It’s fall. The leaves are turning crimson. Your kids have already started costuming themselves for Halloween. And their little noses are leaking an autumn rainbow of snot everywhere.
It’s cold and flu season, and there just might be an upside. Of course, I’m not talking about wishing my kids were sick, sick. I’ve endured hospital stays with each of my children, and I don’t wish the fluorescent lights of pediatric units on anyone. What I’m talking about here is a nice smooth fever. The kind that makes the little ones clammy and docile.
Last week, when my son woke up with a piping hot forehead, at first I was bummed. Nobody likes to see their offspring feeling poorly. And frankly, I had stuff to do while he was supposed to be at kindergarten. But by the end of the day, I noticed that a rare calm had settled around me. Maybe being homebound with a sweaty kid wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Here are six perks to being stuck home with a sick kid:
Yes, their little faces might have the not-so-faint odor of vomit, but they’re just so damned cuddly when they’re sick. My five-year-old still tolerates my affection from time to time, but he’s more likely to show his love by charging at me like a rabid rhinoceros. But when he’s down with the fever? He stares up at me with those big glassy eyes and lets me burrow into his neck like a dirty little hamster.
Life with children is many things, but quiet is not one of them. But when one is sick and the other is at daycare? Except for the constant blare of the TV, our home was eerily, sweetly, orgasmicly quiet. My son occasionally croaked out a request for a sip of water, but it was far from the constant barrage of demands I usually field. And while he let out a few whimpers from time to time, there were no tantrums.
3. No cooking.
It’s not that I generally cook; I’m more of a meal assembler, scattering fruits and vegetables and whatever protein I can get into the kids’ their pie-holes. But I always feel like I should be cooking, or learning to cook. It’s certainly something I thought I’d have down by the time I procreated. But when someone’s sick? It’s all crackers and water, with a side of Gatorade, baby. Finally, prison food is acceptable.
4. One-on-one time.
Of course it doesn’t always work out this way. More often than not, Murphy’s Law will hit you with two sick kids, or a sick kid when you’re sick. But once in a while, like last week, it was just my son and I. It wasn’t some grand adventure, but instead just existing next to each other while screening Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. It wasn’t what either of us would’ve chosen, but the fact that we got some rare one-on-one time was a bonus.
5. Down time.
While I can’t just go about my normal business of writing and cleaning and doing yoga and shit, I noticed how still I was when my son was sick. I sat down next to him on the couch, with a book. I read several pages. In a row. With no interruptions. Though by nature I’m part sloth, parenthood has had me running around for the last five and a half years, all the while feeling like I’m several steps behind. My brain jogs like a rodent on a wheel, with random panicked thoughts like laundry! and lunches! zinging through at periodic intervals. But when I’m tending to a sick kid, everything stops. It’s kind of like when I’m sick, except with worse TV shows.
6. I know what to do.
I am far from having this parenting thing figured out. Most of the time I’m winging it, convinced that I’m probably supposed to be doing something other than what I’m actually doing. But when someone’s sick? Things get crystal clear. I need to stay close. Call school. Offer sips of water and bites of dry crackers. Keep a puke bowl handy. Generously dole out kisses and cuddles and blankets. Some mammalian part of me kicks in when my son, usually so spunky and willful, succumbs to sickness. I wrap around him like a mama moose, taking in the barky scent of his hair, the overripe melon smell of his sticky skin. All the times when I didn’t know what to do when he was a colicky baby or a crazed toddler evaporate, and my body floods with oxytocin.
I know the season is young and by the time our pumpkin collapses in on itself, leaving a moist orange mess, I’ll be cursing the germ parade. But just for now? Sickness is just part of the package of fall—apple picking, leaf jumping, and fevers.