Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Parental Ferocity

I've always perceived myself as a rather laid-back person. Traffic doesn't bother me much, I like experimenting with food, and I'm not a neatnik. While I like being on time, I'm not obsessed with deadlines, and I try to let the people around me be themselves without pressure.

Laying aside the fact that this self-perception may just be erroneous, no one could be more surprised than I at the tide of parental ferocity which has arisen in me since my daughter was born!

Her first bath was administered by a nurse who had been working in pediatrics since the 70's and had a suitably casual approach. As my daughter squirmed and moaned under the warmer, this woman scrubbed mercilessly at the buildup of birth, informed us that babies don't like their backs touched and proceeded to rub our baby's, and actually combed my baby's hair into a kewpie curl! Though dazed from birth and unable to stand long enough to get dressed, I considered leaping from my bed and throttling the woman. (I must add that my opinion of her modulated to complete gratefulness as she proved herself remarkably thoughtful to all of us over the course of the day... some angels come in abrasive packages.)

We've endeavored to keep our little girl sequestered from the germs of the world for the past two weeks in what now seems a doomed attempt to let her immune system begin its work without interference. Only the grandparents have had the privilege of holding her small bulk, kissing her perfect face, and laughing over the impossible facial expressions with which she gifts the world.

Finally allowing some treasured family to come to visit yesterday, we ascertained that everyone was health, had been healthy, and showed no signs of declining health. The visit was wonderful.

And last night they all came down with the flu.

Turns out they had spent some time over the weekend with some friends who had been battling the stomach bug, and these friends neglected to mention that fact.

May I say, I'm livid? We won't know for a few days if our two-week-old infant will succumb to the germs, so while we live in suspense let me attempt to govern my heart into some semblance of forgiveness. The tide of bitterness rising within me as I realize that my child's health has been compromised threatens to overcome me. I want to make a furious phone call, I want to publish the ignominy from the rooftops.

Why does this so enrage me? I think it's simple: my daughter's physical and emotional well-being are my husband's and my responsibility right now. We are the gatekeepers. And our gates have been breached.

I ruefully acknowledge that I cannot protect little E. from everything in the world. I can't guarantee that she'll never be sick, that she'll never have her heart disregarded, that she'll never make a mistake. I am fallible. As a passionate parent I have limitations. I am not omniscient nor am I all-powerful.

But I will do my best to protect her, and when my protection fails I will comfort her. And I will not hesitate to speak in her defense until she can speak for herself. The parental ferocity which has so suddenly arisen within me has a purpose!

What about you? If you're a parent, do you find yourself feeling the same way? If not, what do you think about parental ferocity?


Grace Marie said...

The stomach flu? I know it's weird but babies aren't affected by it! Julia was vom city over Christmas and Sebastian was fine! And now we have head colds and the flu and he just has a stuffy nose :)

Gorgeous photos!!

Leslie said...

The old saying about mother bears? Except for the fact that we have less hair and shorter teeth and claws, I think I bear a strong resemblence (pardon the play on words :-)

Leslie said...

Sorry--mixed my tenses but have no idea how to un-publish a comment. So change it to read not only I, but the majority of moms. Welcome to the club, mom!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a parent, but my own mother is the embodiment of parental ferocity. Even now when I can stand on my own, she's prepared to jump in and defend me from the icky parts of life. It's not always a trait that I've appreciated, but I can't deny that my sense of self worth stems directly from my mother's protectiveness. It's because of her that I can stand up for myself, command respect, and love without fear. So be ferocious, haute mama. She'll thank you later.