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The Meaningful Lesson I Found in My Daughter's Vomit

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Shit happens. Vomit happens. They happen together sometimes. My family recently fell victim to the worst stomach bug ever and the unexpected lesson I learned from this horror of a night or two is priceless. You know those moments when the kids are sick and cuddly and calm and quiet and you think to yourself, “I kind of like when the kids are sick?”

Yea, this one not one of those moments.

The powerful and violent bug that ran through my household of five was diagnosed by Dr. Google as the norovirus and I am guessing that is short for complete digestive failure. My precious 10-year-old-daughter was her happy-go-lucky self one minute and praising the porcelain God just five seconds later. Unfortunately, this was not a one and done situation. Every 15 minutes, she would run to the bathroom to vomit (among other uncontrollable excretions) and I would follow her, hold her hair out of her face, rub her back, clean up as best as possible, and tuck her back into bed. This continued every 15 minutes for 13 long hours. I watched her really (wo)man up and handle this like a champ. No complaints. No tears. She did what she needed to do in true middle-child fashion. She was a trooper. She maintained this tough attitude for about seven hours. The last six hours were tough as her body weakened from the beating this virus was dishing out. She was sleep-deprived, and she simply wanted it to be over. In her young mind, she just wasn’t sure it would ever end.

She kept saying, “Mommy I just want to go to bed, but I can’t stop throwing up. When is it going to be over?” She said it over and over. It broke my heart. She desperately wanted to sleep. The truth is, so did I. It was 4:30 a.m. and just as she was longing for some rest and reprieve from this awful virus, I was exhausted from the cycle of cleaning up the mess, doing the laundry, rubbing the back, and repeating. My body was craving sleep and my sanity was wavering.

The questions kept coming. “Mommy, when will this stop?” I needed to ease her mind. Sometimes the words come easy and other times I struggle to find the just-right words. I could not think of what to say to help her through this. It was out of our control and I didn’t know when it would end. Suddenly, the words came to me: “This is temporary.” I told her, “I know it feels like this is never going to end, but I promise you it will be over soon. You will fall asleep and you will eventually feel better and rested. The vomiting, among other things, will end.” I said that many times to her and myself throughout those virus-infected early morning hours.

This is temporary.

As the words exited my lips, it was so certain to me: She would not be throwing up forever. Three simple words delivered a magnitude of solace. This would not last forever. Four more hours of this didn’t seem so bad when we focused on the impermanence of it all. Both of our minds were eased. My daughter’s bodily functions soon returned to normal and she was on to the rest and restore phase of the illness.

This is temporary.

Three important words that ring true to any situation, good or bad. Whatever is happening right now, it is temporary. This is my go-to mantra when the going gets tough. I speak these words to myself, to my children and to my friends when life gets challenging. It is so easy to get up in our problems and react to them as if they are permanent problems. Can the financial stress I am under truly be temporary?

Can the loneliness I feel at times truly be temporary? Can the anger or sadness I feel over whatever the issue du jour is truly be temporary?

Yes, it absolutely can and it is!

So, the next time I the ATM machine tells me “insufficient funds,” or I find myself nursing a broken heart, I will simply tell myself: “I can’t possibly throw up every 15 minutes for the rest of my life! This really is temporary. This too shall pass.”

Shit does happen. But shit is also temporary.

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