My youngest child, With-a-Why, has been home for the last few days with a bad cold and cough. He’s been droopy and lethargic and feverish. With-a-Why normally acts like a teen-ager, eager to hang out with his older brothers and their friends, but when he is sick, he reverts to his little boy self and clings to me. With his cheeks flushed red and his big eyes dark, he will snuggle next to me in bed and beg for me to read him a book.
The end of the week brought the usually shuffle of childcare arrangements, the kind of juggling of schedules that we’ve done for twenty years now. We couldn’t send a sick child to school. Thursday, I stayed home and Spouse came home on his lunch hour to spell me so that I could go to a meeting. And Boy-in-Black stayed home from school on Friday to take care of his little brother. Yes, it’s true, that when a younger child is sick, we will use an older sibling as a babysitter. I suspect the school frowns on this – well, I more than suspect since they send home stern notes reminding parents that it is illegal – but I have always admired the way the my Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter and Boy-in-Black have been willing to shoulder the responsibility of younger siblings. And it’s pretty clear from their academic successes that an occasional day off to nurture a younger brother has not hurt either of them.
Today, though, I’ve been able to give my youngest my full attention. I’ve spent the day up in our bedroom, cozily under the down quilt, propped up with many pillows, reading to With-a-Why and getting him fresh glasses of ginger ale whenever he asked. We finished The Golden Compass and am now almost to the end of The Subtle Knife. Sometimes between chapters, With-a-Why will sleep a little, and then I open up my laptop and do a little work. Or in this case, write a blog post.
It’s nice to have one child who is still a little kid. As I am writing this, he is curled up next to me, half asleep, his long black eyelashes shut against his pale skin. When he wakes up, we will read the next chapter, and maybe talk a little about our favorite characters. He’s already read the book on his own, so I will tease him to tell me how it ends, but he will never reveal anything.
So that’s pretty much all I’ve done today – cuddle my youngest child and read a book. But it’s been a good day.