TG is sleeping. She had her wisdom teeth removed this morning. I have the kitchen timer set so that every twenty minutes, I pull a frozen gelpack from the freezer and wrap it in a towel. I gently lift her head to remove the warm one, then rest the coldest one on the opposite side of her face to reduce the swelling, per doctor's orders.
Back and forth I've gone for hours, every twenty minutes.
I'm glad she's sleeping. When we got home, she cried just from the pain of swallowing ibuprofen tablets. And TG doesn't cry much - from the time she was born she's been the epitome of tough. People say it's because she has two older brothers, but I know better. She was usually the one picking on them, not the other way around.
It's been a long time since I've played nurse to her like this. She's tough AND independent. So I'm relishing this while I can - watching her sleep, making her feel more comfortable. I hope she feels better quickly, of course... but until then, I'll enjoy feeling like "Mama" again, because lately I've been second-guessing myself. Have I been a good mom? Have I been too easy? Too brusk? Too overprotective? Should I have let her go to that party...stay out that late...stay all night?
Tom and I don't argue about anything except our kids, but those arguments nearly tear us apart. Perhaps it's because we were brought up so differently. He is the third of nine boys in a military family. By necessity, his parents had rigid rules.
I am the youngest of four by five years - two boys, two girls - and my grandmother lived with us. There were rules and not much money, but lots of flexibility.
Until TG was born, Tom attended college on the GI Bill and I worked twelve-hour shifts as a hard-hat-wearing operator at a chemical plant on the Houston Ship Channel. By the time she arrived, he had graduated and gotten a job.
The first day I returned to work following maternity leave, I surprised everyone, myself included, by immediately quitting to fulfull my dream of being a stay-at-home mom. My oldest was already missing a lot of days at preschool with his asthma and I was being hassled about using any of my three weeks of vacation to care for him.
So for seventeen years now, my life has revolved around the kids' lives; by my own choice, my hobbies and part-time jobs have taken a backseat to everyone else's needs. Now that my oldest is on his own following college graduation, my middle one is in college, and Kendall is a senior in high school, I'm digging out some other old dreams and dusting them off, preparing for the time in the near-future when I can spend focus on them.
I don't anticipate suffering from empty-nest syndrome.
However, to do something for that long, to try so hard to do your best, and yet feel like it just wasn't good enough...it's a tough feeling. It's hard not to let it color everything else in my life, to think I'm not a good mom...friend...wife...daughter...sister...writer...cook...or whatever else I've tried to do.
But today...this is a part of motherhood I know I'm good at. Taking care of sick babies. All three of mine have asthma; many of those early days of motherhood were spent trying to keep track of who was nebulized when and what time the next dose of whatever was due. A friend gave us an extra nebulizer - such a blessing on those days when I was nebulizing all three.
Looking back on it now, I have no idea how I did it. It seems a nightmare to me. I've never understood those moms with Munchausen Syndrome - making their kids sick so they could take care of them and get praised for it. I hated seeing my kids sick and couldn't wait for them to be well enough to go swimming or ride their bikes.
It's time to switch ice packs on TG's chubby, swollen cheeks again. She opens her eyes a little, looks at me, and says "Ugh-hmm." (Her mouth is full of gauze.)
"You're welcome," I tell her, my heart swelling a little. Anything for you.