Whenever a peculiar pain cropped up in some unlikely spot without reasonable explanation, such as, “Well, go figure, honey, you dropped a pickle jar on it,” my grandmother promptly diagnosed whatever was ailing me to be “growing pains.”
The discomfort would go away, of course, if I ate everything green and/or orange on my plate, as well as at least three bites of meat and drank all my milk. Complaining rarely aided my recovery. However, it did guarantee that not only would I be the recipient of unwanted nutritional advice, extra sleep would also be prescribed.
“But what are growing pains from?” I’d whine. I routinely received the same response.
“Growing pains are what you get from growing faster than you were ready for.”
She assured me that the pains would go away when everything got caught up in its proper timing. Then Grandma would dispense a dose of her unique rhetorical folk doctrine, “Don’t forget to keep a sense of humor. Even God has a sense of humor. He made the likes of us, didn’t he?”
I hadn’t thought much about growing pains until recently.
My son is now 8 years old did I say 8? Ouch. How time does fly! I am no longer allowed to call him “Patty Cakes,” “Pookey” or even “Pats.” He prefers to be addressed as Patrick. I’m now Mom, not “Mommy” or “Ma-Ma.” Anyway, while Patrick was picking at his dinner last week, he began lamenting in a deeply congested, slightly wheezy tone, “I don’t feel good. I’ve got another loose tooth, my eyes are itchy, I think I sprained my ankle and my foot hurts in the way under part.”
He pointed to an obscure spot two inches from his heel, about a smidge toward the inside of his heel, a little bit “that way” and running all the way up to the base of his big toe.
Instinctively I informed him that he had a case of growing pains and quite possibly the beginnings of a bad cold. I went on to explain the dire necessity of cleaning his plate and getting enough rest. First aid consisted of a hug and two cherry-flavored chewable gummy vitamins. While I was at it I poured him an extra glass of milk. I also injected a good old-fashioned mom lecture regarding calcium, bones, oral hygiene, good posture and the plight of starving kids in Africa.
As he sipped on his milk he agonized over several stories of unfair playground rules, gruesome tales of too much homework and the desperate suffering of all school children in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in general his school, specifically.
“And gee whiz, No fair we were late to lunch AGAIN because (so and so) was goofing around!”
As his verbal regurgitation of the unfairness and inequities of his life continued to unfold, I began to reflect on my own life. Self-pity being one of the most contagious of all ailments, I began empathizing so deeply my eyes began to burn and soon I was dabbing away the tears. Before I knew it, I was stricken with a nasty case of total mommy meltdown. That’s right. Tears, great globs of snot and all, I burdened my second-grader with all the weight of the adult world (equal to approximately a gazillion metric Tinkertoy tons.)
My condition worsened into an oral convulsion of full-tilt, traumatic, hypochondriac sob, “Life isn’t fair, the big kids don’t always play well with others either, I’m allergic to milk and calcium pills make me gag and there’s this pain in my lower back radiating just above my ribs, but higher on the left and also in that small triangle of my lower back radiating all the way to my toes, please God, I hope I don’t have arthritis or osteoporosis, I work all day and when I get home I still have to do bills, do dinner, do laundry, do dishes it’s all a bunch of do-do! I want to take my marbles and play somewhere else, nobody rented a pony for my birthday and I wish there was more time between acne pads and wrinkle creams for more FUN!”
With amazingly professional yet warm bedside manner, my son offered me a hug and a tissue. Next he suggested additional curative measures: a cup of herbal tea laced with soy milk, administered with four spoonfuls of sugar to help the medicine go down, and an early bedtime for me and a mug of hot cocoa and permission to stay up late and watch Harry Potter for him.
How could I say no?
“Thanks.” He ginned while exposing a well-wiggled, bloody tooth. He then gave me a shot of my own maternal medicine, “Everything will look better in the morning.”
For good measure he gave me another hug and added, “Hey look Mom, I can suck a lugey up from the back of my throat and blow a bubble. Cool huh?”
I watched in morbid amazement as he skillfully hacked up several copious chunks of phlegm and formed a series of goblets consisting mainly of spit and infectious bodily fluid for our mutual entertainment.
Although totally disgusted (a gross understatement), I had to admit he had a terrific philosophical point. In adult terms: when life gives you nasal discharge, you might as well blow buggar bubbles.
I finished my tea, read a few chapters of Mr. Poyner’s “Of Moose and Men,” had myself several hearty “ha-has” and fell asleep without brushing my teeth.
I’m not sure when Patty-Cakes went to bed.
Jacki Michels is a freelance writer, when she isn’t too busy being a mom, who lives in Soldotna.
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