In His goodness, I was given a very special gift of grace a week ago as all my daughters were sick with a very nasty stomach bug that lasted about four days. I also fell ill for one day and my husband left work early, which is very rare, to take care of us. I emerged from that retreat of sickness, with a gem of wisdom on this whole “productivity” obsession that seems to be the Big Brother of our days. I feel this was a very beautiful reflection to have at the beginning of Lent as we tend to think “will it be a productive one?” Perhaps we should be cautious of the urge to approach Lent as a task, “these are the things I must or must not do during these allotted 40 days.” No, lets shift, dare I say from the productive to the just being.
The sun had set on the second day of my middle child Lioness being very sick. She has some kind of stomach bug and was feverish today. She whines, cries, and the remedy is plenty of cuddle time with mommy in daddy’s brown comfy chair. We wait all day for him to come home so that he can sit and rock with her for the remainder of the day. She is miserable and is not her usual care free, high energy self. Although I love being able to rock with my daughter, to comfort her, there is a nagging.
My thoughts turned on how unproductive the past two days had been. The laundry piled high. Need socks? There are two clean loads in their baskets upstairs, it’s a new matching game! The kitchen is pretty bad. The bathroom floor is getting cleaned as well as the toilet only because it is being used at an ever increasing rate.
My intentions were good. Maybe while Lioness dozed Hiccup and I could do a “reading” lesson, which I have not been very strict about. No, Hiccup prefers to read library books. Ok…I will do the “delight lead learning” and of course would not PUSH her to read. Joy throws her snow boots around but at least the public radio classical music plays quietly in the background. She nurses on demand, although with Lioness sick, this has been rather difficult. Soooooooooooo unproductive, how on earth are you supposed to homeschool when a child is sick? At one point, as I was rocking Lioness on the bathroom floor in front of the toilet, wanted to play with us. I could not move, so I yelled for Hiccup. “Hiccup, could you please take care of Joy?” She doesn’t whine. She doesn’t ask why. She says, “Ok Momma” and lifts Joy away (the awkward bear hug I’m only five and trying to drag half my weight to my room lift). I continued to sit on the bathroom floor, imagining how nice the bathroom would look if I changed the toilet paper holder to a more modern chrome.
Then it dawned on me. My five year old understands what I needed her to do. She did so lovingly and with care for her sister, her toddler one and her sick one. Yes “school” might have had to stop for these days, but the curriculum of life continued. We learn as a family that yes, we ALL can go a little slower if one of us is sick. We take care of each other with patience. That night my husband and I watched as Hiccup cuddled in the reading chair with Joy in her lap “reading” a picture book out loud. So we may not be “productive enough” to have Hiccup reading at such and such age, but her 18 month old sister enjoyed story time with her.
Learning the patience of a slow, sick day (and a couple of them in a row as Joy and then Hiccup both became very ill) helped me to put time in its place. The singer Jack Johnson has a line in one of his songs that says “stab a moment in the back with a round thumb tack that holds up a list of things we gotta do.” There was nowhere else to be but home, giving to the children. I was exhausted, but I was needed. As I look back, I know the days were very productive, on a spiritual level, and a perfect way to start a season in which we strive to forget ourselves.