Michelle Martin

One of these things

Sunday, April 10, 2011

There’s a certain sense of pride in the way Frank can say, “I almost broke my record. I threw up seven times in one night!” You get the sense that he would be glad to have thrown up eight times, if only for the joy of being able to say he topped himself once again.

That seems to be pretty common among 10-year-old boys, along with the need to offer play-by-play commentary on all sports (and most activities of daily living) and the ability to spend whole days playing, watching and thinking and reading about sports. No wonder for him everything is a competition, even being sick.

For Caroline, on the other hand, everything is a drama. She sings, she dances, she acts her way through life — to the point where I’ve told her, when faced with some unpleasant task, to put those acting skills to work and pretend she likes it. That almost gets a smile, before she sighs and embraces the tragedy of a life in which she must clean her own room.

For her, being sick is no quick trip to pit row, a day or so of suffering, sleeping hard and bouncing back. When she gets sick, she is usually down for at least a few days, and not quite herself for a few days more.

The thing is, acting notwithstanding, she’s not faking it any more than Frank is faking being ready for school a scant 24 hours after throwing up seven times. Their constitutions are as different as their personalities, and while Frank last year talked about going to a hockey skateathon while in the midst of the stomach flu, Caroline has a hard time moving from her bed to the couch when she’s sick.

I don’t know yet what Teresa will be like. When she got the stomach bug that started the last round of sickness in our house, she ended up in the ER getting intravenous fluids less than 18 hours after throwing up the first time. It was a week before she really got back to normal.

She didn’t seem to be miserable when she was sick. She still crawled and cruised and rolled around on the floor, still splashed her way through baths, still laughed and played. She just cried a little more when she was uncomfortable, slept a bit more and got tired of bland, soft food.

All three of my children are wonderful; all three are gifts, and each brings his or her own gifts to our family. I think each of them will be better off for having grown up with one another and learned to share the world with people with different personalities.