I think we are all in the clear now. After most of us caught the nasty winter stomach bug to varying degrees this week, (including my poor mom who came to help us!), we are emerging from underneath the piles of laundry to once again nourish and restore.
This week's illness got me to thinking about the important role of convalescence: of allowing for slow and deep recovery from sickness. In our hurried world, tending to our bodies and those of our children following sickness is often overlooked. We strive to quickly get things back to normal, to quickly resume typical daily rhythms and routines, often without allowing for our bodies and spirits to be fully restored. This is particularly true for children, who, I find, can be extra clingy, extra sleepy, and need extra nurturing in the days following the acute part of any illness.
Why are we in such a rush? In our modern, fast-paced existence, we seem to rush everything--especially our children. In his classic book, The Hurried Child, Tufts University psychologist, David Elkind, writes:
What are the ways parents hurry children? And what powerful motivations and distractions cause us to disregard the mountain of knowledge we have about childhood and child development, about the special needs and identity of young people? The beginning of an answer lies in the theme that was touched upon earlier: rapid change. The bewildering rapidity and profound extent of ongoing social change are the unique hallmarks of our era, setting us apart from every previous society. For us, in the foreseeable future, nothing is permanent. Stress is an organism's reaction to this change, this impermanence. We live, therefore, in a time of wide-spread, deep-seated stress; it is a companion that is so constant, we may easily forget how completely stress pervades our lives." (pp. 24-25).Did I mention that Dr. Elkind first wrote this book in 1981, when many of us were still in diapers? And most of us would probably say that our childhood was much less hurried than today's childhood, before technology fully invaded our lives, before we somehow decided that children and adults should always be going, going, going.
Illness and convalescence remind us to stop--to stay--to avoid our cultural tendency to hurry our children, ourselves, and instead seek ways to live more slowly, more simply. Illness and convalescence can also remind us that a parent's important job is to stop the hurrying--to allow for slowness and restoration. It's a parent's essential job to nurture, to nourish, to tend. It's a parent's job to protect: to find ways to slow down the increasingly accelerated pace of childhood and family life that can often lead to prolonged or recurring maladies of body or spirit.
It's a parent's job to cultivate family health: to recognize our homes as powerful places of family well-being from the food we source, to the meals we prepare, to the remedies we use, to the choices we make regarding how slowly, how simply, we move through our days together.
It's a parent's job to nurture, to nourish, to tend.
Such a very important job it is.