I’ve been unwell with a raging cold/flu for the past week. Nonexistent nose, compressed chest, wracking coughs, and an abdomen that felt like a truck had run over it due to the afore-mentioned cough. So as you can imagine, the prospect of attending my kid’s open day at school was daunting, to say the least.
Quite apart from the fact that I wasn’t sure I was up to it, I certainly wasn’t keen on carrying germs into a school. But I kept my options open (while telling my 4 year old I wouldn’t be attending to avoid disappointment).
This morning I woke up decidedly better. But my decision was made for me by my home helper who had taken my son down to wait for his school van in my stead. She is a wonderful human being, part of the family really, who often assists us with our childcare needs since family is, for the most part, unavailable and as a result, we have a very close relationship with her. Today, I was even more thankful for this, as things were to develop.
When she came back upstairs, she told me in an awed tone that the first thing my son asked her as they waited was whether I would be getting better or not. “Mummy was sick for 400 days,” he told her, in reference to the very serious chronic condition I battled on a daily basis for the first three years of his life which, among other things, led to three lengthy hospital stays and a major life-changing operation.
“Now she’s been sick for three weeks, I wonder, will she ever get better?”, he continued. (Note: I’ve actually been home for 6 days).
That was it. There and then it was clear that this little tyke was seriously worried for me, concerned, something he failed to share with his father and myself. So off to school I went.
As soon as we arrived, another mother very kindly drew my attention to the fact that my son was sobbing as he waited with the other kids for the parents to be given access to his class area. He was the only one crying.
It took a while to calm him down, but he did, eventually and we thoroughly enjoyed helping him make all sorts of caterpillars while admiring the work they had carried out throughout the year.
The ordeal was to continue, however, as parents were eventually asked to go downstairs to the music room to wait for their kids there. He immediately began to well up again, though his wise teacher stemmed the flow by offering to have him be the line leader.
So down to the room we went, eagerly awaiting the show.
The room is small and it was only one class of 22 kids, so, as you can imagine, parents were very close to the children who were, to all effects and purposes, not further away than 2m from us.
And yet, this was not enough for my son who again began to weep uncontrollably to the extent that we removed him from the show (which lasted all of 3 minutes) as I cradled him and assured him all was well with the world.
I have no doubt in my mind that my unavailability this week led to him being so insecure, so emotional, so traumatised, as it dredged up memories for him of much worse days.
And I couldn’t help but wonder, what else is it that children do not tell us?
And then, of course, on this day, the thought of what on earth the children in Syria, in Yemen, in Myanmar, in the Sudan, in all these desolate places in the world, are feeling and thinking crashed down upon me.
What, indeed? Do they even have the luxury to think? To feel? When they can’t even breathe…
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