I remember when I was about 8 years old, me and my sister would play a game where we would spy on our family members.
I think this may have been around the time that I had read the book Harriet the Spy, but I would spend long hours sneaking around watching my family doing their daily activities, and occasionally taking notes in a spiral notebook. I'm not sure what I found amusing about this activity, since I never witnessed anything more exciting than watching my dad washing the dishes after dinner.
Really, a more useful version of this game would have been to simply hide in order to avoid helping with any household chores. My parents probably were just happy that me and my sister were playing a virtually silent game, and would helpfully pretend not to see us sneaking around the house.
My son, Silas, played this same game for a while. Silas at 8, however, is smarter than I was at that age, and quickly realized that there was nothing gratifying in sitting at the top of the stairs watching me read a book. Silas' game quickly evolved to trying to sneak up on me and scare me.
Usually, because I'm a mother and magically grew eyes in the back of my head around the same time I was developing stretch marks, I have a pretty good idea of what Silas is up to. I do my motherly duty, though, and jump in fright and clutch at my heart every time he shouts "Boo!" from behind my chair.
Once in a while though, Silas really does scare me. This past weekend was one of those times.
Silas had caught whatever germy bug is working its way through the population and was feeling sick. He was spending the night with my parents, and in the morning my mom called to tell me that Silas had been throwing up since 3 o'clock in the morning. I spoke with Silas on the phone, and he was crying and telling me all about how he had thrown up seven times and that it came out his nose. I hurried down to their house to check on him.
Silas was definitely sick. He took a couple tablespoons of flat ginger ale and promptly threw it up. Then I noticed that he was breathing strangely. After Silas threw up more ginger ale, I decided to take him into the emergency room. Silas had finally accomplished his greatest goal in life — he was scaring me.
I carried my big 8-year-old from the car into the emergency room, scared that he was breathing so fast and that his ribs were sucking in with each breath. I could also see that he was dehydrated. He had hardly urinated all morning, and his lips were dried and cracked.
You know your kid is sick when they hardly flinch when the emergency room nurse puts an IV in their arm.
Silas could barely summon the energy to have an X-ray taken of his chest, and tried to be on his best behavior with the doctor (there actually may have been a bribe involved with getting Silas to cooperate with the doctor's exam).
Silas had bronchitis. A couple breathing treatments and some IV fluids, and five hours later he was happily eating hospital Jell-O. Instead of lying with his face looking a little gray on the pillow, he was using all his time and energy to tell me how bored he was and how much he wanted to leave.
Everyone at the Emergency Department of Ashland Community Hospital has my heartfelt thanks. They cared for Silas with compassion and patience. I'm so thankful that they were there, to be with me for the first time that my kid really and truly scared me.
Zoe Abel is practicing her scared face for when Silas is feeling up to yelling "boo!" again. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org