Linnea’s MeMe and Bapaw live on a farm, out in the country. It’s not really much of a farm anymore, since my FIL isn’t really able to keep up with it, but they have some chickens, a rooster, and some guineas.
Linnea was enraptured the chickens. Particularly the rooster. She’d follow them around the yard, crowing, “R-r-r-r-r-ooo!” in her little voice. The damn rooster would crow anytime, day or night, including naptime–and as soon as she heard him, she’d parrot back, “r-r-r-r-r-ooooo!”. She’d hover at the windows when we cruelly forced her to come inside and separated her from her love, hoping to catch the slightest glimpse of him. It was pretty funny. It was like she’d never seen a chicken before. And, upon thought, I guess she hadn’t. My biggest fear was that she’d equate the “r-r-r-r-roooo!” and the “bocka bockas” with the chicken we were trying to get her to eat, but apparently that was too quantum a leap for her mind to make at this point in her development. One evening at supper, the rooster wandered past the kitchen window and Linnea waved hello with a chicken leg bone in her hand. Must have been a grisly sight for Senor Rooster. Heh.
So we dubbed her “The Chicken Whisperer” because by the end of the week, the chickens and roosters were coming to the house when she came outside, instead of keeping their distance from the chicken-appendage wielding fiend.
On Sunday, she woke up with a mild fever. I was half expecting it–we had taken her to the dayschool on Friday to visit with her cousins, and some sort of 24 hour gastro-intestinal bug was going around. Symptoms include: low-grade fever and diarrhea. When we got to church on Sunday, she’d had a seriously poopy diaper, and then all through church she just sat on my lap, rested her head on my shoulder and dozed, totally oblivious to her cousins sitting just down the pew, her grandparents, or any of the other people. The only person to pique her interest for a moment was Baby Cole, a 4-month-old little boy who sat behind us and who Linnea wanted to bring home with us. But such lethargy is SO not my girl. Normally, she’d be squirming around, trying to climb the pews in front of us, and when that failed: crawl under. She’d be shouting to her cousin, throwing things on the floor, getting fussy if the sermon got too long–you know: a typical toddler in church. But no. She just rested, slumped against me. I still wasn’t too concerned. According to the highly scientific “kiss on the forehead test”, she was still just a low-grade fever.
We went out to breakfast after church and she pitched a fit getting into the highchair, and wouldn’t calm down until she was in MY arms. Not Daddy’s. Not Meme’s. Not Auntie G’s. Mama’s. Which was sort of cool, I’ll admit. My girl wanted ME. Specifically, unequivicably: me. It took her all of 5 minutes to fall asleep in my arms in a noisy, busy restaurant. Once again: SO not my girl. And Mama is still not worried.
Sunday afternoon the entire clan came over. We had about 30 people there, all of them M’s relatives, all who wanted to see Linnea because they hadn’t seen her in a year. Which was cool, because baby girls are RARE in M’s family, and much fuss is made over them. Linnea’s cousins get fussed over all the time–I figure it’s just Linnea’s share. But she was so lethargic, so clingy, and so still…and increasingly warmer. So I went to the back bedroom with her and laid down and noticed that her breathing was rapid and shallow, and that she was beyond “slightly warm”, had barrelled past “a bit feverish” and had somehow arrived at: 103.6 in a matter of about an hour. Luckily: my BIL is a medical office manager and has connections, and used them to get us in to see a doc at 5PM on a Sunday. I was so worried…her fever got so bad, so fast! Her eyes were glassy, she was pretty much unresponsive to stimuli. Not unconscious, just REALLY not caring. The doctors were talking about doing blood work and I just held my baby and said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the times I thought she was a bother, and all the times I got annoyed when she woke me up at night, and I’m sorry for being short-tempered when she was teething and cranky. I’m sorry for all of it, just make her better. Just make her safe. Just make her my girl again.”
And finally, word came down from on-high: double ear infection. Which I never would have guessed in a million years. Ear infections never hit her like that. But: goes to show you what I know. I’m a preacher, not a doctor. But I was so relieved that I held my sleeping, hot girl and cried. I just cried and cried and cried there in front of M, and my BIL, and the doctor, and nice nurse Debbie. I had gotten myself so worked up about all of it…and then to hear “ear infection”. Dude. We can totally fix an ear infection. And so that’s what we did. And she’s been more or less herself for a few days now. A bit more cranky than normal, but that could be because her entire routine has been shot to shit.
But it’s the most amazing realization to me. I make Linnea feel better when she’s sick. When she doesn’t feel good, I’M the one she wants to be with. It’s MY hand that makes her feel safe when it checks for a temperature or brushes her hair back. It’s MY voice that hums wordless tunes that help lull her to sleep. It’s MY arms that she can relax and rest in. In the midst of over 30 people, it was MY knees that she searched out so I could pick her up and rub her back and kiss her hair. When the nurses were poking her with thermometers and stethescopes, it was MY face her fevered eyes looked for for reassurance. Everything my mom means to me, I mean to Linnea. And that’s such a humbling thing, particularly when much of the time I feel like I’m only doing a so-so job at this whole mothering gig. But I think I could be one of the worst mothers on earth, and Linnea would love me because I am her mama. This is the power we have as mothers, and we must not abuse it and we must use it wisely. But I think God made it this way because we’re ALL going to mess up…parents, kids, whatever. But as long as the love is there: we’ll make it through.
We had another Linnea Milestone this trip. I bought her her first “real” baby doll. Her cousin had one and we almost had WWIII in my SIL’s livingroom because Linnea refused to return the babydoll to her cousin, much to the cousin’s pissed offedness (and she was certainly entitled to that. Linnea was not giving that doll up, no way, no how). So I bought her a very nice doll. It doesn’t do anything. Well. I take that back. When you lay her down, her eyes close, and when you pick her up, they open. But she doesn’t cry. She doesn’t “eat”. She doesn’t sit on a potty and go tinkle or poo-poo. She doesn’t say, “mama!”. She’s got a plastic head and arms and legs, and a cloth body. Her little pink dress has camels on it (which is so why that particular doll got the nod. How many dolls are there out there with pink camels on their pink dress????). She’s just a good, old fashioned doll. Linnea loves her. Smooches her. Hugs her. Pats her on her back. Feeds her crackers or cookies or grapes. Lets her drink from her sippy cup. Sings to her. The works. M and I were watching her, feeling goopily sentimental. M whispered in my ear, “She’s learned all that from the way you take care of her. She’s a good mommy because you’re a good mama.” At which point, BabyDoll got hurled violently to the floor and stepped on as Linnea went in search of another toy. So it’s not a perfect comparison. 😉