This is what my pediatrician told me merely weeks before Daphne was born last summer. It stuck in my head - as I pictured my sweet little girl as a walking gremlin, hands out, ready to spread contagion like something out of a Mucinex commercial.
Up until then, Matilda had rarely been sick. She didn't go to daycare and since I was still working, I didn't have her involved in any outside play groups either. And she had only been in the nursery at church a handful of times (we decided for various reasons to just use the parent prayer room most of the time instead). So, her exposure to other kids was pretty limited. We have friends around and in our neighborhood, and everyone knows Matilda is highly social, but still, her lack of exposure must have kept her healthier at the time because she rarely got sick. So, while I knew she was still a disgusting-habit-prone little child, I wasn't too worried about her infecting the new baby with her infectious-germ-mittens.
Here we are, seven months later or so...two sick kids at home...again. Are you kidding me? How does this happen? Do I have a sign on my door just inviting new germs in? Give me your tired germs, your poor germs, your huddled masses of kleenex...
I'm thankful that as a SAHM I'm able to now participate in some weekday activities with my kids. Matilda is in nursery on Sundays now, in nursery on Wednesday while I attend a Bible Study, and then she has a Thursday morning class that we all go to...all of which bring her in contact with [insert dramatic music here] other children.
That's right, other children...or "the hosts" if you will. What do you mean? You think my child could have started it all? You think just because she picks her nose and then throws the sidewalk chalk at your kid that she is the culprit behind the sneezing and coughing epidemic? That just because she licked the fake chicken leg in the kitchen playset and then tried to feed it to your child that my sweet daughter is to blame? Certainly not.
Who's to blame is always a terrible mind game that other moms in the nursery love to play. I get it - I want to know too. Where did it start? Where did it come from? And how can I keep that kid in a plexiglass cage for the remainder of the semester? It's nothing but frustrating and everyone seems to know someone who knew someone else's kid was sick the week before. And it always leads back to the same answer: Who knows? These kids can pick it up anywhere. We're talking about little people who think it's totally appropriate to eat popcorn off the floor of a Target bathroom. These are not reasonable beings, people. They are adorable, but they are disgusting, let's be honest here.
Before you think all hope is lost, that we're all doomed to have snotty-nosed cough-machines for the next few years, there is something you can do. With all sincerity, I beg of you, if your kid is sick - keep them home. I know, it seems simple. It seems logical. It seems like the easiest resolve. It seems like it would maybe even be preferred by most parents anyway; afterall, it isn't always a walk in the park to go for a walk in the park.
But, let me tell you, after days at home and about a billion viewings of both Lady and the Tramp and Beauty and the Beast...cabin fever is setting in and the urge to roam is great. Staying at home with sick kids is hard work. Their little unreasonable selves take on "bonus" sick qualities like whininess, screaming inexplicably, needing you to carry them or sit with them or let them lay on you every minute, and the list goes on. They are pitiful. And, just when you think you are going to lose your mind, they start crying and snuggling you and you just feel sorry for them and remember that they simply don't feel well...and that it won't last forever.
Until next week. When you bring them back to nursery only to see another snotty-nosed kid ready to attack your healthy child with a whole new set of power-germs, and dooming your next three weeks with another round of quarantine.
At least that is how it seems to go. On and on and on. Honestly, most of the time I don't see too many other sick kids. And I'm certainly guilty of bringing my kid a time or two when I thought it was "teething" or simply "bad behavior" only to find out hours later she was running a fever and actually sick. I know it happens by accident all the time. But, for those of you who are just desperate to leave the house and feel trapped with your sick kid, I want to encourage you that you can do it - and it will be worth it for all of us in the end. Please - keep them home! They need to rest!
It's hard. Harder than the usual days which are already worlds harder than we ever imagined, am I right? I don't know why I ever thought that getting the laundry folded would be the hardest part of my day and neglected to think of the fact that just keeping two humans alive (well, three if you count me!) is difficult enough without even considering household chores. When your kid is sick, it is as if the world comes to a halt and you just cancel everything and lock yourself down until the storm passes. Your 24/7 job turns into a somehow even more demanding chain of events that blur in a passage of time between nose blowings and medicine dosages. It's gross. It's messy. It's temporary.
I have to remind myself that, while my girls are snotty and whiney and coughing up a hot mess...they are still, truly, healthy. We're home. We're fine. There are no hospitals or IV's or urgent scares that keep me up at night. Sure, I'm losing sleep while their up coughing and it is like flossing a tiger to get my toddler to down her amoxicillin. But, they are going to be totally fine. And a little perspective helps keep me sane as I stare like a zombie at Belle on the tv and actually start to seriously ponder whether she has Stockholm Syndrome or not.
Hang in there, mamas with sick kids. It's part of the nasty side of parenthood that you don't see on Huggies commercials. It's days like these that earn you the World's Best Mom mug that you've been drinking out of since 5am. It's times like this that make it more than okay to order pizza and make your child watch that Nate Berkus episode with you that you've been saving since September. Buckle down and rest. Send the husband out for redbox. Ask your friend to bring you frozen yogurt. Bring the outside in so you don't forget what Starbucks and daylight look like. But for now, make yourself another cup of coffee and snuggle with your sicko one more day. The laundry will wait. And so will your friends. You will see the sun again, I promise.
Now, go wash your hands...again. Please.