Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Stomach Virus, a Bengal Tiger, and a Lesson Learned

I have read a lot about effective parenting since becoming a father. I understand how to respectfully communicate with my daughter. I know the process required to help her learn how to sleep on her own in her crib. I am able to establish a flexible routine for her daily activities. And I even sense the subtle nuances in her cries. Isn't that what women dream about in a spouse and father? Eh . . . sort of.

Of all the books that I have read on parenting styles and child psychology and development, none told me about one of the most important skills of an effective parent: shared control. I would like to attribute that to the bias that most of these books are written with: for mothers' eyes only! However, I am not that naive. My "single-parenting" approach seemed okay. I wasn't even aware of what I was doing. Heck, I was just having fun being a dad. But then I saw the tears.

I learned that my wife felt like our daughter was my daughter. There is a lot of truth to that. As hard as I tried to change, the strain on our relationship continued to fester. Luckily for my wife, so did my guts!

Last Sunday morning, I ended up with diarhea that would make Betty White jealous. That turned into vomiting that registred on the Richtor Scale. Six relaxing hours later, I ended up in the emergency room with IVs and a morphine drip (which explains the Bengal Tiger that was standing next to my bed). I spent four days in the hospital, diagnosed with a severe gastrointestinal virus and dehydration.

I hadn't thought about it at the time, but my wife wouldn't be able to stay the nights with me at the hospital. She had our daughter to take care of. So, I was left alone most of the time to my thoughts and that damned Bengal Tiger.

While I was making a cameo in the Lion King, my wife had no choice but to take care of our daughter on her own. That meant feeding her, playing with her, bathing her, changing her, putting her to bed, the whole kit and kaboodle. And guess what! When I came home everything was perfectly fine.

Even though I am home, the doctor told me to keep my hands off of everyone just in case I am still contageous. So, instead of taking my place next to the crib, helping my daughter to get ready to fall asleep I stood in the doorway and watched my wife do it instead. And she did it better than I do.

I don't believe that a virus bore into my tummy to teach me a lesson. But I am grateful that it did so that I could experience being away from my family and having to watch my wife do what I once thought I did best.

That's not all I learned in my lonesome hospital bed. I also learned that Bengal Tigers are very friendly predators.

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