Living in Contagion Town

by Jennifer Meer
Originally Published: 

The other day I was doing laundry and literally picking hunks of regurgitated food off the dirty clothes: gifts from the previous night’s puke fest. As I collected the curdled scrambled egg bits before they hit the washer, I found myself thinking: What the hell? No, seriously. What the hell? No one mentions this stuff about parenthood. And even if they did, there is no way you would believe them, that you would let your mind go to a place where it doesn’t even seem that insane that you would be holding in your hand food that no so long ago lived in your child’s stomach. And that after vomiting it up uneaten, it would make total sense to collect this food off of her soiled clothes before washing them.

This would make total sense if you are in the shit storm that occurs when a highly contagious illness strikes your house. It could be anything really: lice, a nasty virus. But when it hits (and trust me it always does), it will look something like this:

At first you’ll be in denial. After the first child goes down, you’ll foolishly tell yourself you can contain it. You’ll quarantine her in your house knowing how totally unfeasible it is to keep her completely separate from the other two. You’ll downplay remarks from the others as they slowly begin to complain of things. You’ll tell yourself they just want your attention. They aren’t really sick. Until you see the bumps, or the spots, or the bugs or whatever plague has befallen your home.

From here, you’ll move on to what can best be described as “lockdown.” Everyone will stay home all of the time together. You will do things with the best intentions like google “how do I entertain my children for 18 hours straight” or “homeschool activities” and tell yourself that you will turn this lemon into lemonade. We will grow closer. We will learn stuff! This is a sweet phase. Try to linger here as long as possible. All of the cute crafts and printables take approximately 4 minutes to do. They look at you like, seriously, is this the best you can bring? And you put on your best cheerleader face and you’re like, “That was awesome! Let’s play that fun spider counting game again!” And again and again and again. Until you feel your sanity start to leak out of your shoes. Your son tackles your daughter because she scored a 100 on a completely meaningless spider game. An outright brawl breaks out and the baby starts to cry.

This is the reality portion of the show. The Academy of American Pediatrics was not referring to sick days when they came up with those screen time guidelines. You know that, right? There is a tiny asterisk in there letting parents know that but it almost never gets press. So you plug them in because honestly, even doctors believe that Phineas and Ferb can cure most of what ails you. And 24 minutes later you throw in a couple of Super Whys because they have to learn something! And maybe a Doc McStuffins as a bone for the 4 year old and also because I really like Doc McStuffins.

And what pairs better with non-stop television, but a full-scale nutritional meltdown. You make the same two meals on repeat. Highly nutritional stuff like Peanut Butter and Jelly or Noodles, or Scrambled Eggs. And you try to sell it like, “you know what would be so fun for a change!” Even though you know damn well they haven’t actually seen a fruit or vegetable in 4 days. Again, this is okay. They actually need fluids. Retaining water through their high sodium intake is helping them. Really, you’re such a good mom.

Finally, there is acceptance. You tell yourself that this is such a great opportunity to finally wash all of everyone’s bedding and hand wash all of the toys. And then when you can literally peal the skin off your shriveled dish pan hands, you remind yourself that it was probably cleaning that got you into this mess in the first place. Germs! Germs are the new black! Everyone is all down with anti-bacterial this year. So screw it. We’re just going to marinate in this stuff until it dies. Because that’s what’s good for your immune system. Didn’t Kelly Clarkson tell us this? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Remember, these are just general phases and each stop in contagion town will be your own special brand of hell, truly individualized. Maybe you’ll outwardly begin to look like The Walking Dead, or your children will begin to think of Tylenol as a healthy snack. And in the end, only the strong will survive. So prepare yourself now for whatever is inevitably going to visit your house this cold and flu season. Stock up on your wine, Netflix, bleach spray and microwaveable mac n cheese. Buckle up and thank me later.

Related post: 7 Murphy’s Laws When Your Kid is Home Sick

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