Why Barfing is No Fun for Anyone

Dear Michael,

You often protested being put in your crib as a baby to go to sleep at night. No sooner would Mom lay you down, in your eggshell-blue pajamas, than you might start to cry. We would retreat to our bedroom and cross our fingers that you might soon cry yourself to sleep.

But instead you would cry and cry, louder and louder, expressing your deep dissatisfaction with your parents and the general injustices of the universe. We would lay in bed with our eyes wide, wincing at every wail.

Then you might start coughing, a hacking cough, that would turn into gagging, and we would hear you retch, once, twice, three times. Oh, you had done it again. You had pulled that cute stunt you liked to pull.

You had vomited.

Many a night you carried out this little trick, crying so hard, upsetting yourself so much, that finally you would throw up. We would know as soon as we heard the gagging that you might do it again, and the retching usually told us that you already had. We would come in as the clean-up crew.

It would really stink. Often Mom had to give you a bath and change the sheets.

Now, nobody is saying you vomited on purpose just to stay up and get our attention. Clearly something was bothering you a lot. But what? Was it having two parents and a grandmother who adored your very being? Was it our spacious apartment? Was it our financial security? Give me a clue here. We never even came close to figuring it out.

And I have to level with you. All that puking was a drag. But let me tell you this: if Mom ever complained – about changing the sheets, about the extra laundry, about your protesting and your seemingly willful vomiting – I missed it.

But then, that’s your mother for you. In all the years I’ve known her – it’s 33 now – she’s never done anything less than exactly what she’s needed to do. As for your nocturnal upchucking, eventually you stopped, and it came as no small relief to us both. You had learned to go to sleep without making a fight out of it. You had discovered that maybe going to sleep surrounded by love and security was really none too hard after all.

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