If taking care of kids is hard work, then taking care of sick kids is indentured servitude.
It starts out innocently enough. Your poor baby has a fever and the look on his tired, pale little face is enough to send you running for his every heart’s desire. You cook, clean, launder, check temperatures, buy bulk Ibuprofen and Tylenol and administer it around the clock. You change sheets, empty wastebaskets filled with tissues, call the doctor, take him to appointments, follow up appointments and end-result appointments. You play board games and craft, you puzzle, read and watch movies. You lay next to him until he falls asleep and check the fan and humidifier before leaving the room.
You fall into a deep slumber the moment your head hits the pillow knowing you must wake up every three hours during the night to check his temperature in the dark. You stumble blindly, half asleep down the hall with your iPhone light as your guide and silently try to stick the thermometer in his ear. In the dark, you squint as you try to make sense of the numbers blinking on the thermometer and then try to remember if you gave Ibuprofen or Tylenol as his last dose. You may have to stumble back down the hall to check the list you made with every temp taken along with medicine dispensed at any given time throughout the day. Once the correct medicine is determined you wake your fever-induced, groggy child and ask them to guzzle 10 ML of a syrupy, cherry-flavored liquid that will hopefully secure him and you a few more hours of desperately needed shut-eye.
Now imagine that you have not one but two little boys, both equally sick with the flu. Take everything I’ve said and multiply it times two. I know…its not a pretty picture. The truth is that as hard as it is to manage two sick kids….that’s not the hardest part. Oh no, the real fun begins when one of them begins to feel better. Not, go back to school better, but well enough to be out of bed. The homemade chicken broth you so lovingly tried to spoon into their mouths is now turned away for “real food.”
“Mom, what I’d really like is a burger from the Habit”, my 7-year-old told me on one such afternoon. “How about a turkey sandwich?” I countered, hoping it might sound equally as appetizing. But alas, after four days of little to no food, nothing was going to go down as smoothly as a burger from the Habit. I looked down at the same sweatpants I’d been wearing for four days and figured wearing slippers wasn’t going to be my worst crime and climbed into the car.
Now most people might have told their sick child no, but after four days of being inside, the short ride felt like freedom. I rolled down the windows, turned up the music and sped off into the warm day. Once I returned home and the meal had been consumed, my son wanted to know what we were going to do. As though neither of us had been doing anything for the last several days. I suggested puzzles, coloring, past due homework, games, reading. Any independent activity that I could think of. But none seemed to appease him. What he really wanted was for me to come up with something amazing that we could do together. The problem was that nothing I suggested was hitting the mark. As fun as this game was, I sill had another sicker child that needed my attention, so I parked my younger son in front of our electronic babysitter and hightailed it upstairs to attend to his every need.
The entertaining and nurse-maiding went on for another two days until suddenly, one fine morning, my older son announced he too was ready to leave the land of his bedroom. Now suddenly, I had two half-well kids who both wanted me to entertain them at the same time and were suddenly well enough to fight about every single menial thing throughout the day. One wanted grilled cheese and the other pasta. One wanted to play Xbox and the other wanted the tv. And where they didn’t align, an argument would erupt. Arguing between two sick children sounds something like this “I (cough cough cough) am telling (blow nose) mom (cough, blow, repeat). You’re (hack up a lung) the worst (sniffle, sniffle, suck up snot) brother ever (dissolve into a fit of tears from the energy expended during the argument).”
When four people have been stuck inside together for six days the chance to leave is a coveted prize. My husband had to fly out for work on the 6th day and couldn’t contain his excitement over leaving. He hopped into that chauffeured sedan with barely a backward glace and drove off into a land where people get to go not only outside, but outside of the country. As we head into day seven, I am losing my ability to cope. I can no longer keep track of the Tamiflu doses and the fever reducers. My lists are tossed carelessly aside, jumbled up in the wastebasket with the used tissues. The soup now comes from a packet I mixed with some lukewarm water. The only thing holding me together is the hope that they will be well enough on Monday to go to school.