Ever since I came down with mono, I have had a lot of time to reflect on the value of parental supervision. These observation sessions take place primarily while I am lying on the couch. My children play, and I watch. Occasionally I call out instructions or admonishments, but it is rarely worth the effort these days to get up and get directly involved. So instead, I watch.

Slowly, subtly, they are flourishing It is interesting what happens when you simply watch your kids. They begin to demonstrate all sorts of abilities you never realized they had, just lurking under the surface of their dependency on you. Watching them is, in a sense, like watching flowers blossom. Slowly, subtly, they are flourishing.

My kids are no longer bored. Perhaps just seeing me unable to move freely makes moving that much more exciting. Perhaps it is the simple addition of an ever present, ever attentive audience. They watch me watching them. Sometimes they entertain me with spontaneous song and dance performances. Sometimes they play quietly, content to just be in my presence.

I can't do much for them these days. But in place of doing for them, I have developed a new way of being there for them, and they seem to appreciate this unique way of being together.

My oldest has shed her snakeskin of firstborn entitlement to emerge as a helpful, competent support for her younger brother. She tucks him in at night, and helps him get dressed in the morning. She makes him sandwiches and takes him to the bathroom. But mostly importantly, perhaps for the first time since his birth, she welcomes him warmly into her inner world, a welcome guest rather than an uninvited intruder.

I am fully exposed, both in my vulnerability and in my acceptance He has accepted the hand she has extended to him - to firmly leave behind the last trappings of babydom and emerge as a full-fledged participant in the family drama. Yet he has also led. To him, a mommy on the couch is the same old mommy. He doesn't mind climbing all over me. He is equally content to remain indoors and use me as his climbing frame, as he is to head outside to use the one in the park. Through his spontaneous acceptance of our new situation, she has learned to accept it as well.

He has adjusted to the change so seamlessly, one would think he had been pre-warned. Yet it is his sister I have sat with, and processed the meaning of my illness and its ramifications. She had to learn to move past her expectations and disappointments in order to develop compassion for my situation. This is something I hope will stay with her long after I return to full health.

Perhaps the biggest gift my children have received is the opportunity to witness first-hand my own response to this setback. As I lie on the couch, I am fully exposed, both in my vulnerability, and in my acceptance. As I watch them, they have watched me move from shock into acceptance and coping. In place of being able to protect them from the ramifications of my illness, this has been my gift to them. I have shared my best self- my ability to accept my own lack of control.