Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ill Behavior

My 5-year-old son woke up feeling a bit warm. Mommy checked his temperature. It was 104. So to the doctor we went.

“Yup,” the doctor said, “he’s sick.” I knew this. My wife knew this. “No playing, get some rest, stay home.”

My wife added, “That means you have to stay in bed.”

The kid looked at Mommy, looked at the doctor. “I don’t need rest,” he said. “I’m not sick. In fact, I feel great. Look, I’m not sniffling. Look at me play.” He jumped up and down in the doctor’s office, took a few laps around the exam chair, all the while dragging himself as if pulling dead weight three times his own.

At home, we gave our boy some medicine and then sent him to his room to rest.

“It’s not fair,” he said as he plopped onto his bed and threw the covers over his body, still wearing his shoes. “Why do I have to rest? The doctor is wrong. He’s to blame for this. I want a second opinion.”

After a 10-minute nap, our son got up to use the bathroom. We asked how he was feeling. He said he felt better than perfect. We checked his temperature and it was at least back to normal.

“Well,” my wife said, “you still need rest.”

“But, Mom,” the boy insisted, “I feel fine. What good is rest gonna do me? If you’ll just let me show you, you’ll see I’m not sick. How about we go to the store? Don’t we need groceries? I know we need asparagus. I’ll push the cart.”

My wife told him to stop negotiating and return to his bed.

“This is ship,” the kid said. Only my wife and I believe he said the curse word that sounds very similar to “ship.”

“Did you just say a swear word?” we asked him.

The kid went into a panic. He knew he’d be in big trouble if he used a swear word. He got two days hard time for saying the “F” word -- fart.

“I don’t swear,” he said, trying to be as smooth as possible, “I swow.” Yup, he said swow, which is, I guess, his made-up verb for “wow.”

“Did you get a new hairdo, Mommy?” the boy asked. “It’s really beautiful. And I love your shirt, Daddy. You look tough.”

I thanked him for the compliment and patted him on the head.

My wife wasn’t buying the boy’s charm, and the kid knew it.

“OK,” he said with his head in his lap. “I did wrong. I know that now, and I’m a new man. But I’ll go take a timeout anyway. I’ll think about what I did.” He plodded back to his room, shut the door behind him and took a timeout.

When my wife and I peeked in on him, he was slumped on the bed, quiet, thinking. He caught us looking in.

“Why bother checking on me?” he groaned. “What’s the point? Why should I even go on living?”

By this time, the kid was looking really ill again. His fever came back. He was coughing nonstop. Sniffling. His eyes sagged to match his sagging mouth, sagging posture. My wife and I had planned a big birthday bowling party for the following day, but with our son sick, we’d have to cancel it.

“We’re gonna have to cancel your party,” we said.

The boy tried to refute this, but found he couldn’t fight it any longer.

“I knew it’d come to this,” he finally said. “And I know there’s nothing I can do about it, even though I’m not really sick. But it’s OK, Mom and Dad. I’ve lived a good life. Now I’m ready for the end, even if I’m not really sick. Go ahead, finish me off.”

He fell asleep and woke up the next morning feeling better -- for real. We didn’t have to cancel his party after all. And we all had a great time.

When we got home, the kid crashed, exhausted.

“What’s wrong?” we asked. “Didn’t you like your party? Didn’t you like your gifts? Don’t you wanna play with all the stuff you got today?”

He looked at my wife, looked at me. Then he went to his room, plopped onto his bed and threw the covers over his body, still wearing his shoes. “I can’t play anything,” he said. “I need rest. I’m really sick.” And then he passed out.

-August 2009

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