That's how long my daughter had been whining and moaning about the incessant tube that was taped around her face and neck and channeled through her nose down into her stomach. She stayed groggy and cranky from the anesthesia which only made matters worse. I hate seeing her act like someone she's not. I don't like what anesthesia does to her. She is foul and angry and combative and sad, until it slowly releases her sweet soul and she comes back the next day. I was sympathetic and attempted to comfort her in any way that I could, while monitoring her pH level and recording the time, and her food intake and activity level every thirty minutes. It was a long two days. I was tired and so was she.
In the big picture, this was really nothing. We have dealt with much more sickness and procedures and surgeries and longer bouts of misery than this. It was only two days we needed to endure this test. A test that would assess multiple healing ulcers in her stomach, caused by severe reflux she's had since birth. It would be over soon and we would be at the pool the following day. I kept telling her that and reminding myself as well.
But by the last hour of this struggle, my daughter's moaning and crying got the best of me and I lost it.
"I know how hard this has been and I get how miserable you are, but look at all you have in your life! This will be over soon and we get to go about our active and joyful fun-filled lives! You know how many kids don't get to go on in a normal life? ENOUGH self-pity! You are fine! And I'm tired of hearing you whine and moan about this."
Yes, I know she's only nine and maybe I went too far. But I often expect my children to act like grown-ups in my weak moments. I just do.
We get to the hospital to finally take the catheter out and set her free; she is quiet but still moaning. It's a long walk through the hospital to get to the GI surgery center. Although we have been coming here since she was a baby, the walk anywhere around the hospital is always convicting and very sad. We pass the ER, the radiology labs, several clinics and all the countless sick children going to and fro, throughout the long corridors. This path always pushes me into a new realm of sympathetic reality.
"Look around you my dear. Just look at every child you see and take it in." (Nodding my head over to a girl in wheelchair with a breathing apparatus and tubes coming from each side of her body... Raising my eyebrows to a small child screaming in a woman's arms... Nudging my daughter toward a severely handicapped child in a stroller.)
Her eyes grew big and sad and scared.
"Yes my dear, you are very fortunate."
She nods conceding to the suffering she sees.
I put my arm around her and began my pastoral lecture:
"It is okay to feel badly about our circumstances. I get that you are miserable. I want to comfort you and make everything better. But I also want you to look beyond you, even when you are hurting. I want you to learn how to deal with your struggles and one way to do this is to realize your blessings. I know how hard it is to reach out of the bad to see what is good. But I always tell you this every time you are sick, because I believe it has helped me so many times. In our suffering, we must find gratitude. And we always, always can do that."
She got it. My little nine-year old understood this concept, swallowed it down yet again, as I impart it on her regularly. It may be harsh. But I want my girl to understand how powerful gratitude can truly be. I want to open up her little world, to reveal to her the gift of perspective.
A day later, I am convicted in my own lecture. How dare I pressure her to look beyond her pain and find gratitude when there are so many times I cannot? Yes, us mothers know how to function through sleeplessness and sickness and work schedules and headaches and stress. We always rise to the call because that is what we do. But here is the challenge:
Can we step out of our weary and whiny attitude to search for gratitude?
Or do we just push through and grimace, moan and whine through those difficult days...weeks...months.
There are times I want to do what my precious daughter did. I want to groan and sigh and swim in my own pool of self-pity. Then I think of my favorite verse.
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things" (Phil 4:8).
And I breathe in reflections of all that is beautiful in my life, and slowly exhale gratitude...finding what is worthy of praise. My circumstances may be hard at times, perhaps down-right awful, but there will always be better things I can think about. I have a life worthy of praise, if I look for it. I too, can appreciate all the blessings I have...
Although sometimes, I need a bit of time to get there... much like my daughter did.
A version of this post was first published at TheMomCafe.com