Monday, March 28, 2005

In Sickness and in more sickness.

These, my friends, are what I like to call The Petri Dish Years. Since Daughter began pre-school eighteen months ago, we have had only three gears: Getting the illness, Manifesting the illness, Waiting for the new illness. I’d like to think the following rules would help someone out there, but I suspect every family is sick in its own way. However, if you are reading this while waiting at the pharmacy for your child’s ointment, perhaps this will help pass the time.


1. Five hours before the first symptoms show, Daughter gets cuddly. She crawls into my lap before bedtime and demands that I read her a story, and I am charmed. “Oh, you sweet thing,” I croon, “you just want some time with your Mommy”. Somehow, I always forget that this isn’t a wholesome affection: it’s just the germs looking for a new host. When she is sporting two endless ropes of green snot and the glassy eyes of the undead, I’ll be less inclined to breathe in her exhalations.

2. Vomit prefers to manifest at three a.m., or in a public space. The middle-of-the-night hurl happens no less than four times, at twenty minute intervals. This is because it takes about fifteen minutes to get her cleaned up and put fresh sheets on her bed, and she has only three sets of sheets. It’s not officially the flu until I have made her bed with one of our top sheets and a beach towel. The public-sector hurl will occur no more than a half hour after eating blueberries, which answers the question “What could possibly be worse than watching your daughter throw up on the carpet at the bank?” Watching your daughter throw up something indelible on the carpet at the bank.

3. Whatever you think you know, you’re wrong. That is probably a fair summation of motherhood in general, at least for me, but it certainly covers my experiences with Daughter’s childhood illnesses. She appears sick in the morning, so I keep her home. By nine a.m., the fever is gone, she’s doing cartwheels through the house and wanting to stage an opera based on Horton Hears a Who. She appears identically sick the next week, so I send her to school. The school calls at nine a.m.: “Perhaps you could blow off your Pilates class, you negligent mother, and take care of your deathly ill child?” (I paraphrase). I slink in to school and find Daughter lying on the school cot, ranting with fever, and spirit her away before the principal can take me aside and explain how they only want caring parents at their school. Daughter appears even more ill that afternoon, so I whisk her in to the Doctor’s office, where she does sit-ups and jumping jacks in the waiting room. In the examination room, she does pom-pom splits for the Doctor while singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, and the Doctor looks at Overreacting Mother and says kindly, “She might have the sniffles. Make sure she drinks a little extra water”. Moral? There is no moral. But the end of any story that involves my daughter typically involves me looking silly in front of a non-family member.

4. No matter what plague is going through your house, another mother will be unsurprised. Any real friend is going to be supportive but if you are looking for shock and outrage call a child-free friend. A mother-to-mother conversation sounds like this:

MOTHER #1-We didn’t see you at school at all last week. Did you go on vacation?

MOTHER #2-No, she was really sick. The first 24 hours was ceaseless spitting of millipedes and ear wax, and then she started speaking Serbian. Her fever was 114 degrees for all five days. Then she grew and shed a hard carapace.

MOTHER #1-Yeah, my older son had that last month. It’s going around. Did her toes emit flames?

5. Daughter waits until we are standing in a long line in front of a woman with a small child and an infant before informing me, in a sweet frail voice, “Mommy, after this errand, can we go home? I’m still feeling a little sick, and I may have a rash”. She then coughs wetly. For the next ten minutes I get to avoid eye contact with this woman who is convinced I am exposing her family to the first official case of Avian flu in North America just so I can pick up a registered letter. I do the thing where you talk to your kid as a way of conveying information to the audience at large:

“Sweetheart, you know you haven’t needed medicine in two days. You’re going back to school tomorrow. Would I take you out in public if I thought you were ill?”

I then distract her with the contents of my purse before she relates the “Vomiting at the bank” story to her new friends on line.

The best thing I have gotten out of running the Developing-the-Immune-System gauntlet is the truism that everything is temporary, which may be the big take-away from being a parent. It’s all terribly big when you’re in it, but a little Robotussin and your kid is like new. A little Spray N’ Wash on the duvet cover…well, it still has the puke stain, but it’s pretty faint. And the next thing you know, they're off at college, vomiting for entirely different reasons.


Blogger Martha said...

Oh, my God I laughed so hard at this post! I have a 2 year old who has been in daycare since he was 3 months old (insert guilt here) and I have never been as sick as I have been in the last 2 years. It all started as soon as he could talk well enough to come at me with open arms and an upper lip full of snot saying "Big kish". How can you turn that down, even knowing it means two weeks of certain bronchitis? Thanks Quinn for being my unofficial "Mommy's group".

5:35 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yes, it's a rare toddler who is willing to accept an affectionate handshake, with you in surgical gloves, as a measure of your affection.
Nope, they want saliva.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm laughing so hard that I fear I may have ruptured some important internal organ. Hysterically funny.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I sincerely thank you.

8:08 PM  

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