This summer, when our family was on vacation in a foreign country, one of my children came down with a virus. She was feverish and dizzy and felt terrible — and I could feel my own anxiety spiking. When she woke up in the night I sat with her, but eventually she fell back asleep.
Now what? I wondered, my mind spinning 100 miles a minute. Should I lie down next to her? Monitor her breathing and leap into action if she stirs? We were scheduled to board a train in several hours. Should I go online and research urgent care centers close to our destination? What about emergency rooms?
Then out of nowhere a thought came to me: What would your mother do? It stuck in my mind like one of those goofy mantras you slap on a decal: WWYMD?
And I knew, instantly, exactly what my mom would and wouldn’t do in this situation.
She might make a loose plan in her mind for some type of urgent care, but she wouldn’t map out 1,000 possible catastrophes that hadn’t happened yet.
She’d remind herself that kids often come down with bugs at the worst possible times and in the worst possible locations. One of her favorite sayings was, “It wouldn’t be Christmas if someone wasn’t sick!”
She would bring me 7UP and take my temperature and put on the radio for me. “That way you don’t need to strain your eyes to listen,” she’d say. If it was clear I didn’t need anything other than lots of rest (which was almost always the case), she would tuck me in and go back to sleep in her own bed.
So I went back to bed, because that’s what my mom would have done, and because lying awake worrying would not have helped my daughter — or me. I tried to silence the pesky “what-if” machine in my brain, telling myself that if the situation worsened, I would figure out what to do.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before my daughter was on the mend. I’m grateful she did not need more medical intervention. But if she had, I know how I would have wanted to handle the situation: much like my mother did decades ago when my sister was in a scary sledding accident. My mom was so calm and focused, talking my sister through everything, as my dad sped down the narrow mountain roads in search of the nearest hospital. When we finally arrived at a clinic, staff members assumed my mother was a nurse.
Parenting can be terrifying, and I’m sure my mother was scared that day. But I’ll be forever in awe of the way she took charge and did what needed to be done so that my sister would be okay.
Sometimes WWYMD is truly the best medicine.
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