In pigheadedness and in health

We're sick. Mallory started it; she got the flu and missed an entire week of school. The very day she finally started to feel better, Phoebe succumbed. This weekend, Chris developed something which is not quite the flu, but which involves a terrible cough and a sore throat and other miseries. I don't know if I technically have the flu, but I certainly feel like I've been run over by a large truck. I can't sleep, breathing through my nose seems like a fond, distant memory, and when I lay down it feels like my blood turns to icewater.

Send help! Or sedatives.

What makes things worse is the fact that my children are...difficult. To venture here into a territory that the superstitious wouldn't dare go -- there are, it goes without saying, a whole host of reasons that I hope my kids never get a serious illness, but not least among those reasons is the fact that neither of my children would be, in their illness, raised to the status of a "brave little fighter" or a "dear sweet angel" like the poor sick children described in parent's magazines. No, my children would be the ones the nurses complained about behind our backs.

Mallory, for instance. Come towards Mallory with a syringe full of medicine, and the tears start, accompanied by the questions. "Noooo! What flavor is it? I'm scared! I'm scared it will taste bad! Have I had this flavor before? How old was I? Did I like it? Noooo! I'm scared! Did you have this flavor, when you were little? How old were you? Did it taste bad? Nooo! I'm scaaaared!" One night we spent twenty minutes convincing her to let us give her a squirt of nose spray, so she could, you know, breathe; after much sobbing and fighting and clawing and weeping, she finally consented, and then admitted it wasn't so bad. But! When we brought out the nose spray the next night -- we had the very same twenty minute fight. It makes you just not care if she can breathe or not.

Now that she's better, and has passed her pestilence on to us, she's very concerned about germs. She asked me to wear gloves when I made her lunch. Last night she didn't want me to wash her hair, for fear that I may contaminate her, even though I pointed out that, since I would be washing her hair, my hands would be covered with hot water and shampoo. "Could you wear gloves, too?" she asked.

Phoebe, on the other hand, prefers to deny. The day she fell ill, my mother-in-law saw her droopy eyes and flushed cheeks and said, "Oh, Phoebe, I think you're sick!" Phoebe collapsed into sobs. "I don't want to talk about it!" she cried. Every subsequent inquiry into her health has met the same tearful refusal to discuss it. She is similarly opposed to taking medicine; you should have seen her rage when I produced a jar of Vicks Vap-o-Rub.

My children: Consistently working against their own best interests.

But here's an anecdote that, more than anything else I can think of, sums up my oldest daughter's personality. Mallory has allergies; many mornings, especially in spring and fall, she wakes up with very stuffy nose. On some long ago occasion, someone suggested that it would help her to blow her nose, but this suggestion was met with great resistance. She prefers, instead, to spend about ten disgusting minutes sniffing everything back up into her head.

But the other night, Phoebe asked for a tissue, and blew her nose. Mallory, across the room, said: "Phoebe knows how to blow her nose?"

Because I know my daughter, I knew what was coming. I said, as neutrally as possible, "Yes, she does."

"Well. I know how to blow my nose too!" she said.

"Sure," I said, as if it was of no consequence to me.

Mallory proceeded to fill seven tissues in five minutes of exuberant blowing. She threw the tissues away and climbed into her bunk bed.

"You know," she said, "ever since I was very little, if I had boogers in my nose, I just blow it! Right there into a tissue. It's easy! It makes you feel lots better too."

"Um," I said.

"Everyone should just blow their nose if they need to," she continued. "It's the best thing to do! Just blow it, and you're done!"

Her monologue in support of nose-blowing continued for at least ten minutes before she fell asleep. Now she blows her nose regularly, upon waking and before going to bed.

It occurs to me that if she is not done in by her terrible lying, she will one day make a fine politician.

Yesterday she saw me blow my nose, and gave me an approving nod. "Atta girl, Mom!" she said.


aimee said...

I feel bad that you are all sick but I laughed all the way through this post. Especially Phoebe denying that she is even ill and Mallory convincing everyone that blowing your nose is the best thing ever.

I consistenly see signs of how alike Rhett and Mallory are. He, too, would make a fine politician one day because of his ability to jump from one side to the other.

I can imagine him saying to Mallory: You know, I never blew my nose either. Then to Phoebe in the same breath: I am so glad you blow your nose like I do.

Hope you get better soon!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that your whole family is sick, but your blog about it is hilarious! You can make even the flu sound funny!