Oh, the things we innocently wander into as parents...like when we said yes to purchasing the 'Bathtub Time Crayons", never dreaming that it would lead to having to re-grout the tile. Like the time we adopted the cat who then revealed that she had some kind of exotic and unpleasant intestinal issue. Like the time we thought the girls would enjoy having their own bottles of red nail polish. And, oh yeah, like the time we let 5 of 8 watch the Discovery Channel one night last week--you know, the special about parasites?...
It is important to understand that 5 of 8 is a very brave, busy little guy. He loves all things science fiction and video games and unflinchingly watches Indiana Jones like he's taking notes for a future dig. Faint of heart, not he. Chief Doesn't Spook Easy. That is, until Discovery Channel Parasite Night.
Things started innocently enough. Mike had worked late, tvs were blaring around the house to keep clusters of small children standing motionless as meerkats in front on the flickering screens--it's easier to keep track of them that way. So we were doing the whole 'Changing of the Guard' thing ("Daddy's home! Daddy's home!") and the tv in our room began an informative broadcast on a litany of parasites who enjoy human hosts. We were entertained by Joann's case of roundworms, picked up during an extended trip to Mexico. We thrilled to the details of John's tapeworm, invited into his intestinal track via undercooked fish from a camping trip. I finally squeemished-out before the heat-seeking ureter-invader enjoyed some prime time. 5 of 8 had wandered through the room from time to time, not really showing any out-of-the-ordinary interest. The evening progressed on through bath time, bed time snack #1, teeth brushing, bed time snack #2, drink of water time, one more drink of water time, last drink of water time, should I brush my teeth again since I had bed time snack #2 time and why am I always the one who has to take out the dogs time. I was finally tucking in my parade of progeny when my usually unflustered 5 of 8 peeped over the edge of the top bunk bed and said, "I think I need a bowl; I don't feel very good."
Nothing propels me into Mommy Action faster than a rumor of nausea. The scramble was on to identify an appropriate emesis receptacle, trying to determine if we ever might want to use this particular bowl for housing popcorn again. We got 5 of 8 set up with a bowl, keeping a nervous eye on him as we began bedtime stories and prayers. He was looking pretty pale and was very quiet, never a good sign. As I reached up in the bunk to give him a kiss, he looked at me with tragic tired eyes, sighed a bit weepily and then unburdened his heart to me.
Those sweet times when children really let you know what's going on deep in their hearts. To know that you are trusted, that you are the one they want to invite into the secrets of their lives, that you are the one they seek wisdom from, you are the one who can speak to their situations. What a privilege, what an honor. And so the moment was set.
"Mom.....(pause)......mom....(pause).... my tummy really hurts and my head feels kind of funny and are you sure....are you sure.....are you sure it's not a....(hard swallow)...a....tape....worm...??"""
It's in the Parenting Manual, the whole clause about how you positively, absolutely MUST NOT LAUGH when facing such a question. You know, all the hooey about how 'there are no silly questions', 'don't embarrass the child' blah, blah, blah. All I know is that there should be parenting Oscars for the times a straight face is required and performed in the face of overwhelming odds. My retirement plan at this point is to hit Vegas after the last kid is kicked out of the house. I know nothing about poker but have no doubt that I have perfected the Parenting Poker Face.
And so a performance was required for addressing 5 of 8's fears. "Ah, no honey, I would seriously doubt that you have a...(supress the snicker....breathe...)..a...tapeworm."
"Well, there was that apple that was yucky and I ate some of it anyway and maybe I bit a tapeworm in half. And what if my chicken for dinner wasn't cooked all the way?"
"If you bit it in half, then...well...I know for sure the chicken was completely cooked, overcooked, actually..."
"Well, I've been talking to God about this."
(Spiritual Mommy Moment) "Well, let's pray and ask the Lord to protect you from tapeworms."
So we prayed with great fervor to be protected from all things intestinal worms. 5 of 8 sighed a tremulous sigh at the end of our petition and said, "Mom, I always want to obey God."
See, you just never know what it is that can motivate someone to repentance and getting right with the Lord. I have to say, 5 of8 has definitely 'gotten religion' after this parasitic pseudo encounter. He is faithfully praying to avoid infestation and is attributing his apparently uninhabited intestinal track to his good behavior and prayer life. I thought we were through the thick of it until 1 of 8 and I were playing a computer trivia game with 5 of 8 looking on and CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE IT???!!! one of the questions was about the average length of a tapeworm (33 feet for those of you interested). Seriously, I can't make this stuff up. Green eyes wide, hand on tummy, 5 of 8 heard the trivia question, heard the answer and immediately discovered a flare-up in his psychosomatic symptoms: "Mom, my head feels funny and my tummy hurts..."