Psalm 84:8 (NIV)“I told you so.”
Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
That’s what Jack said to me when I picked him up in the busy school office this afternoon because he spiked a fever.
“You told me what?” I asked, because I am long past the point of being surprised by anything Jack says to me in public.
“That I had a headache. I told you that before school and you didn’t believe me.”
“That was yesterday, buddy. You didn’t say anything about a headache this morning.”
“Well I still had one!”
And there we were. Not sure how to respond, I just drove him home. I’d offered to leave work to get him because Charlie was taking a nap at home while Max was at preschool. Plus Kristie had to take Jack and Charlie out to pick up Max about an hour after Jack got home anyway. And since Jack was sick, we canceled by babysitter for tonight and I went to our small group alone. I knew that would be the case since Kristie has a knit night with some girlfriends set up for Saturday, so me doing the “get the sick kid” run just seemed like the best way I could help.
When Jack was a baby, I was a newspaper reporter working semi-regular hours and Kristie was a band director working well more than 40 hours per week. Once her maternity leave ended, we tended to schedule Jack’s doctor appointments (outside of regular, planned-well-in-advance checkups) when I could take him. I don’t think my dad ever took me to the doctor as a child, so it never occurred to me that was something I could or would do as a father. But it proved to be a rewarding experience.
For one thing, it made me feel like I knew everything going on with his well being. I knew where to go or who to call if there were an emergency situation when Kristie was gone. I was able to be his guide and guard when shots or other uncomfortable measures were needed. Even when Max came on the scene I was pretty involved with the medical stuff for both kids. If one of them was sick, there was no sense bringing the healthy one to the medical facility. Sometimes it just fit my schedule better than Kristie’s to swing by for a regular vaccination.
Even with Charlie I’ve had at least one memorable (for all the wrong reasons) solo trip to the pediatrician. For some parents it’s probably seen as a tremendous chore, and with good reason, but I greatly appreciate the flexibility that allows me to be involved on this level. Being the adult taking a child to the doctor — even when the child is in grade school — very directly reminds me of my role and responsibility as a father.
That said, for all my involvement in certain parts of my children’s medical histories, I am not always the most nurturing parent. I am very good at hugs and whispering “it will be OK” on a virtual loop. I have gotten pretty handy at administering medicine to unwilling recipients (so long as they are human; cats are another story). But when a child wakes up sick in the middle of the night, my main contribution is waking up with them and being able to roust Kristie. And perhaps remembering where we keep the puke bucket.
But I don’t ever remember anything about how to deal with childhood illnesses other than hoping the kid sleeps it off. You give what for a fever? How many days before we call the pediatrician? No, I don’t remember which ear he was tugging. I am not scared of blood, but I typically do not keep my cool when one of the children is bleeding. Just about the only way to make sure I’m level-headed is for Kristie to be so anxious and unsettled such that I am subconsciously and unusually serene. One inexplicable strong suit of our partnership seems to be an uncanny ability for only one of us to be off kilter at a time. This has helped keep many potential crisis situations from blowing over.
But again, “I told you so.” And I didn’t have a comeback. He had told me so about 36 hours earlier. It’s his first illness in several months. That probably means no time outdoors Saturday enjoying the abundant snow in our yard. He may have to miss his Blue & Gold Cub Scout banquet Sunday, and we may need to have a plan for dealing with him that morning when we both have to be at church by 8:30 a.m. for a bell choir run-through. Then there’s the fear that whatever bug is responsible for Jack’s fever has already infected the other two. I guess someone has to be Patient Zero.
But hopefully we’ll be out of the woods soon without much extra concern. Getting sick every so often is more or less a part of growing up. And next time Jack has a headache, or even thinks he does, I’m sure he’ll cling to today’s experience and insist he be allowed to stay home because, “Remember what happened last time?” If there is a next time, I’m getting Kristie involved. That way even if everything else plays out the same way, we both can be on the receiving end of an “I told you so.” Because sharing is the best.
A prayer for February 8:
Lord, our life is filled with so many blessings, all it takes is for one tiny piece to be outside the normal bounds for me to get a deeper appreciation for just how well suited I am to the typical routine, how important it is to me for us to have stability and predictability. Please help me use this time to fully consider my role and responsibility as a father, and give me the strength to try ever harder to rise to the best of my abilities. Amen.