The Head Ache

“Ma, I don’t feel so good,” said Batya as she walked through the door, threw her backpack on the floor, shrugged out of her coat and stomped up the stairs to her bedroom.

“Hey, pick up your stuff!” I called after her, but all I heard was the sound of her door closing. Poor Batya. She’d been exhausted ever since starting high school two months before. The transition from elementary school to the more intense academic atmosphere of ninth grade had been hard for my eldest child. For the past two months she’d been going to sleep late, spending countless hours studying and cramming for tests, and waking up early in the morning. No wonder she was tired.

I picked up Batya’s backpack with a sigh and turned back to the meatballs I was forming. My two little girls were coloring at the kitchen table, my toddler was making a giant convoy out of Matchbox cars, and the rest of the children were alternately kvetching about homework and searching for food in the pantry. The next hour was spent dealing with one mini-crisis after another, Batya’s headache forgotten.

It was only much later, after the little ones had finally eaten supper and I was rewarming the food for the second shift, that I remembered Batya. I traipsed upstairs to check on her and found her fast asleep. When she woke up around nine o’clock her forehead was on fire. I gave her two Motrin, washed down with a glass of water, and tried to tempt her with supper, but she only picked at it. Fifteen minutes later she was ready to go back to bed. She hadn’t even looked at her homework or contemplated studying for the two tests and one quiz she had the next day. This was highly atypical.

Batya slept fitfully during the night, waking several times to take a drink. (I’m a notoriously light sleeper and heard her every time.) In the morning her headache was back with a vengeance.

“Why don’t you take a day off?” I suggested. Batya, normally very conscientious, immediately agreed. It was then that I felt the first stirrings of unease in the pit of my stomach.

For most of the day, as I puttered around the house doing housework and throwing loads of laundry into the washer and dryer, Batya was sprawled on the couch, listless and in obvious pain. She only pecked at the deliciously greasy grilled cheese sandwich I made for her and even refused a piece of sushi, her favorite food in the world.

“I don’t know what to do about Batya,” I told my husband, Rafi, when he came home from work. “She’s not usually such a kvetch. I’m a little worried about her, but I didn’t take her to the doctor because she didn’t have any symptoms other than a headache.”

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