Tag Archives: dealing with sick kids

(Flu) Season’s Greetings

My daughter has a fever. A runny nose. A headache.  

And she’s never been happier. 

See, it finally happened. After suffering endless medical maladies with vague symptoms she couldn’t prove, my 6-year-old, at long last, is Officially Sick. 

Sick and staying home from school today. 

It might seem an odd thing to say, but no one deserves it more than her. She has worked so hard for this day, striving single-mindedly to hit this goal since school started way back at the end of August. 

Every morning before school, we go through the same routine. 

“Mama, do I look pale?” she asks. 

“Nope, you look fine to me,” I reply. 

“Can you take my temperature?” she asks.

“98.6,” I read off the thermometer. 

“That sounds bad.” 

“It’s exactly what it should be.”

“Are you sure? Maybe we should call the doctor.”

“You’re fine.”

“My tongue feels weird. It feels pretty serious.”

When none of her efforts work and she’s forced (on the brink of death no less) to go to school, she turns to the only one who can help her now. The school nurse. A lovely woman whom I hope never to run into because my daughter manages to go to her office DAILY. 

Thus far in her first grade career she has had: 

Stomach ache.

Tummy troubles (it’s DIFFERENT, I’m informed).

Ear infection.

No, WAIT. Double ear infection. 

Almost broken arm.

A nearly fatal papercut.

Diabetes. Lots of it. 

Almost broken leg. 

Asthma. It can be deadly, you know. 

Poked eye. But like, a really bad poke. 

Allergy to carrots. Even if she’s not the one eating them, just someone in the world is. 

And after watching a version of “A Christmas Carol,” she was certain she had come down with tuberculosis. Once I explained to her what tuberculosis was. 

This is a child who was never so sad as when her brother got COVID last year and got to stay home for seven days. SEVEN. She never even got COVID. Which led to fun conversations such as “stop wishing for COVID” and “don’t you dare ask Santa for COVID.”

But now, OH! Finally! She is legitimately sick. With a respectable 102.4 fever. As she’s lounging on the couch daintily eating goldfish crackers and watching her seventeenth episode of “Bluey,” she proclaims this is the best day ever. Later, once she comes to her senses and out of her fever-induced fog, she amends it to “well, technically the holidays are my favorite day but today is my second favorite.”

When the medicine kicks in and I tell her she seems to be feeling better as she is bouncing (quite literally) on top of my head, suddenly a bout of terrible coughing engulfs her. The tuberculosis is back, she regretfully tells me. 

“I might *cough* have to stay home *cough cough* another day,” she says, unable to hide her smile. “Maybe even *cough hack cough* all week. …can you make me some mac and cheese, mama? And get me my stuffie? And my blankie? Oh! And I need more tissues! A juice box would be awesome right now…*cough*

Yes, ‘tis truly the most wonderful time of the year. 

For some of us. 

Mommies don’t get sick days

I regret a lot of things. The fringe vest I wore for my seventh grade school photo. That time I asked for a “pixie haircut” and instead spent half of my junior year in college walking around with a mullet. Pretty much all of 2004.

I even regret things I haven’t done yet, like when I finally finish this six pound burrito sitting right beside me. I’m going to eat it all. I know this. I’m going to hate myself for eating it all. I know this. And yet, I’m still going to do it. Because…well…burrito. I mean, come on.

But in the seven months that I have been a parent, I have never once regretted my decision to bring a loud, tiny human into this world. Not even when he projectile pooped onto my hand. Not even when a too vigorous game of “Super Baby!” led to him puking directly into my mouth.



Not even when I spent an entire night awake lying on the floor of a hotel while Riker slept on my chest because it was the only place he would fall asleep in that strange room (and I was too afraid to lay in the comfortable bed for fear of falling asleep and rolling over and crushing out his little life with my gigantic milk boobs).

But then…then Thursday happened.

Oh, Thursday.

Thursday Bloody Thursday.

Or, to be more accurate, Thursday Mucousy Thursday. (And you are welcome for THAT visual).

Yes, on Thursday, I was sick. Nothing too serious. Just your typical “I’m going to lay here on the floor until I die” illness. Nothing I couldn’t handle. Except that this was the first time I had been sick while also legally responsible for keeping a baby alive, which is harder than you think considering all babies are born with an innate death wish. As far as I can tell, once kids pass the six-month mark, all their bodily effort goes into trying to fall from high distances onto the floor so that they can eat whatever object it is on the floor that is guaranteed to choke them.

(I’m assuming this death wish is also why my son tries to stick his fingers into the mouth of whatever super scary person I am sitting next to on the subway).

sick baby

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had to take care of a baby while sick or hungover or while missing a vital limb, but if you haven’t, let me elaborately describe it for you using all my writerly tricks I’ve learned over the years:

It sucks.

It sucks so hard, you guys.

And mine was just your average cold combined with typical parental sleep deprivation. It’s not like I had the flu or Ebola or that mysterious disease I always came down with on Mondays when I was in high school that forced me to stay home and miss out on wonderful educational opportunities such as a chemistry test.

Still, when it takes all your physical, emotional and mental energy and focus to take care of a child, even losing one-fourth of that energy and focus to a cold is devastating. Because the kid still needs fed, needs changed, needs 52 games in a row of the peek-a-boo-esque “Where’s Mommy!?!”. And worst of all, that cold is not going to stop your baby from rolling directly under the gigantic, non-flat screen TV and kicking it with his surprisingly strong legs (because “Tempting Fate!” happens to be his second favorite game right after “Where’s Mommy!?!”).

We managed, of course. Because you have to. Because somewhere underneath all that phlegm and mucous is the maternal instinct, still operating, still forcing you to care where your baby is at all times. But it wasn’t easy. That day falls in-between the “all-day high school track meet where it was 34 degrees and my uniform was a glorified swimsuit” and “driving ten hours to New Orleans with a champagne hangover the day after my wedding” on the Hardest Day Of My Life So Far scale.

In fact, we spent most of it lying on the floor, him repeatedly trying to roll over to the dog so he could pull all of Buffy’s hair out and then eat it and I holding haphazardly onto his leg while convulsing oh-so-sexily with wet coughs and sneezes.

The low point, by far, was when I handed him his Fisher-Price hammer and begged him to kill me with it.

“You can claim self-defense! People read my column! They already suspect me of being an unfit mother! Plus, no jury in the world would convict you what with a face like that! Just do Mommy this favor. Put me out of my misery.”

I’m pretty sure he would have done it too, if he wasn’t distracted by a sudden, overwhelming need to try to fall out of his high chair so he could eat the candy wrapper on the floor.

I still don’t regret having my son. But after Thursday, I do regret my lack of independent wealth so I can hire someone to play “Where’s Random Caretaker!?!” with my son while I ride high on a Nyquil train to All-Day Sleepytown when I’m sick.


Butt fur the grace of God

There are many distinct advantages to having a dog vs. having a child. For instance, when your child is misbehaving and you just can’t take it anymore, sticking them in a crate for six hours while you get some much needed “me” time usually results in “jail” time. Likewise, it is frowned upon by authorities to hit your kid with a newspaper (and/or a September Vogue when they’ve been a VERY BAD BOY!) or to rub their face in their own feces to get your point across. Not to mention, have you ever seen a toddler sit and stay upon command? Without the assistance of duct tape, that is?

But the one area where dogs don’t have a distinct advantage? Sickness. Specifically the flu (or whatever the dog-version of the flu is, which is what I suspect my dog Buffy currently has). Because when either one gets sick, it’s pretty much the same scenario for the caregiver–

You will spend at least the next 24 hours cleaning up every manner of vile substances that can squeeze (and/or explode) itself out every orifice imaginable from their tiny bodies.

Which is why my Tuesday thus far has consisted of:

Taking my dog outside so he can poop.

Taking my dog outside again so he can poop.

Cleaning up the vomit I discovered after I got out of the shower.

Taking my dog outside again so he can have an explosive case of diarrhea and then immediately dragging my dog to the bathroom without having his backside touch anything (Note: I was unsuccessful).

Throwing said dog who has an intense hatred of baths into the tub so I could cut out his butt fur that had been tainted with said diarrhea.

Scrubbing his backside in case I missed any of the tainted butt fur.

Trying to get him back into the tub after he escaped and then rinsing him off as his wet body clings to mine with a strength I honestly didn’t think his 32-pound body could possibly possess.

Disinfecting the tub and bathroom floor with the butt fur and diarrhea remains.

Cleaning up all the other areas where he decided to spontaneously sit while being dragged to the bathroom.

Scrubbing my hands for 45 minutes until they bled and then sitting by the water bowl trying to coax Buffy to take a drink since I know I have personally just cleaned up every single ounce of liquid his body could possibly hold.

And that pretty much brings us up to date, with my exhausted dog cuddled up next to me on the couch as I sporadically check to make sure he’s still breathing while I type this and the vet’s number queued up on my phone in case he gets any worse.

Now, I could be angry about this situation. Or at least unhappy. Or at the very least starting to question what horrific life decisions I had made that had led me up to this point where I spend the majority of my Tuesday scrubbing a dog’s butt.

But I’m not. Because as it turns out, this couldn’t have happened at a better time considering I woke this morning to the Facebook announcement of yet another person in my circle happily proclaiming that they’re pregnant. A proclamation, I’m not proud to admit, that made me irrationally mad.

See, after my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage in October, my husband and I have started to try to conceive again, which has yet to be successful and which is subconsciously bringing up some of those horrible feelings we dealt with this fall. And which is why instead of being happy for couples who are expecting like I should, I react with:

“But that’s not fair! They already have kids! And now they get another one? Like it’s just so easy to get pregnant! How dare they! How dare they be so happy when I’m not! How dare it be so easy for them when it’s not for me!”

Like I said, irrationally mad. And exceedingly unfair to the happy couple, I know.

But after today, I realize it’s probably a lot harder (and a lot more anxiety-inducing) to deal with a sick kid. Or to deal with even a healthy kid. Because poop-covered-fur-cutting-out aside, my dog is pretty self-sufficient no matter what the circumstances. And if I was dealing with a sick kid, I wouldn’t be able to drink this vodka I’m currently holding in my hand.

So, I’m holding onto that for right now, because I need to hold onto something other than the disappointment of getting my period yet again. And for right now, it’s enough to just try to find the upside of only being responsible for the life of a dog, a creature that has more instincts for self-preservation than a toddler who thinks sticking a fork into a light socket sounds like a downright dandy idea.

And to try to remember that there is always next month, which, of course, is easier said than done, but hey, it’s something.