13 Thoughts About Parenting Under The Influenza

by Ali Solomon
Originally Published: 
tatyana_tomsickova / iStock

Some kids collect Pokémon cards or My Little Ponies; my kids collect germs. In the past few months, my two children have had four stomach flus, two upper respiratory infections, bronchiolitis, a walking pneumonia scare, diarrhea, an allergic reaction to a Christmas tree, and a UTI caused by a refusal to poop. The pediatrician knows my cell number by heart, and I know no life outside a pharmacy and the walls of my home.

As our sleepless nights add up, the tissue boxes dwindle, and our sanity reaches a breaking point, I’m left with time to fester over the frustration of having constantly sick kids.

1. It feels like they will never get better.

Just when it seems like a cold is clearing up—BAM!—my other child comes down with it. Then—BAM!—back to the first one. Then—BAM!—the flu wiped out most of her preschool class. And, oh lordy, allergy season is coming up.

2. No one wants their kid to hang out with mine.

It doesn’t matter how many game consoles we own or how nice our swimming pool is. “Pink eye” is the “gonorrhea” of the school-age set; all the playdates run for the hills.

3. We miss so much work/school.

There might as well be a bouncer stationed outside my daughters’ school, ready to perform a nasal cavity search on kids at the first hint of sniffles. Healthy for 24 hours before being allowed back? My kids haven’t been healthy for 24 minutes.

And who is watching my feverish darling for a week while she convalesces? There aren’t enough days in the calendar to cover all the work I’d miss.

4. Nobody visits us anymore.

Like my college friend who had bed bugs (then swore that they were totally gone), our home has become casa non grata. It doesn’t matter if I spray the walls with Lysol, change all the linens, or disinfect the toys, people’s sick days are few and their memories of clutching the sides of a toilet are plentiful.

5. We miss out on social events.

We’d love to come to that birthday party, but alas, my kid is sick. That play you’re in, that concert you have an extra ticket to, that book club meeting? Sorry, sick kids. While occasionally my child’s ailments are a get-out-of-going-somewhere-unpleasant card (dang, I really wanted to attend that school board meeting), most of the time I’d much rather be doing anything other than sucking snot out of my kid’s face with a NoseFrida.

6. Everyone will catch everything from everybody.

That stomach flu will make the rounds among my family the way a Zima makes the rounds at a middle-school slumber party. What? Kids don’t drink Zimas anymore? It has been a long time since I’ve left the house.

7. Parenting rules are no longer in effect.

Pudding cups twice in one day. Watching Mary Poppins for a third time. No teeth-brushing, wearing pajamas all day, sleeping in ’til 10 a.m. All times are not the same; we are in survival mode.

Now please excuse me; my sick little survivalist wants a second helping of Jell-O for breakfast.

8. I constantly feel like it’s my fault.

When kids are sick, it’s so easy to blame ourselves: I didn’t bundle them up properly. If only they weren’t in daycare. Maybe if they took a multivitamin, ate more green leafy vegetables, or regularly used a humidifier.

It’s time to place the blame squarely where it belongs—on the strain of rhinovirus living in the public water fountain my kid just put her mouth on.

9. Every other aspect of life falls into a state of neglect.

Caring for sick kids is a round-the-clock job, leaving little time for anything else, like washing dosage cups, laundering pukey clothes, or practicing proper hygiene.

I promise I’ll address the state of affairs once my daughter’s lungs are finally clear.

10. There is nothing I can do.

After my 500th visit to the pediatrician for my child’s cough, I’ve learned that “it’s all normal,” “I just have to wait it out,” and “the plague’s not really a thing anymore.” Which is hard to accept when my child is hacking up her body weight in phlegm and all I have in my arsenal is more Jell-O and a fifth viewing of Mary Poppins.

11. Amoxicillin is a joke.

The rare occasion when we get prescribed some actual meds, it’s usually this pink placebo nonsense. And no amount of convincing my kid it’s “bubble gum pudding” can get her to swallow it.

12. Giving a child medicine is the Ninth Circle of Hell.

Put a writhing toddler in a headlock while trying to jab a syringe full of grape Tylenol past her clenched teeth, only to have her immediately vomit it back up. Then do it again every four to six hours.

13. There are tender moments.

My normally rowdy toddler has been neutralized completely. She quietly sits on the couch, her head in my lap, looking at me with her sweet conjunctivitis eyes that tell me I am the only one who can make her feel better.

Well, me and Mary Poppins.

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