It was a sunny winters day one Thursday morning. I was sitting on the floor of the toddler area in an indoor play center and it was pretty quiet, thank goodness. Indoor play areas are last-resort for me. The kids had been sick since Monday and the Doctor said we should be ‘in the clear’ by Friday but cabin fever had set in and I just had to leave the house. A mother at a table across from me was wiping her kid’s very green snotty nose when her friend turned to her and said “oh, is she sick?” Her immediate quip was “no she’s just like that!”
There it is, the flu-denial. I looked around the indoor play center, the mother-ship of all germs and bacteria, and 90% of the kids were suffering from varying degrees of illness or at least sniffing and coughing. But no one was going to admit to it.
You see when you are an adult and sick you can tell anyone who will listen how close to death’s door you are. You can stay home from work and lie in your bed peacefully recovering, demanding those closest to you show you pity and wait on you hand and foot. But kids on the other hand don’t stop, well my breed don’t. They just get busier. And keeping them home can turn into an episode of The Hunger Games. But there’s the catch…no one with kids wants a sick kid near theirs. And it’s bloody isolating.
When my eldest was still a baby he caught an antibiotic resistant strain of croup. It was months of on and off sickness, crying all night, and trips to the doctor with emergancy facilities so he could be put on an adrenaline nebuliser. Every time we thought he had finally kicked it the dreaded barking cough returned. From then on I was ‘on guard’. My precious bundle would not come into contact with any nasty germs. If he got sick hubby and I would do that pointless thing where you try nail down exactly where and when he got sick, find the culprit. And then get angry about it.
Now that I have been around mom-block a few years my perception has changed a bit. My second child was at play group from 4 days old. He was safely snuggled up against my chest in a baby wrap where little hands couldn’t reach him, but he was by no means hidden at home. That wasn’t an option with a 2 year old big brother. And he’s been sick a lot less than my first. A lot less. I’ve realised kids will get sick, there’s no preventing it. If it’s not the toy at play group they all gave a good communal lick before home time it’s the shopping trolley, the elevator button or the person who walked past sneezing while you were out getting groceries. And people are contagious before they have symptoms. There are certain months of the year when just about every kid I know has the sniffles. And those parents are going bat-shit crazy.
Now I’m not saying share your kid’s pink eye or hand foot and mouth around a playground because you have to get out of the house. Sometimes we have to tough it out for the greater good. But maybe the next time we finally emerge from a week long quarantine and the kids still have a sniffle we don’t play the ‘my kid??? sick? never!’ denial card. We all know your kid is sick, it happens. We know it’s tough. It’s ok. We just won’t share an ice cream.