Now that we've officially hit 'blizzard season', aka 'peak winter status,' my newsfeed is full of stories about how to beat a cold or treat the flu. Every article dispenses tips and medicinal myth-busters, most of which involve tea, zinc, echinacea ("It doesn't help!"), neti pots, and other standard remedies. But none of them mention the crucial piece of advice that I offer year-in and year-out, like your friendly Facebook overshare doctor, which is to keep your kid's sickness to yourself. I've written three columns on this subject (nothing to sneeze at!), and yet I feel this is one of those hard lessons parents must re-learn every year. It's understandable, too, given that parenting is twice as exhausting when you have a house full of sick kids (and/or adults), and loss of sleep is one of the surest complaint triggers for social media users. Similarly, it's one of those seasonal gripes that friends can relate to as they're simultaneously doing rounds in their own homes (this is probably also why so many parents still complain about fireworks on the Fourth of July -- everyone's experiencing them at the same time). So, I want to be as clear as healthy mucus by saying that I don't begrudge parents for expressing frustration about their kids being sick. I just think there's a "right" way to do it without exposing too much or going into any unnecessary details.
"Right vs. wrong" posting methods aside, there's also an inherent double standard to parents' reactions to their children getting sick. Ask any parents what their thoughts are on people bringing sick kids to birthday parties, and they'll share a long list of judgments that simply amount to, "Don't even think about it." And yet, parents break their own rules all the time out of sheer convenience. Yeah, it sucks when others do it, but when *you're* the one who has no choice but to bring a sick kid to school, you'd like it if other parents cut you some slack. Some parents are so ardent about not bringing sniffly kids out in public -- even if they're only on the fringes of being sick -- they'll go to great lengths to try to "track down" the origin of the illness. Rather than assume their previously-healthy child caught a cold because that's what kids DO, they point fingers or play Dr. Detective. (Anyone remember this woman who blamed her kid's cold on a stranger in the Santa line?) Or worse, they start imposing various rules wherever they go, preemptively blaming parents for future symptoms their kids haven't even contracted yet, completely ruling out that every parent has unique goings-on in their life.
No one wants to get other kids sick (unless they're loony chicken pox party attendees); it's merely something that inevitably happens. I'm not suggesting that parents shouldn't be responsible about where they take their sick kids (especially if they're contagious), but some people are so paranoid, it's as though they've convinced themselves they can single-handedly (after applying Purell) prevent germs from spreading. A reader sent in the below screenshot from a 'mommy and me' meet-up group, writing, "This is from the organizer; she is a total germaphobe and a control freak. She posted this at the start of flu season AND sent out an email to all of our members AND sends out reminder texts if she even thinks that your kid might be sick. I am starting to see this as a trend on FB as well -- passive-aggressive posts about "germy" kids at playdates and daycare. Obviously, I don't want my kid getting sick either, but c'mon..."
Okay, I can see where this woman is coming from, but parents have to make tough choices sometimes. Also, what's the protocol for overly-cautious parents like this who give everyone else a migraine? Can there be rules enforced against that? Because this woman's novel makes me want to go lie down with an ice pack on my face. That's not to say there's no merit to her argument, just that parents are going to do whatever the hell they want. And most of the time, that's precisely what they do, regardless of others' well-being. Hence, the aforementioned double-standard.
Hmmm. I'm pretty sure Jessica's coworkers can understand the importance of being a mom *and* feel slightly (silently) uncomfortable about potentially putting their health in the hands of a sick little girl, pictured here with said hand in her mouth. But hey, who am I to criticize? I don't work in Jessica's office. What might be more concerning are the parents who -- again, somewhat understandably -- don't alter their plans to bring their sick children in highly populated, public places, like, say, the grocery store. And could anything be worse than catering to a nauseous kid in an enclosed space that costs everyone hundreds of dollars to enter? Ugh. If there's a guaranteed way to spread (or catch) sickly germs, it's by boarding an airplane.
Yeesh. Godspeed, Lauren, and the rest of the passengers on Lauren's flight who have to use the bathroom. I can't advocate posting about this flight faux pas on Facebook, but it does reinforce that it's only a matter of time before taking a sick child out of the house is unavoidable. Parents who complain about someone else's kid infecting their own should remember that before they word-vomit all over Facebook.
Most importantly, though, when a child does catch a cold, flu, or stomach bug, try not to get into specifics. Don't take photos or indulge in lengthy descriptions. It doesn't make the child get well any faster, and it doesn't engender more sympathy. It just makes people queasy (with the exception of parents who add their own sickness horror stories, which compounds the upchuck quotient). Let's check out some examples of how NOT to talk about your kid's cold or flu on Facebook. Again.
1. Flu Momarazzi
I'll never stop posting terrible mid-barf photos of "poor babies" whose moms shamelessly exploit them for attention. Resist the urge, parents! You might feel sorry for your kid, but that pity doesn't need to be plastered on Facebook. Have you ever accidentally caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror after throwing up? I have, and I looked like a haggard mole person. Now, imagine shifting your focus to a shadowy figure standing behind you taking your picture and posting it on the internet, and oh, that person is your mom. This is traitor behavior. It's worse than paparazzi who chase after celebrities and their kids in Whole Foods parking lots. Moms are supposed to be our greatest advocates, not our flu documentarians. These pictures make me feel sorry for Christy's daughter not because she has the flu, but because her mom kinda sucks.
2. Doing What She's Gotta Do Lol
I'm not sure what repulses me more: Cassie's Cleavage-Drenched Puke Pool, or the way she and Anneka managed to swiftly transition into upchuck-inducing, trite proclamations of baby love. Take your spew party to your DMs, ladies. AFTER Cassie takes a shower.
3. A Lesson In How To Spread Germs
You can try to convince yourself and your friends all you want, Purple, but you did this to yourself. No one had to know that your sick kids were the ones who contaminated the coin-operated rides at the mall, which, while perhaps already crawling with germs, are now certainly crawling with germs, except that you chose to post about it on Facebook. And not only that, but post about it with a strange sense of entitlement, even though it's clear from your explanation that you see the ickiness in both doing and posting about this mall infestation. This is the type of post that inspires parents to say, "She's making the rest of us look bad!" The first rule of taking your sick kids into public places is that you don't brag about it on Facebook. Well, that's the second rule. The first one is deciding not to do it in the first place.
4. Thanks For Your Comment, Shannon
Hey, Shannon, tell us how you really feel! You asshole! As an average person, I WOULD NOT want you to stand or sit anywhere near me in places including, but not limited to, a PTA meeting, a children's soccer game, a restaurant, an office cubicle, an amusement park, a bus, an airplane, a political rally, and pretty much all other public spaces, because your attitude and UNNECESSARY USE OF CAPS LOCK totally suck.
Shannon is one of those moms I referred to in the intro who will take their sick kids (or sick selves) out of the house when it's convenient and/or necessary for them, but exhibit no patience for other people who do the same thing, like teachers who would rather go to work than take a sick day. The irony is so thick, it may as well be coated in PediaCare. The upshot (for me) is that Shannon's kids are going to get sick regardless of Amy's decision to go to work. And it won't be because Amy leaned over a kid to help him with his work; it'll be because kids are, by definition, disgusting.
5. Snot Funny.
Yet another example of "woe is mom" meets "you don't know love until you've birthed two precious human snot factories." If there's one side dish I don't need with my Pouring Snot main course, it's unconditional love. Here are a few other examples I don't ever need to see:
"AHHHH! My baby just sharted up her back and then wet diarrhea somehow made its way into my hair and even my cuticles! It smells like roasted broccoli dipped in liquid shit. On the bright side, I'm soooo madly in love with my little shart factory!"
"AHHHH! My baby just projectile vomited directly into my mouth and it tastes like someone made a warm smoothie with spoiled milk, lemon custard, and dog breath. On the bright side, I'm soooo madly in love with my little demon!"
"AHHHH! My breastfed baby just took off her diaper and painted her entire face with poop during her nap! It looks like she's wearing a hardened mud mask, except it's made of nutrient-rich feces that CLEARLY "benefited" from mommy's green curry dinner last night. SO GROSS. But on the bright side, I'm soooo madly in love with my little crap-crafting artist!"
Nope. None of that.
Also, if you're going to describe your sick kid's snot, please, for the love of god, DON'T POST A PICTURE. Right, Angelique?
Okay. It's time to Choose Your Own Adventure.
CHOICE A: Stop reading this column and don't click to the next page because you know what lies behind door number three. You don't need any of that in your life. Sure, you'll never really KNOW unless you click through, but you why would you punish yourself like that?
CHOICE B: Click through, not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to. No one is in charge of your life except for you. You are simply clicking through because this column isn't over yet, and the next page features the big crescendo. What's a picture going to do to your day, much less your entire life?
Ugh, you clicked. Ugh, you clicked. I hope you had a Kleenex and a barf bucket handy, and that you'll forgive me. 'Tis the season!