Child Proof

We are partway through Chapter 4 of The Goblet of Fire. Bug sits up in the bed and heaves a sigh as big as Mt. Rainier. “Mom, can I have a cool cloth? Please?” His cheeks are flushed.

“Sure, baby.” I put down the book and go to run water over a cloth. He unfolds it and wipes it across his face before draping it over his head. It hides his eyes. He presses his palms against the pink terrycloth, cooling his cheeks and ears.

He has been coughing for a week, but who hasn’t been? The bipolar arrival of spring yields nighttime frost, daffodil pollen, and no escape from airborne funk. “Do you think you have a fever?” I ask.

“I guess I do,” he sighs again. “Can we take my temperature?”

“Sure.” I start to crawl out of his bed.

“I’ll get the thermometer,” he cries. He drops the cloth and clambers over me. “Where is it?” It’s the kind with buttons and a digital display. It’s almost as compelling as my iPod.

“In the closet. I think I have to get it, bud. There’s that special handle on the door.” When we moved in nearly three years ago, I stashed all the medicine and cleaning supplies in the hall closet and secured it with a knob cover. It spins around and requires a grownup grip.

“No, I got it,” he calls. “I go in here all the time.” I hear the door open then close, and he strolls back in the room with the ear thermometer. “How do I turn this on again?” He presses all the buttons as he climbs back over me.

“Wait one minute, mister,” I say. “What do you mean you ‘go in there all the time’? You’re not supposed to be able to open that door. It has a child-proof handle on it.”

“Mom.” Bug levels his gaze at me. “I am not a child.”

“Oh really? What are you?”

He gives his nose a little lift of dismissal. “I am a big kid.” The pink washcloth is flopping on his head again and the thermometer is jammed into his ear. He presses the button, hears the beep, and reads the display out loud.

“97.7,” he says. “Is that a fever?”

“No, baby. You’re fine. You’re just hot.”

“Hm. I don’t know.” For the sake of accuracy, he tries the other side and follows up with a few dozen more checks of each ear. “98.1? 97.6? 97.9. . . ?”

My baby isn’t sick. Also, he is not a baby. That is just a straight up fact.

He is still a child, though. (He doesn’t need to know that.)

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