For our anniversary, I was a big boy and made reservations for Diana and me and fetched a babysitter and actually made real plans. This is a fairly monumental deal for a man who hasn’t ordered his own wine in 13 years. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and looking forward to a rare night out with the missus.
Then Luca got sick.
He had some vague complaints about a stomachache and was a little grouchier than usual. But Luca has this habit of fabricating stomach issues when he’s bored or nervous or hungry or has a raging case of the flu.
On Saturday, Luca complained about a stomachache on the way to our weekly kid dinner at the Firehouse. I was dubious since he had just spent the last 3 hours racing around with his cousins, on top of earlier running around and eating cotton candy at the school Fall Fest. I said just suck it up and eat chicken fingers like a man.
I looked in the rearview mirror and he was slumped over in the back seat. Rather than respond like a human being by being concerned and caring, I lost my temper and said I didn’t believe him.
I grouchily drove home and said if he was sooooo sick, he had to go to bed immediately. I also made him some cruddy, tepid soup and scowled while he poked around the bowl. I called the restaurant and the babysitter and canceled our plans and stomped around like a big baby.
I looked over at Luca, who had begun to cry.
A little voice inside me tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey Rick,” it said. “You’re acting like a total a-hole to your little son. Do you want Luca’s lasting memory of you to be that time when you didn’t believe when he had the flu? Do you want him to recount the famous story of ‘The Unbelieving Flu Dad’ at his wedding and your eventual funeral?”
I raced across the kitchen and held Luca as he wailed. I apologized over and over for being a bad dad.
I then took him to his room and laid beside him for the next 12 hours, while he thrashed and cried and moaned and occasionally threw up. Diana came in from time to time and offered to take over, but I was determined to prove to Luca I believed in his flu so much that I wanted to bathe in his flu germs and get zero hours of sleep.
It was pretty awful. But I took every sweaty, shrieking moment as retribution for my jerky dadness.
The next morning, Luca was exhausted and sick and moan-y and I said, “Hey Luca. I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you last night about being sick. Sometimes I make mistakes. I try to be a good dad, but I screw up every once and a while. I’ll try to be a better dad. And I’ll stay with you all day to make you feel better. Is that ok? Do you forgive me?”
Luca said, “I want my mommy.”