My son has been a smelly little boy for the last month and not for any lack of showers. The smell was coming, ironically, from his nose and when we finally gave up on home remedies and took him in, his pediatrician diagnosed an infection.
“Sinusitis!” Hums declared, a longtime sufferer himself. “Adenoids?” I wondered, having been through a surgery for it at the age of three. Beta went through a few rounds of medication to no avail until finally someone suggested maybe he had something stuck way up inside his nose. I immediately shot down this possibility. My cautious, sensible, intellectually inclined, serious little boy jam something inside an orifice and not tell anyone for a whole month? Impossible. There’s no surprise to how this story ends: eventually one determined ENT specialist, checked as high as possible without an imaging scan and discovered a solid inch of thick, blue rubber lodged inside the sinus cavity; the plastic cause of the repeated infections and the strange smell. He pulled it out, I threw away the little ball that the piece had disintegrated from, and all is now well and fragrant once more in our home.
You know, I saw that rubbery nasal intruder with my own eyes and yet, I’m still disbelieving that Beta actually did something so … childish. Under which circumstances, did he decide to poke something up his nose? I know he’s only three and other people’s three-year-olds have done similar things, but my boy? What was he thinking?
It’s strange isn’t it? How fixed our perceptions of our kids are. How convinced we are of how well we know them. How they surprise us again and again by being their own little people and not merely extensions of our selves. I know that Hums and I play this game a little too often than is probably healthy — identifying physical and emotional characteristics in our children and connecting them (either crowingly, proudly or disparagingly, despairingly) to ourselves. “Runs like a dork just like you!”, “Has thick hair just like me!”, “Laughs moon phaar kay just like you!” and so on. But then, for every time we do that, there are ten instances to prove to us how little we know these little strangers living with us. What makes Beti shriek with excitement when she sees our shoes lined up near the closet? What is Beta thinking when he smiles that secretive smile as he is curled up in bed? Why does he suddenly, apropos of nothing, exclaim “You did a great job!”?
I guess some thoughts I will never be privy to. But then there are others, wonderful ones that I do discover. For the past couple of weeks, Beta would walk past an art arrangement on our living room wall and burst out laughing, letting loose the kind of joyful peals that only a truly delighted child lets out. I would look at him quizzically but he would never explain. Finally, when my curiosity got the better of me, I asked playfully, “What’s so funny on the wall, Beta?” I saw on his face a fleeting indecision — should he share his secret, he deliberated. But then, he dragged me to stand in front of the artwork, “See, Mumma. A happy face!” and laughed again. I looked and yes, there it was, two small square paintings hanging side by side above a rectangular one. A happy face, indeed.
What made my son, who I thought I knew completely, decide to experiment with that blue ball, I’m not sure. What goes on in Beta and Beti’s little heads during the course of any day, I’ll never really know. And less so as they grow older when their innermost thoughts and feelings will be intentionally hidden away from me and the rest of the world. I guess my only hope for now and then, can be that those thoughts don’t ever again result in sticking something up their nose and that they always remain, more or less, happy thoughts.
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, August 12th, 2012.