As odd as it sounds, I’m always grateful when I’m sick at the same time the kids are. I mean, sure, there’s the obvious problem that when suffering from whole body aches and fever chills, I’m not exactly excited to sit bedside and read story after story. And there are few things on earth more nauseating than emptying someone’s barf bowl in between your own trips to the toilet.
But I have little patience for perceived laziness. In fact, nothing other than deliberate cruelty is less tolerated in our house than someone lazing about when there’s work to be done. So when the kids are sick and I feel fine, I am not the most tender of nurses. I find myself narrowing my eyes at the infirm quite a bit, trying to catch them exhibiting more energy than I feel a sick person should. I get irritated by requests for Kleenex, orange juice, another blanket. I am, to be honest, sort of a jerk when my kids are sick.
So when I’m sick with them, I feel relief. I feel like I can honestly cut everyone some slack without beating myself up for being a co-slacker. School is cancelled and I don’t freak out that the seven-year old will forget his times tables. The dining room doesn’t get wiped down and swept after meals, and I don’t suffer paranoid thoughts that Child Protective Services is going to come knocking at my door. Everyone sprawls out in front of a MythBusters marathon, and I don’t quake in fear that our collective IQs will plummet to 10.
For the past two days, most of us have had the flu. Headaches, fevers, listlessness, the whole deal. So today, when people started to feel slightly better, but still didn’t have the energy to do much beyond stare at each other stupidly, I thought I’d ease us back into productivity by going over this Sunday’s Mass readings to the kids. Philippians 3:17-4:1 and Luke’s account of the Transfiguration fired up everyone’s imagination over the nature of our future glorified bodies.
There was, among the boys, an immediate association with superheroes.
“We could fly!” yelled one, then immediately erupted into a coughing fit.
“We could walk on water!” said another boy.
“We could walk through locked doors!” said a third, trying to be heard over his brother’s coughing.
“No one would ever be sick again, or spread their gross germs because they don’t cover their mouth when they cough,” noted my oldest daughter, who also doesn’t cover her mouth when she coughs, but nobody bothered to point this out to her.
I gave a glass of water to the child trying to bring up a lung, and when he could speak again, he panted, “When we have our glorified bodies, we could save the world!”
This inspired an irritable debate over the truth of that statement. On one side there was the legalistic ten-year old, insisting that Jesus already saved the world, and believing anything contrary meant you didn’t love God. On the other hand was the seven-year old, who reminded his sister that we’re able to join our sufferings with Jesus’ sufferings in order to help save souls, and praying for others was also very helpful.
“Maybe, when we have our glorified bodies we don’t ever have to sleep and we can spend all the time flying around like Superman and praying for people still on earth.” His sister, upset that she’d been theologically out-logic-ed by her younger brother, folded her arms and shrugged.
I, however, was more grateful for the reminder. Someday, if I make it to Heaven, where my citizenship truly lies, I’ll get to zip around like a superhero, fighting crime on earth through my intercessory prayer. And until then, I can offer up the sufferings of my daily life, and join them with Christ’s for the salvation of souls. I can be a regular hero to my kids by being more patient with them in their weakness, even when my sufferings are different from theirs. I can remember that while we’re all asked to carry crosses, we’re not asked to carry the same ones, and I don’t get to judge the weight of someone else’s.
Unless one of my kids starts claiming that their cross is preventing them from doing the dishes or cleaning their room. Then I’m calling foul.
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