The following is a guest post from Kat, a regular reader and commenter.
Our youngest child has been hit by the 48-hour stomach bug. It came on suddenly and without warning, one moment riding a bike around the yard, the next projectile vomiting all over the patio. The tummy troubles continued intermittently through the night, and by morning we were all gross and exhausted — except for the child, who managed to fall back to sleep after projectile vomiting all over the big bed.
The child was quite well rested and managed a hearty breakfast, sadly it did not stay down for long. Clearly something was up, so we reached for the phone.
At this point I should explain that up until a few years ago, my husband and I were Christian Scientists. In a previous life, we would have immediately started “working to know the Truth” about the child, and the Unreality of the Situation. Our puke-soaked bedding was Error trying to lie to us. The mountain of laundry was Malicious Animal Magnetism. Our child was God’s Perfect Child, nothing was wrong, it was all in our perception of the situation. In our previous life, we would have reached for the phone to call our Practitioner, who would reassure us that the child was Perfect and give us some pull quotes from the Bible or Science and Health (often taken directly from that week’s Bible Lesson), for us to study in our path to recognize our child’s perfection and God’s ever-loving care.
I know my child is Perfect, that is obvious, but it is also puking all over the floor every few hours and having exploding poos out the back of the diaper. While praying about it is great, ever-loving caring God is not omnipotent enough (or willing) to do laundry, mop the kitchen floor, or comfort the child.
So we called our pediatrician’s office, it was a Saturday, so we left our information and a brief description of the symptoms. The on-call doctor got back to us within half an hour. We talked through the symptoms, and were told that it was most likely the 48-hour stomach bug that was “going around.” We needed to keep an eye out for dehydration, and if all the child ate was crackers and toast that was fine. If things “didn’t improve” in the next 24-48 hours we should call back.
In some ways, talking with the pediatrician had the same impact talking with a CSP did: it allayed our fears. Unlike calling a CSP, we were given practical steps we could take. Our concerns were acknowledged instead of dismissed as a lack of faith.
We did the practical thing: stayed at home, kept things low-key, offered simple foods (mostly crackers), and made sure the child had a full sippy cup of restorative liquids. We did not pray (unless you count “desire is prayer” — oh God make the pile of laundry do itself), we did not “turn to the books” for passages of comfort, and we did not try and convince our not-yet-three year old that they were “God’s perfect child.”
We did reassure the child that they were okay, they would feel better soon, they really should drink some more restorative liquids, and yes, they could have another cracker (or two). We snuggled, we read books, we broke our no-TV rule and watched a short nature DVD.
It was quite a relief not to have the added stress of Christian Science hanging over us. It was not up to ME (or my husband) to see my child as God’s Perfect Creation. It was not up to MY THOUGHT to heal them. Their stomach bug was NOT a reflection of my perception of them or the situation. Instead of burying myself in the books for an answer, and distancing myself from the situation, I was able to be present for my child and their needs; read Goodnight Moon a dozen times, wash five loads of laundry, and mop the bathroom floor (again).
Kat is a former Christian Scientist, Principia College graduate, and full-time Domestic Goddess/Engineer. In addition to thinking critically about Christian Science, she enjoys long walks in the woods (usually with her kids), long walks on the beach (usually with her kids), and dark romantic comedies (after the kids have gone to bed). Depending on the day, she believes in the Celestial Teapot, the Sparkly Pink Unicorn, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. For more about Kat and her critical musings on Christian Science, religion, philosophy and occasionally parenting, you can visit her site, Kindism.org.