Hello, readers and fellow bloggers. Hope you’ve all been well and I mean to catch up with you guys, but I’ve been knee-deep in the parenting trenches of full-blown family sickness for the past week…
There are some aspects of parenting we’ve all heard jokes about our entire lives. You’ve heard them so much, in fact, you might think you know what you’re in for when signing up for this whole parenting gig.
For example, not getting enough sleep.
Sure, I’m in for some late nights, you think, but until you’ve actually woken up every ninety minutes for months on end, you really have no idea what sleep deprivation means. We’re talking hallucination levels, here.
Thankfully, the sleep torture thing eventually winds down. I say this in hopes of bolstering the sanity of any new parents that happen by my site: it DOES get better guys. Hang in there.
But I also want to warn you about another big hurdle: Prepare to get sick. A lot.
I didn’t used to get sick very often, maybe once or twice a year. I figured I had a pretty good immune system. I was even a bit… shall we say… cocky about it.
Well, I’ve been humbled.
I was lucky because neither of my daughters were ill for their entire first year (knock on wood). We were healthy, they were healthy… I breastfed them both and since that’s supposed to give kids a better immune system, I figured we were in great shape.
And then… my daughter started preschool.
That’s the game changer, because ever since my daughter started going to class with a bunch of other kids, our family has been hit with enough plagues and locusts to slap the smug right off my face.
It usually starts with my older daughter being a little crabby and out of sorts, pushing her dinner away and whining a lot. Next thing you know, she’s warm to the touch.
Before long, she’s projectile vomiting in every room of the house and eventually exploding from both ends. I stay up all night with her, ready to aim her towards a bucket or change her or administer baby tylenol or what have you.
Then a new day dawns, I feel a twinge, and next thing you know, I’m scrambling to reach a bucket myself. I’m sick and then the baby gets sick and then my husband gets sick and soon, our toilets and garbage cans are straining under the weight of purged infection.
We’re miserable, we recover, and a few weeks later, we’re sick again in a slightly different way. Again and again.
The past week’s episode started when Brontë was sent home from preschool after not reaching the toilet in time. Kids have the sniffles all the time, they told me, but diarrhea is where they draw the line. Apparently, the other class had had an outbreak and you want to keep that kind of thing contained.
According to our preschool and family doctor, this has been a particularly bad year for illness in general, but the nonstop sickness deal is common for new parents. New teachers too, for that matter. I hear that anyone who spends time around a lot of kids tends to get sick constantly for about two years.
And why is that? Well, because kids have immature immune systems and tend to pick up every bug going around. At first, this explanation baffled me because by that logic, adults should have mature immune systems that should be fortified against catching all of this, right?
But when you think about it, a preschool is the living embodiment of how NOT to contain disease.
Just think about the adult world, by contrast. I remember how back when I worked in an office, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting antibacterial hand sanitizer. They used to put hand sanitizer in the bathroom, by elevators, and by every cubicle nest.
I thought it was overkill at the time, especially because some people liked to squirt it on after touching practically anything. One coworker even massaged it into her lips whenever she finished eating lunch.
And I also remember how some nervous new parents would carry the stuff around with them wherever they went. They’d sanitize their hands before touching their baby, and make sure everyone else did too.
What a losing battle that was, because babies eventually turn into toddlers. And if there’s anything I know about toddlers, it’s that they aren’t real clear on the concept of good personal hygiene.
I love toddlers, of course, but there are a couple of things it’s very difficult to talk them out of doing:
- Keeping their fingers out of their noses, and
- Not chewing on everything
Seriously, I’ve tried and tried, but it’s damn near impossible to keep kids’ fingers out of their noses.
My four-year-old is a girly-girl princess of pink sparkle proportions, who wants to wear a glittery princess dress every. single. day.
We’ve had many discussions about nose-picking. I’ve told her it isn’t very princessy. I’ve shown her how to use a tissue. I’ve told her other kids will think it’s gross and to at least do it in private then wash her hands.
It hasn’t made a dent. Every time I turn around, she jams her finger right back up her nose to the knuckle like someone flipped on a high-powered magnet. Just like all the other toddlers do.
So, this isn’t rocket science. Any germs in a five-mile radius end up in kid snot, which kids will rub all over their fingers before touching stuff, whenever they aren’t busy chewing on whatever toys other kids have touched with their snot-marinated hands.
Sickness spreads like wildfire, then the infected kids go home to their parents, who have to change their diapers and clean their vomit many times a day. Even once your kids are potty-trained, you have to wipe their butts for a while, cause kids aren’t real thorough about it.
And you cary around your kids and cuddle them and hold their little hands and kiss them. You’re in close quarters, so it’s just a matter of time before you’re exposed to whatever germs are mutating in their little bodies.
So new parents, be prepared. It happens to everyone. We get our flu shots and vaccinations and everything else, but you just can’t account for everything going around.
But if it makes you feel any better, I’ve heard it only lasts for a couple of years. Your immune system goes through a trial-by-fire ordeal in the wake of endless foreign germs until it finally rises to the challenge.
And one small comfort concerning the nose-picking habit: it may actually be a natural compulsion. According to this weird study, kids might instinctively pick their noses because it helps strengthen their immune systems.
It would explain a lot.