Sunboy’s asthma was severe in his younger years, but Flowergirl seemed to have milder, more normal asthma. We were surprised this week when she had difficulty breathing in a way that wasn’t very responsive to her normal inhalers. We whisked her to urgent care and then to the emergency department of the local children’s hospital.
After much discussion, we realized her asthma episode corresponded with the pussywillow pollen peak at our house. We have threatened to cut down the pussywillow trees every spring since we moved in. Their two weeks of horrible, debilitating pollen had Orchid and I miserable regardless of what we did. Sunboy showed allergies to their pollen last spring, but things became unacceptably worse this year when Flowergirl had difficulty breathing. With that, after years of ambivalence, we quickly cut the trees down without a second thought.
Anyone who knows us also knows what an extreme act it is for us to cut down a tree. We plant a tree at our house every Christmas and plant other trees throughout the year. When we moved to our house, I braved the tall thicket to save more than 20 trees from encroaching vines. Yet, neither of us blinked when cutting the pussywillow trees, even though they were beautiful the other 50 weeks of the year. Flowergirl was far more important than any tree.
Back at home, I sat on the couch and struggled with Flowergirl to give her a 10 minute nebulizer treatment to open her lungs. She screamed and wriggled. I calmly said to her, “You’re angry with me, aren’t you?” She nodded through her screams. “I’ll accept your anger. I understand you’ve had enough of feeling bad. I’m giving this medicine to you to help you, because I love you.”
I tried to explain what was happening, but at two-and-a-half years old she couldn’t really understand. Ultimately, I had to hold her down while the medicine slowly worked to improve her breathing. Any parent who has had to force a child to take medicine or undergo a medical treatment knows how heartbreaking this can be. We’ve been through years of “hard medicine” with Sunboy’s asthma and hospitalizations, and frankly, I have (mostly) learned to shut off that part of me that dies a little with the struggle. As I shifted my mind, I sang familiar lullabies and whispered that we were almost finished.
I found an unexpected insight into love of each other and perhaps also an insight into God’s love in this. They say that God can accept our anger. I believe that is true, because I can accept my child’s anger at me. I know I understand things that my child does not. Love isn’t just laughter and snuggles. Sometimes love is giving the hard medicine.
Although love includes laughter, I wondered how little of laughter is based in love. I mean, you can laugh with a stranger over a funny shared moment. But will a stranger make sure you get the medicine you need, even if you fight them? Some like medical professionals will persist through a bad response, but most people might reasonably walk away. Strangers will be happy to share a light moment, but love will see you through.
It’s love that gives the hard medicine. Love enforces the bedtime. Love makes you eat your vegetables. Love sometimes makes you find your own way. Love doesn’t always give you what you want, and love understands when you don’t always know what’s really happening. And love doesn’t flinch with the cutting down of a beautiful tree, if it needs to come down. My love is so much greater than these things.