When our kids were younger, it was like clock-work, we knew a respiratory illness was coming, we just never knew exactly what week it would happen. The runny nose would start but it was so hard to tell whether it was caused by blooming Jacaranda trees or whether there was an illness behind it. On top of the allergies, both our kids suffered from asthma. I would count the number of breaths they took in a minute trying to gauge whether their breathing was getting more labored as the day/night went on. Those were such hard days. It broke my heart to watch my baby struggling to breathe. I would have done anything, including breathe for them, if it would have helped them to feel better. I felt so helpless trying to guess what hurt and tried just about everything to make them feel better. I kept thinking, if only they had the words to explain what was going on this would be so much easier. I could help them and get them exactly what they needed to start feeling better. I knew those days would come but I had to be patient.
Of course, those days did come, when they could tell me when their chest was feeling tight and they needed a breathing treatment. They could tell me when their heads were feeling stuffy and when their tummies felt icky. As they grew up and started school, they eventually grew out of some of the season changing illnesses. We took more preventative steps to minimize the impact of all those blooms. They would still get sick, but it felt less like guessing and more of a collaborative effort to help get them healthy again.
Now we’ve reached a phase that caught me by surprise. I should have seen it coming, but as a multi-tasking mom, this one slipped under my radar. Those adorable little faces I used to fret over while they slept, wishing they could share their symptoms with me, now share so much they have me wondering…….are they telling the truth? At fourteen and ten, this is a new wrinkle to the phrase “I’m sick”. Of course, I feel guilty even typing this and outing myself that I wouldn’t trust the health of my kids, but I know I’m not alone. Now I have mornings where one of the kids will wake up, walk slowly over to me, eyes barely open and whisper in their groggiest voice “I’m sick”. I pull them close and comfort them as a series of rapid-fire questions whirl through my mind. Were they sick last night or did this come on all of a sudden? Are they trying to avoid something at school? What does my schedule look like, can I stay home with them? Do I need to schedule a doctor’s appointment? Can I fill them with medicine and have them gut it out and see how it goes? Are they really sick or are they looking for a day off? What will they miss at school? Will they be able to catch up? And on and on, I’m sure you can think of a few more. Ultimately, I’m faced with the question, do I believe they are sick?
I feel bad doubting my kids, part of me thinks if you are sick then of course stay home and I will nurse you back to health. But the other side of me thinks, you are fine, suck it up and stick it out so you don’t have to make up your school work. There are pros and cons to each side, but regardless of the decision, I feel guilty. If I let them stay home, I make it the most boring day possible by limiting their time on electronics, forcing them to take a nap and making them do extra homework so they don’t fall behind. By one o’clock they’re so bored they wished they had just gone to school. Another idea I’ve been considering for my high school student is giving her an allotted number of sick days per year, similar to the way companies manage sick time. For example, she can have four sick days per school year. Sure, she could use them on a day she’s not sick, but then if she does get sick and doesn’t have any days left, she would have to go to school. It seems like a good way for her to learn how to manage her time and decisions, but at the same time, it’s hard for me to release my belief that if you are healthy you should be in school.
Sick kids are no fun, regardless of their age. When your kids pass their germs back and forth to each other, it seems like there is no end in sight. My best advice is to hang in there and trust your gut, you know your kids better than anyone and your instinct is probably right.
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