Zoey catches the chicken pox at one and a half years old. Two weeks after my shingles subside, she starts breaking out with little blisters all over her crotch. Shelly and I didn’t know what it was at first. We thought it was a rash from sitting in her pee filled diaper, but that’s never happened before. The day after I noticed them, I called the Dr Mechoso who was able to see us that same day; our appointment was for an hour after I called. She verified that it was chickenpox and prescribed antiviral medication and suggested that I give Zoey baby tylenol for the pain once the blisters start breaking.
My little girl was clearly in pain the next couple of days as the blisters spread throughout the rest of her body. Yet, she didn’t scratch as much as I thought she would. Zoey is so patient. She would have moments where she would just cry and whimper while trying to get comfortable. She would shudder from the pain. The Tylenol and Wonder Salve helped a lot but still she had some discomfort to deal with. I found that a bottle of milk and a nice movie is a good distraction for her. One movie that I put on this past week was Mary Poppins. I love the quality of that movie. From the graphics, cinematography, humor, costumes, and the many subtle messages embedded in it to inspire and instruct. I cuddled with Zoey on the couch as the movie played and we got to the scene where George Banks gets fired, he comes home to a house full of chimney sweeps and his kids are covered in soot. “It was that Mary Poppins! She tricked me into taking the children to the bank.” and Bert putting away his brushes replies, “…she’s the one what sings, ‘just a spoon full of sugar to ‘elp the medicine go down…” It was during this interaction with the chimney sweep that Mr. Banks has a change of heart. And it was at this time watching it that I realize what triggered that change.
I have seen Mary Poppins so many times. It was my favorite movie as a child, and I even had a crush on ol’ Miss Poppins. I’ve seen it with Trystan and Zoey before and we sang to all the songs. But this day as Zoey lay on my chest, riddled with blisters, whimpering periodically; I saw that Mr. Banks came to realize that HE should be the one giving his children the spoonful of sugar. He realized that one of his responsibilities as a dad is to ‘wipe their tears’ and help them face the difficulties in their lives.
I cannot take away my daughter’s pain, but I can try to make her as comfortable as possible while she goes through it. I have no control of the virus or her immune system, but I do have influence over her spirit. How we deal with our children during their times of suffering will form their response to suffering later on in life. We can teach them how times of tribulation can strengthen their spirit, or we can teach them that they become a burden when they need to depend on others for help. Another image that came to my mind is from the movie Life is Beautiful. I imagined Guido carrying his sleeping son through a misty night in the concentration camp. He is trying to find his way back to their barracks and instead they end up in front of a pile of corpses. Guido was a father who was able to bring a piece of heaven to one of the most hopeless and desolate places on earth; a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. He made his son think that it was a game and that he had to follow certain rules to win it. In the end, his son has no memory of tragedy, only a loving game that his father had played with him, that saved his life.
These realizations inspired me to smile while washing Zoey’s blistered body, so she doesn’t feel like it is a burden for me. They inspired me to make sure we make moments just for laughter. Things that would normally make me react with disgust or surprise or anger, were seen as sources of humor. I want one of my responsibilities as a father to be to bring a little piece of heaven wherever I am on earth, so that my little angels will feel right at home.