It’s that dreaded phone call. The “your-kid-has-that-look” or “their-temperature-is-high” call. The one that you see coming on your phone and close one eye hoping you aren’t seeing it right. With a sigh, you answer. (Or if you can’t, you listen to the voicemail as soon as possible, and feel your stomach drop and your own temperature rise in spite of itself.) And then you let the teacher tell you sorrowfully that no, you’re little Johnny isn’t “himself” and his temperature is getting higher as the day goes on. I always wonder if they truly feel bad to call you or if they are just happy to get rid of another germ-attractor. Then, you gather your things, cover your ass at work, and go to pick up your child in whatever condition they are, while you run through various scenarios in your head as to what you need to do to prevent being thrown up on or how much medicine you can safely give to try and get them to conk out and just be un-whiny and sweetly cuddle with you.
Hurdle #2: Childhood sickness. If you child has gone to daycare or school, you know its bound to happen. Thousands of times over. But, in your mind, you hope that you can avoid it by doing prevention techniques. Hand-washing, not sharing food or drinks, lots of hand sanitizer, cleaning the bathroom, rooms, bedding, airing out the rooms by opening up the windows in the dead of winter…whatever it takes to make your inner superstitious being feel like you may have altered the germ gods to leave you and your children alone. None of it works, but it makes you feel better for the time being and appears to buy you another day or so before you child randomly throws up on you or spikes at 104 fever that scares the bejesus out of you.
Then, there is the topic of parties. Both of my kids were born during the colder months, so having parties and inviting other kids is a germ factory. I always have the courtesy call, the “my kid has a cold” or “my kid has been coughing a bit” or “my kids all had diarrhea, but can we come anyway?” call. I know the guest is trying to be honest and up front, with “full disclosure” so I can decide if its okay for them to attend and infect others. To be honest, I could care less. Unless their kid has some horrible disease that limbs fall off and blood pours out of every open hole in their body, its possible that my kid would catch everything they had anyway, in some other walk of life.
I have found that my best work has been done when the kids surprise me with sickness. My eldest would randomly projectile vomit without any warning, and when they would rebound and immediately want to eat, I discovered that an ear infection was the culprit. Strange, yes, but not completely unheard of. I was less upset, apprehensive, dreading the inevitable when these times would happen. Since I was thrown into it, I didn’t have time to think and I just reacted. When you have time to ruminate over the reasons why your kid got sick, it’s so much worse. Oh, that bug that was going around at school, you think. Or, did you wash their hands before dinner? That HAD to be it! I know someone who would have their kid completely disrobe at the end of the day of school before they even entered the house, clothes, undies, everything, and they would get a Purell “bath” before putting on brand new, clean clothes. This was all to prevent the younger sibling from getting sick. (Didn’t matter, as the little one got sicker than the older one!) At the end of the day, it is what it is, and prevention is an illusion. A happy bubble cloud of false security.
Regardless of how you view childhood sickness, it happens. My sister had once told me that it was better for my kids to get sick at an early age, as they would build a great immunity to little bugs here and there and then by the time they got to school, they would have white blood cells of steel (or something like that). Whether that is true or not, I have no idea. It sucks when your kid is sick, and we all have to deal with it at some point or another. (My usual is to give my kids an extra long kiss on the forehead to do my “check” of fever to stealthily see if they are warm. I don’t like to admit that I am doing it, in case they are actually sick, but it makes me feel a little bit better after I do it.)
It doesn’t get easier, no matter how much older they’ll get. The superstitions get worse, and the Purell is getting resistant. Is it wrong to Lysol my kids’ bedding after they’ve slept in it…?