If you had seen me at the grocery store recently, you probably would have assumed that I’m not much of a mom. I had two obviously under-the-weather boys with me—one in pajamas and one with most of a bright blue lollipop smeared all over his face—who were coughing, sniffling, and sneezing pretty much constantly. What sort of mother, you might have asked, takes her two sick boys to the grocery store?
Well, I’ll tell you what sort of mother—the kind who has been trapped at home for 6 days with those children and who has literally run out of essentials like bananas, milk, children’s ibuprofen, and chardonnay.
I should’ve known what was coming on Friday when both boys started coughing. Saturday morning the runny noses began, and by Sunday we had dug in. We broke out the apple juice and the Disney VHS tapes (Oh, Ariel, it's been quite some time since you and your enormous...er, seashells...have graced our tv screen. Don’t get used to it, honey, I only got you out because the boys are sick). I patiently collected used Kleenexes from every surface in our house. I convinced my 3-year-old that taking his temperature under his arm was NOT as uncomfortable as taking it…well, you know where. I figured another day or so and we’d be back on track.
But this virus was stubborn.
It lasted all week. All week, we stayed home. All week. No Gymboree. No swim lessons. No preschool. No Mommy and Me. No trips to the park, or the library, or friends’ houses. Just me, a toddler, and a preschooler, eyeball to eyeball. All week.
Now, normally, I don’t consider being home with my kids to be a bad thing. I took a leave from my teaching job so I could do just that and I love it. But the thing about my kids is that when they are under the weather, their energy levels don’t seem to change much. Their “lethargy” is the same as other kids’ “hopped up on cupcakes and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.” The only thing that changes is their mood. So all that week I had two hyperactive, argumentative cranks on my hands. Instead of running around screaming like they usually do, they ran around screaming, then coughed for ten minutes, then pushed and hit each other. Then they wiped their noses on our new couch and started it all over again.
Monday, I tried to rise above. I talked about sharing, about using your words, about acting loving. Tuesday, I loosened my standards: I still prodded them to play with their cars, or their train tracks, or anythingwithoutfightingfortheloveofgod, but I also gave them a few extra hits of their favorite drug—“Yo Gabba Gabba.” By Wednesday, I had Stockholm Syndrome. I lost all hope of personal hygiene and stayed in my jammies all day. I willingly ate hotdogs for lunch (cut into safe, non-choking chunks, of course). I found myself hoarding all the “best” toy cars for our cardboard-mailing-tubes-turned-ramps set up. It wasn’t pretty.
I’d like to say things started looking up at that point, but that night both boys took turns waking up sobbing and clutching their ears. The pediatrician confirmed not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR ear infections, and prescribed antibiotics. The grouchy shenanigans continued at home, and I started looking forward to an upcoming dental appointment as if it were a spa day.
But, as tough as the past week has been for me, I’ve been on the Internet enough in the past few years to know that there are kids out there who really are Sick—with a capital S. Holding my boys while they cried with the pain of an earache broke my heart, so I can’t even imagine the anguish of comforting a kid through chemo treatments, surgery, or invasive tests. The challenges that moms of truly Sick kids face are the Himalayas to my ear infection molehill. One mom who has inspired me is Brandi, at http://www.starringscarlett.com/. Her blog describes the journey her family began when her 2-month-old baby daughter, Scarlett, was found to have a brain tumor that took up half her skull. It’s been a grueling year of treatment, but Scarlett recently celebrated her first birthday and continues to beat the odds she was given upon her diagnosis. I urge you to check out her blog for an amazing example of strength, love, and advocacy for one’s child.