My kids aren’t supposed to get sick. That only happens in daycare, right?
I was actually naive enough to believe I was protecting my kids from all forms of illness when I became a stay-at-home dad. I’ve learned a few things since then, including that kids get sick regardless of their environment.
Two weeks ago, I spent every day wiping goo out of my 1-year-old son’s nose and trying to keep his 2 1/2-year-old brother from using his shirtsleeve as a Kleenex. Amid all the wiping and crying, I caught the cold too.
I don’t know where the boys picked up their runny nose and cough. That doesn’t even matter. However, I’m sure it started with Peter. My youngest son had a slight fever leading into the week. The Wife and I initially thought it was teething.
By Monday morning, Peter had streams of snot running from both nostrils. I followed him closely with a wad of tissues, trying to keep pace with what was now clearly a cold. He’d often smear a glossy line of boogers across his cheek. Or, he’d wait until the salty seepage reached his lips and give ‘em a good smack.
By Tuesday, Bubba had the same symptoms as Peter: runny nose, slight fever, irritable and loss of appetite. The pace of his illness stayed exactly one day behind his baby brother.
Peter continued to drain as the week progressed, though the contents changed. It started as a clear drip and became a greenish slime. A couple times I wiped his nose, and he began blowing the booger bubble.
By day three, poor Peter’s nose was caked in crusty snot. His nose was red and irritated after two days of constant wiping. It was ugly, but I pretty much left him alone, knowing any attempt to remove the hardened crust would result in a tearful tantrum.
Midweek was also about the time Peter’s fever worsened. I doused him with Children’s Tylenol, which seemed to help. Still, holding him was like having an arm full of towels that had just emerged from the dryer.
This was also about the time that both boys woke up with raspy, sore throats. It was odd to hear my 2 1/2-year-old son sound like a waitress who worked the smoking section at Denny’s and retired with a full pension.
Maybe I should have taken the boys to the pediatrician, but I’ve been through this before. Here’s what the doctors have advised each and every time, “Kids get colds. Looks like a virus we’ve been seeing go around. The only thing to do is wait it out. That will be $200.”
I’d rather forgo the doctor and focus on comforting my boys. But who was going to comfort me? Thursday morning I woke up and felt like I’d been in a car accident. I blew my nose and filled a burp cloth with what looked like the contents of a can of condensed milk.
There aren’t sick days for at-home parents, though there probably should be. Thankfully, the boys turned a corner just as my illness set in. By Friday afternoon, the bug seemed to have worked its way through the house.
I was looking forward to a weekend recovery. I wanted to clean the gutters and perhaps take the boys to the park one last time before the first winter snow. Then, I got a call from The Wife from work.
“I think I’m getting sick,” she said.
Original Image by: scol22, sxc.hu
Howard Ludwig is a former business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.