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My Newest Father-Son Bonding Experience: The Stomach Flu

05/08/2012 02:27 pm ET | Updated Jul 08, 2012
  • Jim Higley Bobblehead Dad; Author; Speaker; Parenting Columnist; Radio Host; Cancer Warrior

I consider myself to be a connoisseur of father-son bonding experiences.

Hiking, fishing, road trips, camping? Check those off the list. Reading, swimming, skating, skiing?

There are not many things I've missed.

But my most recent father-son bonding memory happened quite by surprise. In fact, when I went to bed last night, I never dreamed of the special experience waiting before I even hit my REM sleep.

It started at 1:43 this morning. Exactly. I know this because I remember glancing at the digital alarm clock as I jumped out of bed, awakened by my teenage son screaming out for me from his room. Having done this parenting job for over 20 years, I know all too well what a middle-of-the night scream from a child usually means. So, I grabbed a towel and a plastic trash can as I ran to his room in my primal auto-mode. Whatever awaited me on the other side, I was prepared. I consider myself a professional when it comes to upchucking kids. And, I've gagged my way through things I would have never imagined.

But last night took the prize. The impressive list of casualties include:

  1. One lampshade.
  2. The new iHome next to his bed (grateful for our one-year warranty).
  3. The insides of his new slippers.
  4. Pages 56-69 of his Spanish book.
  5. A bedspread, two blankets, one pillow and all of his sheets.
  6. The entire contents of the drawer in his night stand with all the junk he can't bring himself to throw away. (Guess what? I threw it all a way).

The list continues, I'm sure. I'm just tired.

I have to admit that I wish he took after his sister just a little bit in situations like this. She's a very considerate sick child. When the stomach flu visits her, she discreetly retreats to the bathroom to quietly suffer. If I happen to notice what's happening and knock on the door, she's likely to reply with a sweet, "I'll be okay, Dad. Would you mind bringing me a glass of water, please?" What a sweetheart.

My boys, on the other hand, tend to treat these situations like dogs that feel the need to mark their territory. Getting from point "A" to "B" (where "B" would stand for the bathroom) is never an option for them. They prefer to deal with their explosive discomfort from wherever they might be at that moment.

For my younger son, last night at 1:43 in the morning, that place would be his bedroom.

It's now 4:22 a.m. My son is asleep in my bed wearing one of my t-shirts. I've finished three loads of laundry. The last load is humming in the dryer. I've disinfected his room. And I've been running around the house with that eerie middle-or-the-night feeling where you truly feel as though the entire planet is asleep. Except for you.

I know I should probably be miffed. Upset. Perturbed. I should be frustrated by the world record list of collateral damage caused by that skinny little body. (Oh, and you can add a #7 to the above list: I need to restring his guitar). But I'm really not. Nope, what's racing through my mind is the irony of the last six hours.

You see, my son went to bed angry with me. And truthfully, the feeling was mutual. It was silly. Senseless. Just some of the typical stinky stuff we let get between us sometimes. Attitude. Lack of attitude. Disrespect. Parental lecturing. Things that then snowball to a point where you forget how it all started.

And then you go to bed.

Angry.

And sometimes, you wake up angry.

But an upchucking child has a funny way of leveling the playing field, doesn't it? It's a vivid reminder that, through all the things that get spewed our way as parents, these are still our children.

And sometimes we need to simply disinfect the stuff that's stinking up our relationship and move on. We need to clean up the mess. Stay by their side. And make sure they're safe.

Thankful that we're the one they call to in the middle of the night.

That's my side of the story, at least for now.

I'll let you know his interpretation of all this when he wakes up.

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