I have to say it's nice to be enjoying some warmer temps these days after what felt like a really long winter. The sun is shining, trees and flowers are blooming, and the subways are starting to get that b.o. funk back. Unfortunately, this also means that seasonal allergies are kicking up in our household. Both Jodi and Olivia are getting hit hard with tree pollen allergies; and we got hit with a double whammy: 2 year molars and allergies (for Olivia not Jodi, silly). We had her on a regiment of Advil and antihistamine for most of a week, and we ended up having to keep her home for a few days due to a low grade fever and runny nose. Luckily she was feeling better pretty fast and could return to her friends to enjoy frolicking, art projects and solving the occasional mystery.
The week before last started off just fine, but then one night Olivia started coughing and by the next day it was all 'Godfather 3' up in here. She was still coughing, although not to the point of excess, but everything else (appetite, mood, her opinions on concealed firearms) seemed fine. I called our daycare that morning to explain the situation and see whether she'd be ok to come in, or if she needed to stay home. They said she'd be fine to come in, as long as I could work from home and be accessible if anything changed. Her morning went fine, but then her temperature spiked in the early afternoon and I had to bring her back. From then on it was excessive coughing and runny nose, low grade fever and, worst of all, her repeated attempts to convince me that Adam Sandler's latest movie would actually be funny.
Jodi and I traded staying home with her for the next two days, and I eventually took her to the doctor at the end of the week. She and I were the only ones in the waiting room besides another mother and her year-ish old daughter. Olivia sat patiently drinking her juice, while the other child stood on her chair while the mom kept commanding her, "Sit on your bum!" I was pretty proud of my child, until she decided she wanted to read one of the books they had for people who waited. She'd slowly climb down from her chair, walk over to the bookshelf and grab something, look at me and ask, "This one?," then return and slowly climb back into her chair. I figured she'd be enthralled by the book she chose, but she turned two pages and exclaimed, "I want nudda one," and repeated the whole process over again. Eight more trips later (two of which included the same book she had originally chosen), and an hour long wait in total, the doctor called us in. After the examination, which included listening to her breathing, checking her nose and throat, and the all important dispensing of Disney Princess stickers, he came to the diagnosis of bronchitis. I swear it feels like our child is stuck in this rut of being under the weather, but that's how it goes with kids: they're walking petri dishes. I have a theory that the cause of the zombie apocalypse in 'The Walking Dead' was groups of children from multiple daycares that took a trip on a plane (aka a flying petri dish) and created a super virus that started the whole thing. I mean, why else are the zombies so cranky and agitated?
During this whole back and forth illness period I've noticed how much Olivia's mood and temperament have shifted, which should come as no surprise since this is our child we're talking about. And, let's face it, who doesn't get a little testy when they're sick? Yet what sticks out the most in my mind is how cuddly and attached she can be towards me when she's not feeling well, and how much I wish she could be like this all the time. Don't get me wrong, I totally want her to get well so she can get back to her normal routine. I have no plans to change my last name to Münchausen, nor do I feel compelled to break her legs and force her to resurrect Misery Chastain and continue writing stories about her to fulfill my warped psychological needs. But dammit I can't help but notice how much she wants me near her and to care for her while she's feeling bad. It feels good to know that I'm here in her time of need and that she seems to appreciate me, even if she might be slightly delirious from fever while it happens.
Our child, who often times doesn't even want me near her if both Jodi and I are home together, now wants to cuddle up in my lap and listen to me read stories to her while she convalesces. It feels like such an emotional win to just be present with my child, connect with her and hopefully ease her pain a bit. Moments like this make me feel like maybe I am more useful than just being the guy who empties her diaper bin, prepares her meals and puts on floor shows for her amusement and to gain her favor. Sure I know that I'm providing for my child (and helping my wife out), but there's only so much fulfillment I can gain from doing menial chores. Plus no matter how hard I try to make her smile she's always cutting my act short by banging that huge gong before the final payoff. Maybe I should put a paper bag over my head and see if that helps.
As the antibiotics did their thing, we started seeing our child return to her old self again. At first she went from just wanting to nap all the time to wanting to watch TV in a daze. I didn't mind this much since I figured it would keep her preoccupied, I could work remotely and we could both catch up with how Patch, Kayla and that bastard Stefano were doing. A half a day or so later and it turned into, "I wan tich-chew (blow my nose), I wan cereal, I wan juice, I wan the cast of HBO's 'Deadwood' to reunite and do another season," all in the same breath. She needed food, drink, entertainment, a butler and a bell to call him with. But, her getting better also meant that her moodiness was returning as well. She'd fight getting her clothes changed, fight if we read her the wrong book before bedtime as well as fight going to bed. Hell I'm pretty sure I saw her punch a stuffed rabbit in the mouth because it stared at her for too long.
Eventually it got to the point where she was feeling as close to 100% as possible, but that also brought her back to not liking me very much. The daddy who helped care for her when she was sick, who cuddled with her when she needed it, was now public enemy #1. And no matter how good of a Flavor Flav impression Jodi could muster (I still don't know how she was able to wear a wall clock that large around her neck), she couldn't hype me up enough in my daughter's eyes. I'd go in to wake her up in the morning and she'd instantly ask where Jodi was and struggle when I tried to pick her up. She'd refuse giving me a hug before I left for work and then as I was closing the door behind me she'd yell out "Don't let the door hit you in the ass!" I'm not sure where she gets this kind of language from, but I have to imagine it's all that ice road trucking my wife did during the summers of her college years.
I'm not going to lie, this shit makes me sad when I think about it. I definitely have a sensitivity when I feel like people don't like me, however I don't have sensitive taste buds and I do use sensitive skin bath soap (in case anyone was wondering). I feel like I'm trying my best to be a good parent and caring father, but there must be something I'm not doing right to make her obtain a court order to have me keep at least 10 feet away at all times. This is where my therapist reminds me that Regular Chris and Dad Chris need to have a conversation about who should take the driver's seat when things like this happen. In these scenarios, Regular Chris has his hands on the wheel but there's a really sad song on the radio that's making his eyes misty. He's overthinking how much little things like this actually mean, his vision is blurry so he's starting to swerve and he's going to crash this cherry ass car he's in. Dad Chris is riding shotgun, knows fully well that his daughter does love him regardless of how temperamental she can be and wonders why in the hell he let Regular Chris pick the music for the ride. So Dad Chris starts grabbing the wheel from the passenger side and tells Regular Chris to chill the fuck out while he handles things. Dad Chris manages to steer both of them to safety while also successfully leading Snowman, his dog Fred, and a truckload full of beer across state lines into the hands of Paul Williams and his daddy. Or maybe that was just the premise of the first 'Smokey and the Bandit' film. I can't remember.
As most parents can attest, Murphy's Law dictates that once your child has recovered from being sick at least one of you will get said illness or some variant of it. This time I drew the short straw and ended up with a sinus infection for three days. I know what you're thinking and, no, I did not try and cuddle up into my child's arms while she read stories to me. I did the safe thing and hid in our bedroom to quarantine myself and prevent either of my girls from getting it. After Jodi would put Olivia down for the night she'd come check on me, bring me anything I needed and tell me about how many times Olivia asked where I was. It broke my heart to hear this, and I wanted nothing more than to see and be near my daughter. At one point I got out of bed early to peek out of our bedroom door to watch Olivia get her coat on and leave for daycare. I wanted to say her name, tell her I loved her and that I missed seeing her, but I knew I needed to wait until I felt better in case she wanted to get close to me.
So, on the day I finally started to feel better, I went with Jodi to pick Miss O up from daycare. As we made our way there I hopefully imagined she would see me, light up with a giant smile and come give me a big hug. Jodi opened the door, saw Olivia and exclaimed, "Olivia, look who's here!" I popped my head in and what my imagination had dreamt up became reality: I got a huge smile and the biggest hug those little arms could muster. I thought about how I should start cutting my daughter some slack, and that maybe she really did love me a lot but just had weird ways of showing it. Perhaps I was making too big a deal out of all of it, and that our time apart had fostered a deeper connection that came to fruition once we were reunited. Perhaps I should have taken my head out of my ass and realized that a mere ten minutes later she would be back to not wanting me anywhere near her again. Oh well.