For some unknown reason, I felt it necessary today to inform Charlie that she has to go to the doctor's tomorrow for a check up. Perhaps I have a contact high from all of the pot smokers in our chemical dependency groups at work. Or maybe I am just finally officially losing it. Any parent of a child knows that you don't tell a kid when they are going to the doctor's before, oh, 20 minutes after the appointment is over. You get the question:
Am I going to get a shot?
Now before today, this question was not one posed by Charlie. She was still oblivious enough to life to equate doctor with shots. Unfortunately, since I am either Satan's right hand man or the best parent ever, depending on where you fall on the whole immunization argument, the last visit to the doctor was to get her a flu shot. So really, this was a.) a valid concern, and b.) probably age appropriate since she is starting to form memories.
Shit. Guess I can't hide the dead bodies in front of her anymore. (Insert frownie face here.)
At any rate, I had a decision to make here. I could choose to parent responsibly and tell her the truth. Or I could lie through my teeth and just bribe her with lots of chocolate to get her to the office without feeling like I came out of a cage fight: bruised, battered, and emotionally broken.
I opted to be semi-responsible and told her what I know. Or don't know, since I don't have the immunization schedule memorized. It would take up space in my brain that I need for other important things. Like random quotes from Monty Python and the recipe for Brandy Slush. I have no clue if that child is going to get poked tomorrow. I could look it up, but that will cut into important time pinning things on Pinterest that I will never attempt to make.
I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was afraid. She had that tension about her, that uncertainty. I took her hand and told her something that I have told all of my children:
"Tomorrow at the doctor's...I will hold your hand and when you are scared, you squeeze it and I will tell you I love you."
This was something I had picked up years ago, from some touchy-feely article about a woman who's mother used to tell her something similar. It ended with her holding her mother's hand as she was dying of cancer and saying the same thing. It was a lovely story about how life came full circle, etc., etc.
Don't worry; I am not dying of cancer. Heaven doesn't want me and Hell is afraid of me.
For some reason, that sentiment has stuck with me all these years. It is not minimizing what the other person is going through. It is acknowledging that it sucks. That there is precious little that can be done about it.
It offers the one thing that I can do: Be there. Be a physical presence. And love you, and tell you so.
Charlie looked skeptical about this. I could see that in her eyes too. So simple. Every time I squeeze? You'll tell me you love me? We practiced in bed tonight, her lying under the 10 (not exaggerating) blankets clutching Doggie in one arm and my hand with hers. She would squeeze. "I love you". Squeeze. "I love you." Over and over again. The rhythm began to soothe her. It was something she could control. If she choose not to squeeze, I said nothing. It was all about her and her needs.
I told her, "Being brave does not mean you are not scared. It means doing what you have to do." She nodded sleepily and rolled to her side. So trusting that it would be OK. She had what she needed.
When do our needs start to become so complex? How many of our hurts can be solved by a simple interaction like that? Squeeze. "I love you". If only life were that simple.
For a moment, I was seriously jealous. I want my life fixed that easily. Squeeze. "I love you." Problem solved. But why can't it be? What stops it from being fixed that easily? There is not much that can't be fixed, soothed, or resolved by the knowledge that I love and am loved.
It is far too easy to forget that.