It’s terrible when your kid gets sick. Especially when he barely knows it.
My son is three and a half, and this winter he’s had a few tough colds. The coughing, the sore throat, the eternally running nose (although he’s had one of those since he was born, so that’s more of a curse than a health issue), all have reared their heads at one time or another, much to our dismay. Of course, being a resilient, happy-go-lucky kind of guy, Detective Munch barely seems to notice his own symptoms.
Unfortunately, his preschool does notice them. His teachers are like dogs; they can smell sickness. So he’s forced to stay home. And that is a huge hassle.
The main reason I don’t like it when my son gets sick is because I don’t want him to be sick. I hate watching his eyes well up from a painful cough, and I hate seeing him struggle to swallow his breakfast because his throat is so sore. Being sick sucks, and it probably sucks the most for children who can neither understand nor explain what’s wrong. It breaks your heart.
But it really messes up your schedule.
Nothing puts a damper on your day like suddenly having to care for a child. This is true on a larger, long-term level (where “day” = “life”), but it’s also true in a smaller, short-term way. If you’re not expecting to have to take care of a kid, suddenly being forced to is not a recipe for relaxation. You know the deal. You’ve seen Three Men and a Baby (ZANY 80s FUN!) or The Hangover (RAUNCHY ZACH GALIFIANAKIS HI-JINX!) or that Kathryn Heigl/Josh Dumbanimal movie (BLAND ROMANTIC HOGWASH!) or “Teen Mom” (just a sad and irresponsible piece of television).
Parents have lives too, even after they become parents. Shocking, I know! And while taking care of our children is a large part of those lives, there are times when we push that off on other people in the “let’s make advance arrangements for you to watch my son and make sure he doesn’t fall in the toilet, eat poison, etc., and also I’ll pay you” way that society has constructed. The trouble hits when such arrangements aren’t in place and suddenly, on a day you were expecting someone else to wait hand-and-foot on your child, you are called back to duty without a moment’s notice. Like when they’re sick.
Say one Sunday afternoon you’re kid suddenly develops a cough. You give him some medicine and you hope it goes away overnight, because tomorrow is a school day and you’re counting on your son being under someone’s else’s care for a while. You have a busy day at work lined up and your spouse has a ton of meetings too and there’s no babysitter available because why would you need a babysitter on a school day? But when you wake up in the morning, that pesky cough is still there. Making matter worse, the kid is in a great mood and hardly seems sick at all. There’s really no reason he can’t go enjoy a day at school! No reason aside from potentially infecting his entire class…
So the debate begins. Do you bring him to school and play dumb, hoping that the cough doesn’t show up? Praying that they don’t notice? You’d better pray. You’d better PRAY LIKE THE DICKENS.
God forbid you send a kid with a cough to preschool. The anger and urgency with which they call and demand you retrieve your Patient Zero is unprecedented (unless your kid has ever shown up with nits in his hair, in which case they probably went off on you like Jules Winfield reciting scripture). After being tongue-lashed into submission, you show up, the kid is quarantined like Hannibal Lecter and you are treated like a terrorist. It’s not a fun experience, but sometimes bluffing is a necessary gamble, because if you and your spouse both have day jobs, or you had an appointment that was purposefully scheduled during school hours, suddenly needing to station yourself at home with toddler-non-grata for a sick day is a huge hassle. Especially if you have work to do.
Obviously, the number one priority is taking care of your kid. And if he’s legitimately sick, most of the inconveniences and schedule conflicts hardly even register. It’s the in-betweeners – when he’s sick enough that it’s noticeable but not sick enough to affect his behavior or be a real concern – that are the problem, causing you to drop everything and scramble to find a solution. And you thought healthy kids were a pain in the ass!
I mean, come on. It’s like you create another human being and suddenly you’re expected to devote your entire life to taking care of them? What a drag.