Sick and Tired
© Photographer: Ivan Hafizov | Agency: Dreamstime.com
There are so many things we are thankful for: a beautiful family, a means to support ourselves, freedom, and, after one recent week, a house with 2.5 baths, a functional washing machine and Lysol antibacterial wipes. These feel like basic necessities when your family is hit with an intestinal virus, and you have five children who are dropping like flies, one after the other, as the same symptoms rear their ugly heads.
It all started with our 5-year-old, who was dressed to the nines, ready to hit a Saturday-afternoon party that he'd been looking forward to all week. He was just telling us how excited he was to see what refreshments they would be serving when his face turned an odd shade of green and he vomited all over the tile floor in the bathroom. (Thank goodness it was not three feet to the right or ground zero would have been our brand new bedroom carpeting.)
There was a flurry of activity as we tried to shepherd him to the toilet and get our other kids out so we could clean up the mess. One of the older children wisely pulled out our tried and true "throw-up bucket" in case he couldn't quite make it to the toilet again before Round 2 hit. It's a good thing too, because that bucket became his close companion over the next day and a half.
Just as he was returning to the land of the living, our 8-year-old and 12-year-old fell victim, and it got worse from there. That was when we started feeling very grateful we had invested in a heavy-duty, family-size washing machine. That handy-dandy appliance definitely got its workout over the next five or six days, as we laundered sheet after sheet in the middle of the night.
Kelly finally got so desperate she pulled out sheets bequeathed to her by her deceased grandparents, which really should have been buried along with the dead. They are white with huge orange and hot pink flowers. You know the variety. They had their heyday back in the 1970s, and we keep them around for no other use than the reason we pulled them out. They're last-resort sheets, plain and simple. Who cares that they could light the entire neighborhood with their bright colors? They're functional, and they work in a pinch.
Did we mention that our kids became TV addicts during our week in Sickville? They watched Harry Potter marathons, the whole Star Wars epic from start to finish, and enough SpongeBob SquarePants to make us feel seasick at the very sound of the names Squidward or Mr. Crabbs.
Frankly, we lapsed all our usual entertainment rules and pretty much let the TV baby-sit those who were sick and those who were home with the sick. At the end of the week, we didn't even feel guilty that our children were greeting people with such phrases, as "May the Force be with you.” We just shrugged our shoulders and chalked it up to survival.
We did, however, feel a little guilty about not relishing our roles more as nurse and housemaid. Somewhere, sometime, it was planted into our minds that we should take great joy in caring for our sick children. Seriously? We love them; don't get us wrong! But it's hard not to feel nauseous yourself when you're cleaning up mac-n-cheese plastered on the floorboards. Or the smallest bit reluctant, as you're quietly retreating while your child is "doing his business," and he says, "Mom, you're not leaving me, are you?" All Kelly could think of at the time was, "This is the child who has demanded privacy since age 2? Please want your privacy now. . . please, pretty please?"
By the end of our week, we were physically exhausted, emotionally spent and thoroughly convinced that Lysol antibacterial wipes are a necessity, not a luxury. And we were able to retire the "throw-up bucket," give our washing machine a much-needed break, and thank our lucky stars that the sound of flushing toilets and panicky footsteps in the middle of the night were already becoming fading memories.
Alan and Kelly Taylor live in Liverpool with their five children. Kelly holds a master's degree in family studies; Alan is an assistant professor in Syracuse University's Department of Child and Family Studies.