Thursday, February 10, 2011
The Biology Lesson
“Did you know that the platypus is the only mammal that lays eggs?” my eight year old son, Patrick asked me. Sometimes I fear I may have given birth to the next Clifford C. Claven.
“What’s a mammal?” Brennan asked. At six years old, Brennan still believed I knew all the answers.
“A mammal is an animal that feeds its baby milk,” I replied.
“Like a cow,” Patrick added.
“Not just cows,” I was happy to have one up on Patrick. “So do cats and dogs and horses and pigs-“
“Cats! Cats have milk?” It was obvious Patrick did not believe me.
“Yes.” I reminded him of the litter of kittens we saw taking their lunch break.
“Oh, yeah,” Patrick nodded.
“Yuck!” Brennan held up his hand. “I do not want to drink cat-milk!”
Patrick laughed and shook his head, “Don’t worry Brennan. Humans drink
“No, human babies do not drink cow’s milk,” I was thrilled to be shooting Clifford down twice in one afternoon. “Babies drink from their mom just like the kittens.”
“What?” Patrick was dumbfounded. “No way.”
“How?” asked Brennan.
I was like a deer in headlights. I should have noticed where this line of questioning was headed. The victory of being the smart one was suddenly bitter. I couldn’t say the words. And of course, visual aides were out of the question.
“You know,” I looked at them with raised eyebrows.
“No, seriously. I don’t,” Patrick looked so innocent.
How could those boys not notice my cousin and her baby at the last family get-together? I’m sure the breastfeeding did not escape my husband’s attention.
I pointed my finger in front of me and decided to go with the visual aides after all. Patrick’s eyes bugged out of their sockets.
“No!” he cried.
Brennan covered his mouth with his hands and ran into the bathroom.
“Did I…” Patrick could not finish the rest of sentence.
“No, you took formula from a bottle,” I answered.
“What about me?” Brennan peeked around the corner.
“You all were feed from a bottle.” I could feel the sense of relief in the room. “Well, except for Garrett.”
There was a gasp. Brennan turned white.
“Is that why Garrett has SMS?” Patrick whispered.
“No, that is not why Garrett has SMS.” I tried not to laugh. For a brief second, I thought about discussing Garrett’s problems of latching on and how I thought something was wrong with me. I decided it would be more enjoyable if I saved that conversation for their teenage years.
Feeding problems are common with Smith-Magenis infants. But, we did not know Garrett had SMS until he was eighteen months old. By that time, I had lived many more serious concerns than my inability to breastfeed: Why is he not sitting up? Why is he not crawling? Why is he not walking? Why is he not sleeping? It was so “helpful” when our first pediatrician’s answer to every missed milestone was “you are holding him too much.”
“Garrett has SMS because that is how God made him,” I replied.
It is my canned response to that question. But there are moments when that does not satisfy my question of: “Why him? Why us?” But, I had dishes to wash and laundry to fold, so we all went about the rest of the day.
At bedtime, I caught Brennan crying in his bed.
“What is it now?” I asked. Brennan likes to pull out all the drama to delay the inevitable.
“It’s Garrett,” he wailed.
“Did he break one of your toys?” I asked.
We put locks on Patrick’s and Brennan’s door. They do have a right to have their things NOT destroyed…but, if they forget to put the lock on and Garrett “plays” in their room…who is to blame? It’s just one of the many steps in The SMS Dance that seems to constantly trip me and Charlie.
“No.” Brennan continued to cry. “I just can’t believe,” he paused and took a deep breath. “I can’t believe,” he sobbed some more.
Finally, he collected himself.
“I can’t believe my brother is a mammal!”