It was on Monday.
Bill was at work, Alex was at school. Julia and I had an assortment of errands to run.
First we went to Staples, one of my very favorite stores in the whole wide world. I love office supplies.
I had to get just a few things. Julia asked if she could get a package of post-it notes and since she'd been almost very good in the store, I said okay. Don't want to crush the office supply spirit in my daughter, of course. She picked out bright pink (of course) for herself, and asked if we could get orange ones for Alex. I said yes – I'm always happy when they want to get something for the other one.
A bit later we went to this little shop that sells swimming gear to get Warm Belly suits for the kids. They're taking swimming lessons at a different place now (we quit the Y – did I write about all that? In a nutshell, we were tired of the lack of real instruction. Too much playing around or down time, not enough actually swimming. The new place is amazing. One-on-one instruction and the kids are swimming or doing SOMETHING the whole time. It's a bit of a change for Julia, especially – in this class she is challenged more, and she's having a hard time with it. But at the same time, she loves her teacher. So the class is chlorine and tears and hugs, over and over. But she is learning so much more.) and the pool, I don't know, is maybe colder then the one at the Y. Anyway, both kids' teeth chatter, and Julia's teacher suggested these suits for the kids. She wears one herself. So that's what Julia and I were doing on Monday morning. Because I am a procrastinator, and their next swim class was that evening and I still hadn't bought the things yet.
We got there and picked out a purple one for Julia and red for Alex. (The only orange one there was too small.) They have adjustable velcro straps over the shoulders, so as Alex's genetically pre-disposed to tallness little torso grows taller, we can adjust the suit. Julia. Well, she's at the small end of her suit size, so she'll probably have the same one til she's twenty.
Anyway, that was the morning. We came home and I went upstairs to work on some projects in my little work are in my bedroom. Julia sat on the bed and
tortured played with one of the cats, and eventually she crawled into the bed and, after thrashing around a bit, fell asleep.
Woo hoo! Uninterrupted time for me!
She slept for an hour and a half – then I had to wake her up so we could go pick up Alex at school. I brushed the tangle of hair from her face and kissed her, and when she woke up she immediately started crying and said her tummy didn't feel good.
I kissed her forehead and her cheeks, and she felt hot, but she'd also been fully dressed under all the bed covers. She was a little sweaty, too, but again, that could be from being too hot all that time. I uncovered her and quizzed her about her not feeling well. Did she think she was going to throw up? Did she need to go potty? Was she hungry? She hadn't had lunch, really. Just a little snack that she didn't finish. She said she wasn't hungry.
She kept crying, too. I got her into her boots and coat, hat and mittens, and into the car. She was quiet (a sure sign something was off) and whimpery and sad. We got Alex, came home, and I brought Julia upstairs to take her temperature.
Of course, the battery had died in the digital thermometer. So I'm kissing her head, feeling her torso, trying to decide if she truly feels HOT or if she's just over warm from crying, or what. I attempted to take her temp the old fashioned way with a glass thermometer under her tongue, but I was too worried she'd chomp down on the glass, swallow mercury and shards, and go insane while her insides slowly shredded, that I took the thing out after only a minute. Inconclusive. I don't think she even kept it under her tongue. I know I didn't like doing that as a kid either.
So what to do? She felt on the warm side to me, and she doesn't usually wake up crying like that. Swim class was in about an hour. Should she stay or should she go?
She felt warm, and she just didn't seem right to me.
So I called and cancelled her lesson. Bill could bring Alex, and I'd stay home.
About a half hour before the class, Bill called – he was nearly home, should he just go straight to the pool and meet us there? I told him no, come home, Julia's sick.
He said "Oh." and in that word I heard a boatload of doubt and suspicion.
The previous swim class had been a hard one on Julia. She was basically taken outside her comfort zone, and she was scared to go back. Of course, nothing bad was going to happen to her. Her teacher is fabulous – has Julia do a little something new – face all the way in the water, or swimming about three feet on her own – and then lots of hugs and "I'm so proud of you!" and then maybe something less scary, like swimming using the pool noodle or floating on her back. So like I said earlier – chlorine and tears and hugs.
She was a mixture of scared and proud, and wasn't all that excited to go back. But we'd kept being supportive and encouraging and we told her Miss C would NEVER let anything bad happen to her. It might be scary at times, but that was part of learning to swim. And if you face your fears, and work through them, you'll be all the better for it. (Of course, it doesn't work on trips to the dentist, but that's just me.)
She hadn't said anything earlier about being scared of her swim class – in fact she was VERY thrilled about her new purple Warm Belly suit (which she insisted on calling a wet suit) that day.
So Bill's voice in my ear on the phone allowed some doubt to start working on me. Julia genuinely seemed sick. The whole waking up from the nap crying part was so unusual for her….but.
It's not like she's never been sneaky. She's four. It's part of being a kid.
But she'd felt warm. Her cheeks were flushed.
I went downstairs to where she was lying on the couch, watching tv.
I asked how she was feeling.
"Julia, did you say you were sick so you wouldn't have to go to swim class?"
She didn't answer. Just snuggled under the blanket.
"Julia, are you REALLY sick, or did you SAY you were sick so you wouldn't have to go to class?"
She started crying.
"Julia? Are you REALLY sick?"
"I don't want to go to swim class!"
"Do you feel sick?"
"I don't wanna go to swim class!" She was crying and not looking at me.
"Julia, DO YOU FEEL SICK?"
"I just don't want to go to SWIM CLASS!"
"Are you saying you feel sick because you don't want to go to swim class???!!!" I was getting angry. Trying to be sure she understood the question and appalled that I'd been duped.
She nodded. Crying.
"Julia, you lied to me. I know you're scared to go, but you can't pretend to be sick just because you don't want to do something." (oh, really? since when?)
She cried more. "I don't want to go!"
"Do you feel sick?"
She shook her head.
I swallowed all the yelling that was welling up inside me.
"You can stay down here, then, and you'll go to bed right after dinner. If you say your sick, you're going to be treated like you're sick."
I went upstairs.
I was furious. At her for faking it SO WELL. At me for falling for it, and at Bill for figuring it out so fast when he wasn't even here.
He got home and I filled him in and he nodded like he wasn't the least bit surprised. I found myself defending my blindness – her warm cheeks, her sweaty head, no lunch, the crying. I was more annoyed about being fooled than I was about Julia's deception. I ALWAYS know when they're hiding something. "How did you know, Mom?" "Because I'm a Mom. I just know."
Bill took Alex to class, and I tried, unsuccessfully, to convey to him that I didn't want him to tell Julia's teacher of her recent confession. Because, truth be told, I didn't want to look like an idiot Mom who can't read her kid.
I made dinner. Fish tacos. Easy to do when you use frozen fish sticks. I was too grumpy to be more creative than that.
Julia seemed to perk up a bit while Alex and Bill were at the pool, so I squashed that quickly and efficiently.
"Julia, do you understand what a lie is?"
"What is it?"
"…I don't know."
"A lie is when you tell something that isn't true. Like when you said you didn't feel good but you really just didn't want to go to swim class. That was a lie. When you tell lies, it makes it hard for people to trust you. To believe what you tell them other times. I'm really not happy about this, Julia."
Bill and Alex got home – Alex did really well and got two lollipops for his efforts. He'd eaten one in the car and was finishing up the next one as he came in the door. Bill was full of praise for him. He also told me Julia's teacher had suggested a make-up lesson – maybe Thursday? I said fine. Call her. I was still wallowing in grumpiness and feeling like a fool. Of course I was overreacting, but I was too busy DOING it to notice.
Bill thought I was annoyed about the make-up lesson. No. I was just frustrated because DIDN'T HE UNDERSTAND HOW ANGRY I WAS THAT MY FOUR-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER PUT ONE OVER ON ME SO WELL. She SEEMED SICK.
I don't like to be wrong. I know. Get over yourself, Jayne. But honestly. She really seemed sick.
Anyway, we sat down to dinner. Alex told me I could win a cooking contest (because fish sticks wrapped in soft tacos are so innovative and tasty, apparently) and Julia didn't want anything to eat. Just maybe some cheese on a taco. I fixed that for her, but she just sat and cried. And cried.
Something in me let go, and all the annoyance evaporated. She really felt bad about her story. Time to stop being the dispenser of morals and just give the girl a hug. So I did. Several. She sat in her chair and I sat beside her in mine, and I just hugged her while she cried.
She finally stopped, but she still didn't feel like eating, so I told her to go ahead back downstairs and I'd sit with her in a few minutes. She went back to watching Sponge Bob or whatever was on, and I ate dinner.
After the plates were cleared, Bill gave Alex a guitar lesson and I went downstairs.
Julia looked so tiny on the couch, all wrapped up in green blankets, her small, sad face on the pillow.
"Would you like me to lie down with you?" I asked.
I slid under the blankets beside her and gave her a kiss on the head, then turned to watch the cartoon.
And then Julia made some little noise and threw up. Not much. I kind of thought it was some kind of burp with benefits, but she suddently had this "OH NO" look on her face and before I could say anything, she REALLY threw up, on me, the blankets, herself. Just liquid, but still.
She started crying. Again. I shot questions and orders at her: "Do you think you're going to throw up again? Upstairs! Run! To the bathroom! Hurry!" I ran along behind her, a Border Collie, nipping at her heels. pleasedon'tthrowuponthestairspleasedon'tthrowuponthestairs…
She made it to the bathroom and I flipped up the lid and the seat and told her to just stay there, just in case. I ran back downstairs and grabbed the wet blankets and tossed them in the washing machine, then went back upstairs in time for Julia to retch again – productively – a couple more times.
She was really sick.
And I have to admit – I was glad. Not glad she was vomiting. That's no fun for any of us.
But I was glad she had been telling me the truth. I thought back to my earlier interrogation – trying to figure out if she felt sick really, or if she was trying to get out of swim class. And the answer was now fuzzier. Less clear. She felt sick AND she didn't want to go? She felt sick AND SO she didn't want to go? She felt sick BECAUSE she didn't want to go? Who knows? And what does it matter, at this point.
I cleaned up Julia's face and the couch, put new blankets and towels all around. Bill brought in a bucket for her, just in case. But she seemed a lot better. No more crying. She was perkier – more like her usual self.
Later, when we were rehashing things, Bill wondered if maybe she'd cried so hard she made herself throw up. After all, she seemed SO much better immediately after….
Possible, yes, but I didn't think so. Too much lag time in between the crying jag and the race to the bathroom.
And I told him I'd had a couple times when I'd maybe eaten something that didn't sit well with me, and I spent several hours just not feeling right, and then, finally, I'd run my own race to a bathroom, and afterward, I felt completely fine. Like nothing had happened.
So it was certainly possible – or probable – that Julia ate something in the morning that made her feel sick when she woke up from her nap. She'd spent several hours feeling lousy, and then, finally, got rid of it and felt better.
And I had second guessed myself. I'd doubted my own intuition, my motherly radar, and I'd believed the worst of Julia. Believed that she wasn't really sick; that she was faking it and lying to me. And that she'd been successful.
And I was wrong about that. I was right the first time.
And she hadn't lied.
I need to remember to trust my own Mommy gut instincts. And Julia's gut, too, apparently.
I should not have been so quick to doubt.
To doubt myself or Julia. Myself, especially.