Florence Nightingale, mother of modern nursing
My mother was a nurse. My husband is a nurse. I wanted to be a writer, a teacher, a missionary, a social worker, and run an orphanage. I never wanted to be a nurse, but have come to believe it to be part of who I am. My first nursing role was taking care of my mother when she was sick. She wasn’t a terribly good patient, but I liked doing it. It was a good way to say, I love you. Something that helped me with goodbye.
My mother’s lifelong love of nursing didn’t translate into a degree until I was in my twenties, but to me she was always a nurse. Some of my warmest childhood memories are of her nursing me when I was sick. I often had terrible sore throats. During one particular illness, where I was dizzy with an especially painful throat, a bell was found so I could ring for help. That silver bell became my special privilege for every sickness thereafter.
We weren’t an overly physical or affectionate family. We practiced humor more than touch, but sick meant my mother sitting on the edge of my bed, running her fingers through my hair. She would wipe my head with a cool cloth, feel my neck to see if my glands were swollen, listen to my endless thoughts and questions. When I was sick, my mother belonged only to me. Our family troubles were a fuzzy dream. My mother was present then in a way that allowed me to let go of all that. Her fretting about me set everything right. If we went to the doctor, I believed it was to get what my mother had already figured out that I needed.
It has been difficult this fall to get the kids healthy and keep them there. This weekend we cancelled everything, but at the end, everyone was closer to beating the extremely tenacious hacking cough that has plagued us.
Monday morning, girl two arrived downstairs with cheeks blazing and a sore stomach. Boy two was looking cadaver like, still not hungry, and exhausted after 12 hours of sleep. My partner in crime felt lousy as well.
Boy two is better now. Girl two spent most of Monday night throwing up so was fit to go nowhere Tuesday. It was slow going but at least her stomach had settled. The waiting game of, “who is next or is it done?” has begun.
I wish I could tell my mom that I take kids heads off over stupid things (wet boots kicked off in the wrong place, toothpaste spit dried on the sink, doors shut loudly), but I get up fifteen times in the night to clean up puke, rub backs, and wipe heads gently without any effort at all. That I always want them well, but I cherish the exhausted moments spent beside a fevered head, whispering soft words, and running my fingers through their hair.
Admiring the ship
At our house, we specialize in “S,” for Satisfactory on report cards and “progress” reports. (We don’t tend to progress in these things.) Organization: S. Responsibility for personal belongings: S. Initiative (this is for asking questions about your homework when it’s recess time): S or N (Needs improvement). Etc. etc. etc. I want to tear up the paper. Go up to the roof and let tiny pieces cascade down in onto the lawn, preferably in the rain.
At home, I find the kids bursting over with a life and possibility not even remotely reflected in their report cards. I was a teacher once. I get that some parents want to ignore the failings of their children. This isn’t that. It’s a philosophical position about what report cards have to offer. Report cards say a little about language and math literacy and a lot about whether or not a child fits in the picture of a model elementary school student.
I found the following in the front of boy two’s notebook. It was an assignment from the beginning of the year. With boy two’s permission . . . his assignment:
Why I am Unique
Being outside is very important
I love to be outside
I love to read and read and read
Stuff I like to eat is homemade yogurt, muffins, eggs, melon
I own a chicken named Tailless
I like to fiddle and make stuff
I like to draw and make comics
I love to collect bugs, frogs, salamanders, snakes
I like to ride my bike
I make stuff with Lego
I like to climb
I like to be gross
I like to be with Misty the pony
I like to play with my sisters
I like to sing
I am flexible
I have a good spatial sense my mom says, so I am planning on being an architect
I am short and proud of it!
My ancestor was Sir Francis Drake. He was the second person ever to sail around the world.
I have a friend who swears by the theory that we shouldn’t spend our emphasis trying to fix the weaknesses we see in kids. Instead, we should figure out how to support their greatnesses. (He read this somewhere but I don’t remember where. I’m sourcing, “Conversations with Barclay.”)
I care a lot about the joys to be found in math and language literacy. But even above that, I’m going with creativity, a willingness to try new things, and deep respect for the gifts and proclivities every child finds growing inside themselves. This is what kids need nurtured.
I thanked the teachers for the progress reports. This is what my heart said.
Apologies for the barely satisfactory social development. Boy two is related to Sir Francis Drake and cannot keep his desk tidy, as he is getting ready to sail around the world.
Sincere thanks for your efforts,
The people financing the voyage