheering their little ones on. There is such an easy, relaxed manner in the air, and parents are that much more attentive and available when they have little ones in the water.
The things we parents do for love.
And I remember infamous moments in my own life while on vacation. That time I rushed my second youngest to the ER for stitches on her chin when she landed the wrong way at the bottom of the playground slide, and how she and I waited all evening for the doctor to call us in; then, I held my her while a doctor pulled needle and thread through delicate skin, leaving a permanent line underneath her bottom row of teeth, to tell the tale. I remember the time I rushed to a community half an hour from our campground to get medicine for my oldest son who was experiencing an asthma attack; and then, how adrenaline kicked in and pushed me to get there before the store closed. Panicked I might not make it in time. Or how could I forget that time my daughter was sick on the plane, and the on into the night, while we were on our first major international trip, or how later that week my oldest daughter caught whatever the youngest had three days earlier and then followed her sister’s lead whilst sleeping in the hotel bed? In the middle of the night, nonetheless, and me without anything to clean it all up. So many other times and other experiences of which I can say to moms out there, “I understand. I really do.” And I believe that all these examples I have shared and the stories of mothers I have also included are important to note because they speak of what we parents do for love.
Oh, the things we do for love.