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The Ill Timing of the Ill Child

Adults without children have no clue how stressful it is to have a sick kid.

Nothing can cramp the status quo day of a working parent more than a sick kid. I wake up in the morning eager to greet the world and earn my much-needed paycheck when my little angel stumbles into the kitchen.

“Mommy, I don’t feel good.”

The Virgo in me wants to immediately correct his grammar.

Well, Sweetie. You don’t feel well.

But because he don’t feel good, I hold my tongue and touch his forehead.

Damn. It’s warm. But I tell myself otherwise. It’s not a fever. Perhaps he was just too bundled up while he slept.

He coughs.

Ditto damn. I try to ignore it. He’s almost 6. Maybe his voice is changing.

Then I hear the gag. I try to pretend I didn’t notice it. I instinctively jump out of the way as he vomits all over my jammies.

Crap. I guess he really is sick.

Some working parents earn a salary and can take time off work. Others get an ample amount of sick pay and can take a day off with pay, then take the second day off after they catch the nasty bug from their bedridden babe.  

The unlucky working parents who don’t get compensation or time off have a lot of choices, but they’re all between a rock and that place that’s even harder than the rock: stay home with the kid and miss work, pay, and possibly jeopardize their jobs; sneak their sick child into work and risk contaminating the whole office; pump the sick kid full of medicine and send them to school with fingers and toes crossed; or let their little Typhoid Mary stay home from school alone, risking dire consequences and the possible wrath of a Child Services intervention.

Unlike most working parents, I have one big advantage.

I work from home, so if my kids are too sick to school, I put them back to bed, turn on the tv, and plan on taking a few more breaks playing nursemaid – serving soup and medicine, and sucking up to lots of whining. I can stay home and cuddle with them because although they’re sick, what really makes them feel better is to just have their Mommy. I fantasize about wearing a surgical mask and latex gloves and protecting myself with a 10 mil full body bubble, but since I don’t wear protection when I’m hugging and kissing their sweaty foreheads, or wiping their green snot, or double-wiping their diarrhea butts (thankfully the girls are older and I make them do that themselves) there’s a chance that all those abnormal bodily fluids pouring from my kids’ orifices today are going to be leaking from mine tomorrow.

I don’t think childless adults can possibly comprehend the sheer panic that goes into the instantaneous schedule juggling that goes into effect when your child suddenly takes ill. Any plans you might have – work, social or otherwise – must immediately be cancelled. The problem is, it’s hard to find the time to cancel those commitments because your child has a bowl resting in his lap while you race for the pediatrician’s office before the small window of drop-in hours closes. The minivan careens through early morning rush hour traffic with the parent voice-dialing her iPhone, and in between business calls she shouts in the direction of the back seat at her ill little imp:

“Aim for the bowl! Aim for the… DAMN!”

And as Brando himself would pine:

“The horror! The horror!”

You can spend 200 bucks on an auto detail, but that putrid puke stench is never going to completely come out of your carpet.

Last Friday, Jake woke up crying. He said his throat hurt – so bad in fact that he couldn’t even eat Cookie Crisp cereal, so I knew it must be bad. I tried to take his temperature, but our thermometer is a little off, so what I have to do is take my own temperature and assume it’s normal, then take his and add or subtract. I was 95.1˚ which would normally mean that I was already dead from hypothermia, and Jake was 98.4˚ which would in Goldilocks terms seems just about right, but by making me 98.7˚, Jake was actually 102˚ which means that he officially had a fever. This combined with the sore throat could possibly mean strep throat, which apparently is incredibly painful and therefore would explain Jake’s tears.

Call me Sherlock Holmes. That was exactly the doctor’s diagnosis.

After the pediatrician visit, a trip to the pharmacy for an antibiotic, 2 oz. of cough medicine and 1-1/2 oz. of Children’s Advil, Jake was happily clutching his favorite blanket and looking forward to an entire day watching SpongeBob.

And after walking about 30 feet away, I went back to work.

Thank you God for my work-from home job, for walk-in hours for pediatricians, for children’s liquid antibiotics that taste like bubble gum, for Otter Pops, for fluffy blankets that are machine washable, and for husbands who will eventually come home from their jobs and take over nursing duties.

But thank God mostly to Nickelodeon for SpongeBob. Now I can get some work done.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Doug Mortenson September 14, 2012 at 12:37 AM
You're right, we "childless adults" can't possibly fathom parental stress. And ego-centric parents don't give a damn how inconsiderate, rude and uncivilized they are to everyone else, as if there children were an acceptable excuse to treat others with contempt.
Don Helverson September 17, 2012 at 06:35 PM
I had no ill children, and I had stress just from having two of them at the same time and one ahead of the twins with lots of three-year-old needs. But, hey, my brother was a dwarf with back problems, leg braces, and several other conditions. It was really tough on Mom and Dad. Nothing, though, was as stressful as my brother having to run smack into the real world looking different. At any rate, good job on an interesting piece.
Cathy Flynn September 20, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Don - My 16-year old has type 1 diabetes and is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, but on the outside she looks like a normal teenager so I don' have any experience about dealing with a child who looks different to the world. I'll bet that I can't even image what your parents, your brother and even you went through as he was growing up. Have you done a story about your brother and what he has to go through today?

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