What Matters To Him

This weekend I was laid low by a fever and a few other bothersome symptoms, so today I took myself to the doctor to be checked out. Diagnosis: sinus infection. It’s my standard affliction – all-in-all, not such a big deal.

While I waited for my new insurance information to be processed, I noticed a sign on the counter:

“IF YOU HAVE VISITED AFRICA IN THE LAST THREE WEEKS AND YOU HAVE A FEVER, PLEASE INFORM THE STAFF IMMEDIATELY.”

Ebola. How awful that we – that anyone – should have to be worried about that horrible, alienating disease. I’d thought about Ebola victims over the weekend while in the chilled, achy throes of my fever. How much worse they must feel. How scared they must be. How much they must want to be helped and comforted by those they love.

Heck, I only had a 101 degree fever and I texted “Wah! I want my Mommy!” to that lucky lady.

On the drive home from the doctor’s office, the news program I was listening to also focused on Ebola: this time on the nurse in Dallas who’s been infected and that city’s efforts to keep residents informed and the disease contained. I was thinking on all of it as I walked to my back door.

But then I opened it and my beautiful little four-year-old turned his head to me with a horror-stricken look on his face. Someone had died, surely.

“I don’t get my treeeaaat!”

He had tears running down his face and peanut butter smeared all over his mouth. His hand was stuck in mid-air, holding a spoon full of the stuff. I looked to Brennan for an explanation.

“He was crumbling crackers – he made a huge mess for me to clean up, so he doesn’t get a treat.” (Please know that this is a long-standing issue with this child. Anytime we give him a food that crumbles, he crumbles it. Not in the normal, accidental way that any child is expected to do – no, this guy delights in crumbs; he makes piles of them and pushes them around the table and they go ev.er.y.where. We’re working on it. And part of working on it is, you don’t get treated for good mealtime behavior when you don’t, um, exhibit good mealtime behavior.)

Anyway – Ebola. Here I was, stewing on death and fear and serious, grown-up issues, when I walked into my kitchen and found my little boy, devastated because he wouldn’t be allowed to have dessert.

I couldn’t help but smile. I hid my face while I tried to stop myself from laughing. It was just so beautiful, so delightful. My child was so safe and healthy, so loved, that he felt the loss of a handful of M&M’s as if it were a great tragedy.

What matters to him is being able to eat mediocre milk chocolate in a colorful candy shell. What matters to him is being able to play with his little brother’s new metal airplanes. What matters to him is getting to dump “avalanches” of animal and dinosaur toys onto himself and his brother. What matters to him is giving his father and me the right number of kisses on our cheeks.

These things matter greatly to him, and how I love him for that. He feels deeply. Someday he’ll mourn the wars and diseases of the world, but for now he’s consumed with treats and play and the people he loves.

Once I’d gotten my laughter under control, I walked over to my stricken little boy and held his face in my hands. I whispered some words to him, words meant to comfort but not to undermine his father’s authority. I hugged him and wiped the peanut butter off his face.

How lucky we are.

And how lucky this boy is, to have these be the things that matter to him. (Matter so much that his father’s heart softened and he gave the boy another chance.)

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