Oh, and let me tell you the absolute joy of a reluctant 6 year old boy:
"NOOOOOO, Mommy, still schleeepinnnng..zzz...zzzz"
"Aw, come on, Max! It's the first day of first grade! You get to wear your new clothes and your new Angry Birds backpack - it's going to be a great day!" I say brightly.
Despite my encouragement, he rolls away from me and buries his face in the pillow.
"Mph hum wu mpho!" Translation: I don't want to.
"Too bad, big man. You gotta get up and go."
I am not without strategy.
"There's a bowl of Pops on the table waiting for you. Better not let them get soggy." I warn.
I do not beg him to eat the Pops. So Pops it is. I even encourage second helpings.
He energetically hops up and begins to put on the clothes he picked out the day before: orange polo & madras shorts - a handsome compliment to his super tanned skin and summer bleached hair. He smiles and looks a bit like a jack-o-lantern with all his missing teeth. I smile back and give him hugs. I'm filled with a strange sadness at how much he's grown; the baby in his face is gone.
True to form, Max scarfs up the Pops quickly. Hmmm. Magic. And apparently nag-resistant.
We fill the extra morning time by taking his first day of school pictures.
I'm trying to keep up a tradition I started, which is to ask Max what he wants to be when he grows up. I capture his answer on an old chalkboard and take his obligatory first-day-of-school photo with it. I'm hoping that one day it will make a cute timeline. We'll have to see.
This year, he says he wants to be a Policeman - just like daddy.
And I am filled to my core with absolute dread.
Nothing is this perfect. My intuition bells are ringing and I just know that Max is going to have the worst day ever. I begin to picture in my head which teacher he'll scream at, which kid he'll shoot with finger guns, which school activity he'll toss to the floor in protest, and how long it will take him to be sent to the principal's office. I can feel my pulse at my temples. My respect for my mother is amplified.
But surely these are stupid thoughts. Even though last year wasn't stellar, there's no reason for me to believe that this year can't be great. Max seems to like his new teacher and he is excited about the brand new school. His classroom is clean and uncluttered and spacious, which hopefully wouldn't trigger his tendency to get over-stimulated and overwhelmed. He has friends in the class and he is joking and laughing with them. He seems.... happy. Normal.
And it was in this euphoric state of hope and happiness that we parted with him at the school...
sigh... only to be contacted 3 hours later by the school to inform us that we needed to come and get him. Damn.
There, the doctor took a look at him, and listened closely to his lungs. She gave him acetaminophen for his fever. Then, she ordered a chest x-ray.
Standing in front of the imaging plate, skinny arms spread out, shirtless, scared, and shivering in the cold of the darkened room, Max looked utterly pathetic. I got to stand next to him to help him stand still while the technicians went into the control room to take the image. I felt ridiculous, hovering over him in a giant lead apron they had wrapped me in, while he stood there completely defenseless. But there wasn't time to discuss procedure - it was over pretty quickly. I thought Max had been very brave. Though it was an uncomfortable experience for him, he never complained. In fact, he seemed highly interested - perhaps distracted - in the workings of the x-ray machines as they snapped the images of his chest.
Afterwards, we put his shirt back on, and he crawled into his daddy's lap to cuddle up on his chest while we waited for results. He seemed comfortable enough, but he coughed several times per minute.
Then the doctor spoke with us again. Though I was afraid that he might be asthmatic, especially since there's a family history, she quickly ruled it out. Max's lungs were 'crackling, not wheezing.' She then said, "I think it's pneumonia."
"Really, pneumonia?" I am incredulous.
The doctor nods, "It's not uncommon this time of year when allergies and sinus issues are prevalent."
Admittedly, Max has had a cough for about a week, but I had chalked it up to allergies and given him Claritin. I thought it had been working okay, especially since his cough improved over the weekend. I certainly hadn't noticed him having a fever at all - in fact, the cough was his only symptom, up until the school nurse had called.
When the chest x-rays came back, the doctor confirmed her suspicion. Pneumonia, it is.
Still in shock, I ask, "but...how?"
The doctor and I ran through Max's cough history over the last week and we settled on an unusual but highly likely culprit: A week prior, Max had gone to a water park with summer camp, and he had choked on some water while on a water slide. The doctor explained that his persistent cough was a sign that he never fully expelled the water from his lung; the fluid got trapped, causing an infection.
Part of me feels blessed that my experience with illnesses has been limited to the typical cold and allergies, and something as concerning as pneumonia is new territory for me. But mostly, I just feel ignorant. And guilty. Ignorant-Parent-Of-The-Year award, highly deserved. "So... how do we fix this?"
It was more complicated than I realized. For treatment, Max got a week-long course of strong antibiotics and acetaminophen for fever. He can't go to school for several more days, and he'll have to remain in a "resting heart rate" for at least 2 weeks so his lungs will heal completely. No running, no jumping, no P.E. no recess.
After calling in his prescriptions, and arranging alternate activities for him at the school over the next 2 weeks, I spend the rest of the day making Max comfortable on the couch. By 3:30pm - just in time for school to let out for everyone else - Max is well on his way to feeling better.
In fact, he almost seemed a little smug for having his summer vacation extended a week. I ask him if he'd like a snack as he watches cartoons.
"Can I have some Pops?"
Pops it is.