Wong has chicken pox.
And by "has" I mean "a red, indigo and grotty yellow constellation of angry galaxies have invaded his skin, are bombarding inside his cheeks and exploring down his throat, glaring a dare at anyone to touch the fury of pus and itchiness".
He got them Thursday morning, then spent the day spiking a fever and moping between informing me of each new red dotted arrival. On Friday morning, when I checked him he was well plastered with spots, albeit sleeping. A few minutes later I heard him start to wake, then he yelled "It's a FOREST OF PUS!" The disgust in his voice right then has only been topped by a pox bursting in his mouth. He's feeling betrayed by his own body, particularly as I can't hug him without hurting him. But he's worked out he can hug me (very, very carefully) and there is one corner of his forehead still clear for me to kiss.
And I've kissed it repeatedly, throughout the days, into the nights, because I've been home with him. Home, running him baths, patting him dry, telling him to "Get your own drink bottle because your legs still work just fine mister!" and repeating to myself that I'm fine to be at home.
This is one of the hardest aspects of being the Mum, of being the only parent.Where I can't just casually change my plans for the day when someone is sick, because if I don't work, I don't get paid. I have been made a permanent (hooray!) but I still have to accrue leave in order to take it. It's also the perfectionist in me, where I want to do everything EXACTLY THE RIGHT WAY, and being at work when one of my boyos isn't feeling well chafes my neck and guilt receptors to screaming.
Honestly, sometimes just the fact that I'm at work is enough to make me take a spectacular belly-flop into my pool of guilt. "If I was a good Mum I'd-" is a soundtrack that takes a whole heap of work to scratch to a stop.
If I was a good Mum I'd bake every week.
If I was a good Mum I'd volunteer at school.
If I was a good Mum I'd have quality one-on-one time with each boyo, regularly.
If I was a good Mum I would do the boys' laundry, and vacuum their rooms, not making them do it.
If I was a good Mum I'd only work part-time.
If I was a good Mum....
Truth is, I AM a good Mum. But sometimes I cripple myself with my self-doubts and worry for my boys. Sometimes I find myself apologising in my head for things that fall to me. Like when the Doctor's nurse says on the phone "Just get Dad to check under your son's foreskin in case any pox are there", and it's me explaining to Wong why he needs to move his hands, while his blush crunches against his cratered cheeks.
Or when Hatro wanted to see a movie with friends and I'm absolutely thrilled and delighted that he's doing something social during the summer holidays but then I have to dent my stubborn pride into sharp angles against my ribs and accept the help of other people (who aren't working! Who are at home during the holidays!) to give Hatro rides to the movies and Young Men's activities, and to mind Wong at the same time and even feed him dinner when I'm kept back at work for unexpected overtime.
Knowing that helping isn't an issue to those that stepped in this week doesn't stop the guilt skulking about my ears, glopping frustration onto my shoulders, writing 'failure' in the corners of my eyes.
Sometimes the person it's hardest to convince that I'm not a failure is myself.
But I know I'm a good Mum. My boys choose time with me over pretty much anything. They turn to me for a laugh, or an answer, or direction, a hug, kiss, kick up the bum (okay, they don't come looking for THAT one) and jobs for the day. I'm their constant. I ring them when I'm on my way home, and we plan what we're having for dinner or doing on the weekend together. They know I work, and they think it's cool that I drive forklifts and load trucks and dangerous goods. They like teasing me about going to a Single Adult Convention at Easter, and they always sit me between them when they set the table for dinner.
They know I will yell at them and make them laugh 'til they choke on whatever they were silly enough to be drinking when I began my joke. They know I'll make them their favourite sandwiches, dinners and treats, exactly the way they like it, and that I'll try and get them to eat the stuff they don't like regularly as well. They know I love them more than I can tell them even when I've told them not to talk to me for ten minutes on pain of atomic wedgies and pulling up of one hundred weeds.
They know they are more important than my paying job, and that my job is a blessing to all of us. A job that has easily agreed to fixed working hours that suit my family, so we can have routine and regularity as well as a weekly paycheck. The boys continue to be happy.
I'm almost happy too. I'm still a little tender from the scrapes and bumps I've received, clambering down from Perfection Mountain. Every time I ask for help or a favour it feels as if I've slid down a gravel driveway on my face, but the stinging fades faster now. I'm learning to relax into down time. Wong's been poxed, and I've been home with him, soothing, balming, barking "Don't scratch!" a kazillion times... and also doing years of filing, clearing out real and mental corners of clutter and mess. I've also taken the time to just sit and watch a movie, and read a chapter of a book, finding it easier and refreshing to say to the "You should be doing something productive!" voice -Go away!- and have it obey.
I have to be productive as the Mum. Groceries bought, trucks loaded, homework discussed and plans made. But being the Mum is also as sweetly relaxing as laughing together at a movie, rating brownie perfection and - always - kissing the sleeping foreheads (poxed, pimpled or otherwise) of my sons.