Both of my kids are home sick. That’s the type of sentence that everyone can feel deep down inside. It’s part chaos, part calm, and overall germ warfare.
The first one home sick was Lucas. My seven year old son is non-verbal so he doesn’t come up to you and say, “I don’t feel well.” No. His eyes turn red, you lean in to check if his forehead is warm, and then he sneezes in your face. That’s the usual chain of events.
He gets moody too. Angry Lucas is the saddest Lucas because so much of his communication occurs through facial expressions. When he takes on the demeanor of a salty old pirate, it hits extra hard. My heart breaks for the little guy. It feels like not having language makes him an even more sympathetic patient.
Then my daughter comes home with a cold of her own and it blows that theory away. Just as pathetic in her own right, Olivia’s use of words is accentuated by her high pitched weepy voice asking things like, “Daddy, can I have da rebote?” Tear.
Of course, she’s sneezing and coughing all over my house too. The only difference between her and her brother in that regard? I can’t talk smack about her while she’s doing it like I can for Lucas. When he coughs in my face, I can look at him and say, “Dude, you’re killing me. Seriously. Now I have to go tear my face off and burn it. Thanks. Say bye, face. Bye, daddy’s sneezy face.” He doesn’t understand that I’m being rude and, even if he did, he wouldn’t be easily offended. He does, afterall, sneeze in people’s faces. Saying that to him provides me with a way to release tension without actually, well, tearing my own face off and burning it.
My daughter hears things much less harsh than that and her guilt takes over. All it takes is one innocuous comment from my wife or I about making sure to disinfect the throw blankets on the couch to send her into a contorted seated position, all twisted up into a tiny package. When asked why, she responds:
I’m trying not to infect anything.
So now I feel bad and go the complete opposite direction.
No, Olivia. It’s OK. We can always spray it with Lysol after you use them. You don’t have to worry. Go on. Use a blanket.
It’s OK. I don’t want to.
No. It’s OK.
At that point, I insist and toss a blanket on her. She laughs and rolls around on all of them. I smile.
Then I silently freak out because she just infected all the blankets.
It’s weird that I will worry about me getting sick from all of this. After all, I don’t really know what “sick” is. As an adult, I always feel like this. It’s allergies or aging or short term memory, but I feel like I’m in a perpetual state of almost-sick.
In fact – and this is the most annoying part – I don’t know if I was sick before them or not. Can I catch it if I am the one who caused it? Wait…am I sick now? I might be. Is that allergies? Is it too late? Is there a point to spraying these blankets with disinfectant if I’m already infected? Am I polishing the brass on the Titanic? Ugh.
I guess this is where I am supposed to gripe and complain about taking care of these little cough factory kids. The soup and the medicine arguments and the calls from across the house to deliver an iPad from across the room all add up. On the surface, they can seem pretty annoying.
Honestly, though, they’re not. It’s going to sound crazy but, of all my parenting career, there is no time that makes me feel more needed than when my kids are sick. Every meal you make and every tuck-in you do is of the utmost importance. You know that your actions are needed and wanted now more than ever.
We, as parents, spend our lives doing arduous and unapplauded tasks for these kids when they’re not sick. I can recall times, with both my children, where I had to physically move their jaws while they had food in their mouths after yelling for them to “chew” multiple times. They weren’t sick when I did that. They were jerks when I did that.
At least now they have sad little looks on their faces as I do everything I can to make their lives easier. Sure, there’s a general sense of illness in the air and the house feels foggy with germs, but soon it will all be better. They’ll be running around in circles and screaming in no time. Me? I’ll probably still feel like I do right now. So… sick? Not sick? No clue. I have to go spray Lysol.
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