When Your Child Gets Sick

Photo courtesy iStockphoto.com

I was only a few minutes into the warm-up during a fitness class at the gym when my phone rang.  It was the nurse at my daughter’s school.

“Mrs. Cheng?  Megumi is sick and she wants you to come pick her up.”

Why now?  She was a bit dizzy this morning but thought she was going to be fine, so this couldn’t be too serious.  I was just starting one of my favorite classes, looking forward to burning a lot of calories with a group of other like-minded fitness fanatics like me.  Can’t Meg take a nap in the school nurse’s office for the next 57 minutes?

Other moms all nodded around me in sympathy.  We’ve all been there — when our kids get sick, our own plans go completely out the window.

If you’re a parent and have ever had your child get sick without warning (as if they ever give us any warning!), you know the drill.  Time to cancel that appointment, lunch plans, workout, haircut, and shopping.

It gets more complicated when I have very important plans.  The irony is that the more important the task, the higher the likelihood that one of my kids wakes up with a fever.

Even with careful planning and a backup plan to cover my backup plan, things still sometimes fall apart.  The babysitter can’t make it.  My sister’s flight is delayed.  My mother moves to Hawaii (this really happened!).  “Honey, it’s your turn to call in sick,” I yell to my husband, only occasionally with positive results.  Can’t he see that I really, really need my haircut?

It’s bad enough if the child is sick during the day, but it’s even worse when your kid is sick all night.  It’s especially rigorous when there are stomach issues involved.  Until our kids were about 5, they were somehow unable to notify us of the pending urge to upchuck.  I have laundered a lot of sheets and beach towels in the middle of the night.  It was my goal to get my kids to aim into a bowl before they started kindergarten, and I succeeded.

Fortunately, I have not had a full-time 9-to-5 job since we’ve had kids.  However, I have seen many desperate working parents do things to sneak sick kids into school — rubbing their runny noses dry (which is rather temporary), loading them up with Tylenol to mask the fever, and giving them cough medicine to stop their hacking.  I understand their difficult dilemma, but then the illness spreads like wildfire throughout the campus, multiplying the problem for even more working parents.

As much as I complain about my life being inconvenienced by the illnesses of my children, I can assure you that I don’t mind tending to them at all.  I love knowing that with a tender touch, some chicken soup, and a big dose of prayer, I am helping my kids feel a little better.

As for my morning workout, I decided to be a decent mom after all and go get Meg at school.  I left mid-workout, but not without telling everyone around me to save my spot.  They laughed.  I walked into the nurse’s office to get my daughter who was lying on the bed.  She looked relieved to see me.  She was not feigning her dizziness and had to be steadied to the car.

“My teacher and the nurse asked me if I was having ‘girl trouble,’ but I’m not,” stated my 12-year.  She also told me that she couldn’t believe how many students stop by the nurse’s office all morning, thus proving my point about desperate parents and their sick children.

I dropped her off at home, encouraging her to drink some fluids and go back to bed.  I also asked her to keep a bowl nearby.  Good thing I live close to both the gym and the school, because I was back within 22 minutes flat to a room full of incredulous people.

“Thanks for saving my spot,” I said to my friends, and I continued my workout.

I love being a mom.

* * * *

Ever sneak in sick kids to nurseries, childcare, or schools?  Tell me about your experience!

Got Sick Kids?

As I write this post, my son is home sick and is absent from school. Yesterday, it was my daughter who stayed home sick. Yes, I do have pity of them and hope that, for my kids’ sake, they feel better soon. However, every parent out there will nod in agreement without any judgment at all when I desperately cry, “This is really throwing off my plans!”

We do our best to stay healthy, eat right, and get our sleep. We moms have our plates very full and our schedules very tight. It’s bad enough if we get sick ourselves, because we need to either 1) blaze through our plans regardless of how badly we feel, 2) get someone else to pick up the slack and (gasp) PAY them, or 3) let everything fall apart for everyone around the house — nay, the world! But we’re only a part of the equation. With every child we bear, the probability of someone getting sick doubles and the possibility of everything going to hell in a hand basket quadruples. Of course, the probability of some child getting sick increases dramatically in direct relation to the importance of the pending event.

We count on the sitter, nursery, preschool, kindergarten, or school to care for our children during the day so we can get just a few things done. We’re not asking for too much here — maybe a haircut a month past due, bills two months past due, grocery shopping, or a quick workout at the gym. Maybe some of us actually has to go to work and absolutely cannot miss that very important meeting. A sick child probably means that our lives will have to be rearranged and appointments rescheduled…yet again. Time to order in pizza.

We carefully arrange carpools for our daily activities, but if your child (or another driver’s child) gets sick, then the whole plan topples. I wish I could say that I fulfill all my carpool obligation even if my child is sick because so many lives depend upon it, but I have to be real — sometimes that’s just not possible. It breaks my heart to hear the other parent on the phone say, “Oh, okay. I understand,” as they try their best to suppress the panic in their voice. I know that voice, because I’ve been there myself.

As for the kid who is obviously feverish who is dropped off at the nursery or school anyway? Again, I can’t throw any stones. Who of us has never done that at least once in our parenting lives? Whenever I see a sick child next to mine, I keep telling myself that this is really, really helping build my kids’ immune system. And my character.

My favorite family physician, Dr. Dave, tells me that most kids get about 10 colds a year up until age five. On the average, therefore, most kids will have had about 50 colds by the time they enter kindergarten, at which point they will have become super-immune. And the kids who are blessed enough to stay home with their moms everyday until they enter kindergarten? As soon as they enter civilization, they come down with all sorts of diseases because they haven’t built up their immune system. It’s inevitable — it just takes about 50 colds in order to become healthy. You may be putting off the inevitable, but it will eventually catch up with you and your child.

The take-home lesson in all this? I’ve learned to hold onto life very lightly. I arrange for carpools but always remain on standby, just in case. I’ve come to the realization that, for a season, my own life takes a backseat to our children’s…most of the time. If I do have something too crucial to miss, then I try to have a backup plan (maybe double). And I also try to remember that a toddler bounces back from a cold much sooner than an older child or an even older parent. So go ahead and put your baby in the nursery.

Loosening my grip and holding onto everything a lot more lightly. That’s the battle cry of this Panda Mom. Can I get an amen?