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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Parenting through the Flu

First, I need to apologize for going so long between posts. The whole family has had the flu, including our 10 month old who's still straggling back toward health yet refuses to touch rehydrating beverages.

Which leads me to today's topic: parental bonding. Years ago, when I nursed my second newborn back to health after a virus, I concluded that the real bonding occurs when caring for a sick wee one. A baby who can't breathe lying down is awfully grateful to a big person who stays up all night to hold her upright so she can breathe, even if she has no idea that it's a sacrifice on the part of the big person. A vomiting toddler feels protected and cared for when an adult picks him up and changes the bedding. The child of any age feels close to the adult who, when he can't make baby better, can at least make baby feel loved.

I've been watching my husband with the baby, and it really reinforces my belief in the bonding power of the unpleasanter of parenting duties. What started as a desperate ritual to get the baby down for the night has turned into a warm, comforting essential for our son, who won't go to sleep as quickly on anyone else's shoulder as he will on his Daddy's. It's a beautiful sight to behold, and even the occasional twinge of feeling just a little bit left out of this nightly ritual can't undo the pleasure at seeing my husband's devotion to the baby, and the baby's complete adoration for his father.

So to any of you who still have the flu heading your way this winter, I hope I can offer a little bit of encouragement, or at least consolation. When you get exhausted, and your shirt smells of sickness, and your pants are damp with vile diaper leakage, remember this: it is in these moments of frustration that your relationship with a child can really grow. Don't despair, and remember that your child's tenderness and security are increasing by the minute. May God bless you and your family with good health, but even more with love and devotion.