Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3.

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Shown up by a 3-year-old


Let me tell you why getting your tonsils out about a month before your baby does is a bad situation.

First, you know exactly how much it’s going to hurt, sending your Mama Bear hormones into hyperdrive.

Second, your baby might just show you up.

When my tonsils were removed, I couldn’t speak for more than a week. I cried several times a day. I lost nearly 10 pounds in a week. I was utterly, completely miserable. Three weeks post-surgery, I still needed a daily nap.

My 3-year-old boy? About an hour after surgery, he giggled when presented with a Popsicle.

In the days since, he complained that his throat hurt a few times. Total.

He’s eating ice cream, bowls of soup, macaroni and cheese, smoothies and basically living it up.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that Benny is recuperating so quickly. It’s answered prayers that he is eating, drinking and playing.

And I know that he hurts — really truly hurts. I ache when I see him put a shaky hand in front of his mouth as he speaks and take in the ashen tone to his skin. But he’s much better at rolling with the pain than I am.

Maybe it’s my age. The doctor told me adults who have a tonsillectomy have a much harder recovery (a fact I’ve been reminding my husband often).

But, while Benny complains less than I did, he does hint as his pain. Mostly, he needs to be in constant contact with me. As in, touching. All. Day. Long.

So if I do something selfish, such as use the toilet, he’s waiting just outside. “Are you ready to take care of me yet?” he asks through the crack of the door, his voice squeaky and strange from the surgery and his arms up for me to hold him.
“Where are you going?” he wails when I head toward the computer to check my e-mail after mistakenly assuming his closed eyes and snoring meant he was asleep. “Take care of me!”

Sitting next to me on the couch isn’t enough. He must be on my lap. And that isn’t quite good enough, either. He tilts his little body forward so I have room to rub his back. “That’s the stuff,” he whispers as we watch “Elmo Goes to the Doctor” for the third time in a row.

At dinner, about three days post-surgery, Jon, Emma and I ate taco salads and Benny dined on chicken noodle soup.
“How did you feel today, buddy?” Jon asked Benny.

“I hurt,” he squeaked. “But Mama helped me feeled better. She gave me lots of hugs.”

And wouldn’t you know it, my eyes welled again.

So I placate myself with the possibility that my children are so strong because of, not despite of, my low threshold for pain. Maybe they gather strength when I shoulder some of their pain.

Or maybe I’m just a wimp.

Either way, I have tough children.

Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 7, and son, Benny, 3. For more Smart Mama columns visit

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