You are a pro! You can handle most every illness your kids get by now. You have tricks for keeping them hydrated. You know how to get them to puke in a bowl. And you’re not so traumatized by their moans and glassy doe eyes because you’ve discovered the Sesame Street video queues and that cute Canadian cartoon, Caillou.
Sure it’s tough working out all the logistics (unless your folks live next door) with work and stuff, but you secretly don’t mind a day home with your sick little ones. It is nice, sometimes, to cuddle with them on the couch and watch tv guilt free. It is nice, sometimes, to drop everything and just focus on the simple act of caring. You have fond memories of your own mom putting cool, wet washcloths on your feverish brow and eating lime green sherbet for dinner.
What you haven’t had to do before, what you don’t have all the answers for, is taking care of your kids when you have the flu.
It hits you in the middle of the night. It hits you despite your flu shot and the ridiculous amount of hand washing you do. It hits you because you are next in line after your kids. Your kids who are feeling much better because of your tender loving care. At least you have this. It could be much worse, you think.
Thank god the kids are asleep now because you’re too miserable to move. Scratch that. You’re shivering, freezing cold despite the down comforter on your bed. Your throat is killing you, and you know some Tylenol would help but damned if you could possibly make it the medicine cabinet. You think your chattering teeth will wake your partner. Surely, he will notice the Popsicle dancing the hokey pokey at his side and bring you water and medicine. Any moment now. Any moment…
You run to pay homage to the porcelain gods. Yes, you say, it’s me again. It’s been awhile I know, I just don’t get drunk like I used to, hardee har har. You hold your hair out of your face and think the effing toilet needs to be cleaned. Why did you choose this week, of all weeks, to skip cleaning your bathroom? Again?
You lay shivering on your bathroom rugs. You move them closer together actually so you don’t feel the ice cold tile against your hip bone. You think maybe you could go back to bed. Your partner awakes finally and asks what you need.
“Water water water,” you moan climbing back into bed. You think you must look like that scraggly cartoon drawing of a man crawling in the desert. You think how hot the desert feels and wish you were there. You gratefully accept the Tylenol from your husband and blessedly fall asleep.
In the morning your husbands asks if you want to go back to bed. It’s his day home with the kids, he’ll keep them downstairs so you can rest. You don’t believe him. You take a shower and go to work. You go to work because you can actually rest there. No one needs you to wipe their butt at work. No one needs your nipple to feed them at work. No one needs you to carry them or read a story to them at work.
You’re miserable and get almost nothing accomplished, but it’s nice to have grownups cluck sympathetically over you and feel your forehead. You wrap a scarf around yourself and spend most of the day reading and rereading the same webpage because you’re that fuzzy headed. You do manage to eat some chocolate from the Valentine’s Day party. It’s warm from the fondue pot and makes up for the tea you could not summon enough strength to make yourself. Finally though your coworkers get tired of hearing you cough and send you home.
At home, you ignore, somehow, how crappy you feel. You give the kids their baths. You tell your 3 year old that you are a robot and robots don’t hug. This prevents her from touching your aching body for at least a half hour. It also requires you to summon up enough energy to robot dance through getting her in her pajamas.
Your 3 year old kinda gets it. She understands that you don’t feel well and why your voice is only good for one story and lets her dad read her her second story. Your 8 month-old could care less how you are feeling. She wants Tab A, your nipple, inserted into Slot B, her mouth, NOW.
Your spouse kinda gets it too, but he’s been at home with the kids all day and will not be bringing you dinner in bed. He will, however, do the dishes so you can crawl back under the heaping mound of blankets where you think you might rediscover sensation in your toes. A mixed blessing, given how much every inch of your body still hurts. He will let you watch tv on his computer with a steaming cup of tea. He will not get up more than once though when the baby wakes up for the entire 3 o’clock hour. He will, however, let you sleep in most of the morning.
And you feel a little better. And your kids need you now. And you will go to them. It is then that you will realize that you are a postal worker: Neither pain, neither flu, nor gloom of night will keep you from performing your sacred duty.
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