Dora’s pediatrician flips through the X-Rays.
We are here because Dora complains of a tummy ache almost daily before school. I’m not worried. The complaints never seem serious. The fact that you can set your watch by them, though, is why we’re sitting here.
With the whole “writing-thing” behind us, Dora generally seems to enjoy second grade. Other than these vague, morning stomach aches she remains her active self, which is why it has taken me until February of the school year to take Dora to the doctor.
I’m mostly here for data-supported confirmation that there’s nothing seriously wrong with her stomach. I’m here so that when she says her stomach hurts, I can dismiss my nagging worry that she might be physically sick and instead move directly into calming her nerves about the pending school day.
The verdict is chronic constipation. “Very common in kids her age”, the pediatrician says. “She’ll need to drink a liquid laxative every day.”
I give Dora the laxative within forty seconds of arriving home. Convincing Dora to drink it is pure torture, but her stomach complaints stop within two days.
Bam! I think. Finally, one mystery solved! Look at me, all competent.
But David does not like this solution. No sir, he does not like it. Not one bit.
He squints, reading the laxative’s ingredients, “Jesus, honey! Polyethylene Glycol is a serious and toxic substance. We supposed to put this into her body every single day? I am very concerned. Do we know anything about its long term impact in children?”
I know he is right to question this. Everyone should question everything, generally. But here’s the punching feeling rising up inside my stomach again. The punching feeling says; but it’s working, her stomach is not hurting now. And Dr. C says tons of kids take this.
It also says: Okay, fine, then. So now what? What should we do, huh? Because we both work. And I’m leaving for Houston tomorrow. Would you like to take the lead in solving this? The punching feeling asks these questions all douche-y, like the guy who calls everyone “Pal”.
Those things may or may not have actually been said (they were), paving the way directly into the familiar, never-ending argument loop about how we really, really could use a nanny (yes, please) except for the problem that Dora only likes to be with us or with her grandmother, who lives on the other side of the country, and wouldn’t that just exacerbate her stomach problems?
If Dora shouldn’t take a daily laxative, and if Dora doesn’t actually have a “writing issue” (unless she does?), and if Dora would never accept a nanny, then what, exactly, does Dora need?
I repeat: WHAT DOES DORA NEED?
The only answer I can think of scares me to death.
“What if she’s just be the kind of kid who needs a really sweet, patient, “teacher”-type mother,” I ask David, through tears, “Someone who is always with her who makes bento box lunches and plays Candyland for fun and I’m just not cut out that way.”
I start to cry, “I’m just not the right kind of mother for Dora.”
We give Dora everything; every advantage and every opportunity. Every experience we can think of.
She is steeped in love at home and at church and at her small, sweet little bubble of a school.
But what else? What are we missing?
Is Parenting this hard for everyone, or just me?
I watch Dora sleeping, all angel-breath, a few sweaty strips of hair pasted to her lovely forehead.
Suddenly I picture the chemical laxative swirling around inside her little body, forcing things to work right. I want so desperately for things to work right for Dora, but is it too much? What if her constant stomach complaint before school are just a phase?
What if I’m the chemical, forcing things to work right but harming her in the process?
Motherhood is uniquely terrifying like this.
A good mother would know what their child needs, but in many ways Dora is a mystery to me.
I fucking hate this feeling.