Get the lunches packed. Don’t forget to leave out the kids’ library books to be returned tomorrow. Sweep up the remainder of dinner from under the table. Why is there rice on the wall? How is that possible? Remember to set out your purse, with the keys on top. Note to self: find keys.
We‘ve all been there. Hectic night, no different than most others, but this one is in preparation for an even busier tomorrow. Big day at work or maybe that doctor’s appointment that you had to schedule two months in advance. Either way, tomorrow’s an important one, lots to do.
But we’re smart, mamas, we can keep it together. We’ve made a plan, prepped the kiddos and we will be good to go. Obviously, that’s when IT happens, though.
From across the room, a tiny figure approaches, both pathetic and cute at the same time, “Mommy, I feel sick.”
The world stops. And that little voice in your head wants to panic. You know what’s about to happen, don’t you?
Whether you like it or not, it’s coming:
The Five Stages of Sick Children
You put on a happy face and assure your precious cherub that the phantom ailment is only in his head. You turn the volume up on PJ Masks and ask (for the 80th time) why those children are allowed to roam the streets at night unsupervised. He perks up and offers a 30-minute rant on why Owlette is the best. You pat yourself on the back as your offspring is temporarily distracted from this imaginary sickness. Clearly, he’s just fine. Round 1 goes to mom.
Slipping into bed later on, next to the snoring mass that promised to love you for eternity and act as a life partner (but somehow can’t remember to rinse the stainless steel pots before sliding them into the dishwasher), you hear a sound off in the distance. It’s coming from the children’s room. Is that…oh, no, it is…a cough. Maybe he’s just clearing his throat. Yeah, that’s probably it. He’ll go back to sleep in no time.
But there it is again, this time raspier and prolonged. You tense up. Why hath thou forsaken me, lord?!
You instantly go through the last two weeks worth of activities to figure out which carrier monkey friend of his passed along a germ. It was probably the red head at last weekend’s play date. You make a mental note to let air out of the kid’s bike the next time he comes by the house.
In the morning, you get up early enough to cook a warm breakfast. A hearty bowl of Cream of Wheat can ward off any illness. You wake the kids and don’t mention last night’s echoing hacks. The big kid is sluggish but not visibly afflicted. Maybe you can see how this plays out. You tell him that he’ll probably feel much better after he gets into Home Room. His buddies will perk him up and who knows, maybe the fresh air on that infection incubator he calls a school bus will do him some good. Stranger things have happened.
If you can just get to the 8 a.m. meeting, you can salvage at least a piece of the day. That way, when the school calls around lunch time and tells you that your child is sick, you’ll be able to feign a surprised voice better than you did last time.
“Little Timmy is ill?! You don’t say! He was just fine this morning, I promise.”
You stick an individual Kleenex pack in the kid’s backpack and attempt to usher all of them out the door with a quick kiss on the cheek (and perhaps a foot to the backside). But just when you’re breathing a sigh of relief and tiptoeing toward the garage, your parasitic progeny turns and tosses his cookies right off the porch into your recently pruned begonias.
You curse aloud but then realize the bus driver is waiting…and watching, appalled. You throw a hand up to wave (resisting the one finger salute you’d prefer) and yell that you’ve got everything under control. That’s it, you throw an arm around your little one, kick your heels off into the corner and try to mask your own disappointment. You’ll make the cancellation calls, clear your schedule and keep your fingers crossed the world doesn’t end in your absence. The final battle was lost, but what can you do.
A few hours later, as the patient rests up in his room and you’ve straightened up the house you manage to sit with a cup of coffee for the first time, realizing maybe this isn’t so bad. One day off, even an unexpected one, is still some time to yourself. You’ll go up and snuggle with your big boy – something he rarely lets you do anymore – perhaps play a few board games, read some stories and feed him that alphabet soup he likes.
It’ll be a day of bonding that the parenting magazines are always talking about. Maybe you’ll put yourself in the running for Mom of the Year after all. When you enter his room to ask whether he’s up for Connect Four or Chutes & Ladders first, you find a wild-eyed troll doing back flips on the bed that your son should’ve been sleeping in.
No, you don’t feel better yet, you assure him. That’s impossible. It’s not even noon. You’re sick, for Pete’s sake! He grins and rushes past you, eager to play with all of the toys that his siblings are missing out on today.
You stand in the empty doorway, beaten once again. Well played, Fate, well played indeed.
Your cell phone rings just as you vow to disinfect the house, lest this 2-hour bug passes on to anyone else. It’s the elementary school. What’s that? Your daughter is sick now.
“Of course she is,” you say. Today’s your lucky day.