The Upside of Sick Days

The ultimate sick-day camp-out

The ultimate sick-day camp-out

Last week was quite the week around these parts.

It started Wednesday when my first grader started running a fever and had to stay home from school. Even though my youngest child is still at home all the time, adding another child to the daytime mix is an adjustment. With school getting out for the summer in a few weeks, it was kind of like watching the trailer for Your Summer and immediately knowing the movie was going to get a terrible score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The first grader ended up running a fever the rest of the week, so no school. Meanwhile, my five-year-old continued with his half-day preschool only to arrive home Friday with a fever of his own. Just when I thought things were starting to get better.

But, it didn’t end there. They say bad things happen in threes, and that certainly tends to be true when you have three children.

Plot twist, though. My two-year-old didn’t get the full sickness.

She had a runny nose earlier in the week but didn’t get the high fever. She seemed to be in the clear until she was riding her brother’s strider bike and her face collided with the open tailgate of a pick-up truck that was blocking the sidewalk at a neighboring house.

I thought she had stopped herself enough before contacting the truck, but the blood dripping from above her eye suggested otherwise.

Despite the small cut beside her eye brow, she remained in reasonably good spirits. My wife took her to the children’s emergency room for repair and I stayed behind with the sick boys to watch every PopularMMOs YouTube video ever made while they moaned periodically.

Adding a little excitement to the otherwise dull proceedings, the five-year-old started vomiting. At my age, there are only two things that make me move fast: (1) when Stacy’s Pita Chips are on BOGO at the supermarket and (2) when one of my children announces they are about to vomit.

I got the trusty vomit/pasta pot under him just in time. After everything that had gone on, I needed that small parenting win.

What a week.

However, while I hate seeing my kids suffer, there’s a part of me that secretly enjoys sick days. Unlike normal parenting days, I know just what I’m supposed to do when the kids are sick. I fetch drinks, administer Tylenol, turn on the TV, help them to the bathroom, take their temperature 150 times per hour, and sweep their hair off their foreheads lovingly.

And on sick days, there is never any lingering doubt or guilt that I’m not doing enough. When the kids are sick, you do what you need to do to get by. No amount of TV is too much. There is no pressure to go out and perform parenting. There are no activities we should be doing or memories we should be making.

Instead, I get to sit around and cuddle and watch insane amounts of TV and catch vomit and even do a ton of writing when the sick little ones are sleeping half the day away. It’s kind of like going back to when we had a newborn in the house, but with slightly less sleep deprivation. Except for the sickness, it’s not such a bad gig.

Now, the bike accidents and stitches? Those I could certainly do without. But, it certainly could have been worse. My wife reported that our little one was a real trooper, as she always is. She got three stitches without even blinking. I’m actually not sure if she blinked or not because I wasn’t there, but the main thing is she didn’t cry. I probably did a little, but that’s another story.

Popsicles make things better

Popsicles make things better

And she seemed no worse for wear when she returned home at ten p.m. and polished off an entire Happy Meal. In fact, if her activity level was any indication, the hospital staff might have slipped her some amphetamines.

I guess the week that was proves you have to take the bad with the good. Even when the good is objectively kind of bad. Because as is usually the case, the cloud of sickness and injury will slowly pass and soon enough, we’ll be back on the treadmill. Another week of school and activities and forced busyness. And the return of the doubt.

This too shall pass. Whether I like it or not.

For more from Explorations of Ambiguity by Andrew Knott, like us on Facebook and sign up here to get the latest updates right in your inbox! Fatherhood: Dispatches From the Early Years is available at Amazon.