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.

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

My Former and New Flexible Self

These people are more flexible than I am! (iStock photo)

I used to be so flexible.  I used to be able to do the splits when I was in high school.  I also used to stretch before and after running and could bend sideways, forwards, and backwards farther than any of my cohorts.  Later when I was pregnant, my ligaments became even more loose in preparation for the Big Day when my hips would open sesame to expel a human from within.  Sideways splits were easy as pie in those days.

I thought I would always be limber, but then something happened a few weeks after giving birth.  My ligaments hardened up like concrete! And no, they didn’t go back to the way they were before pregnancy but in whatever position I happened to be sometime between noon and 1pm, 30 days postpartum.  I know this, because I was standing in the kitchen with my feet slightly apart, washing the dishes.  I now walk like a duck.  I can barely touch my toes today, and the floor remains far, far away if I attempt the splits.  When I try to bend sideways, my brain thinks that I’m at 90 degrees while my body stubbornly remains stuck at around 170 degrees.

While waddling around in my ever-stiffening body one day, I realized that becoming a parent has ironically made me more flexible in my heart.  I used to have such rigid expectations about myself, but now I’ve had to let go of them for the sake of our kids.  I also used to have every minute of the day scheduled with my to-do list, but a sick child would completely throw off all of my carefully-laid plans…and I wouldn’t resent it one bit.  I’ve let go of a perfectly organized house for a more realistic, fun home.  I’ve also stopped beating myself up when my kids didn’t meet some milestones, because some things are beyond my control.  Actually, not much in life was ever under my control; it just took motherhood for me to recognize this.

I don’t think I would ever go back to my former, inflexible self.  Back then, things always HAD to be a certain way.  Who wants a perfectly clean home when the kids are all stressed about it?  What child wants every minute of their days planned with activities?  Who cares about doing the splits when there is a sick child who needs you?

I’m writing this today, because Josh missed his baptism this morning due to yet another illness.  He really did have a high fever and looked rather contagious.  In my past life, I would have thrown him in the ice tub, made him get dressed, and fed him Tylenol for breakfast so he could be lucid enough for the 10 minutes at church.  After all, his name was already printed in the bulletin!  Instead, we let him go back to bed and sleep in.  Thankfully, Pastor Tim assured us that there will be another opportunity after he gets well.

Yeah, it would be nice if I could regain some of my physical flexibility from my glory days, but I wouldn’t trade the flexibility I’ve gained as a mother for anything.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do some stretches on the floor next to the bed where my sick child is sleeping upstairs.

Tell me — are you more or less flexible after becoming a parent, physically or emotionally?  What are some big lessons you’ve learned as a result of having a child?