You don’t know true sadness until one of your young children is sick. There are few experiences that are as incredibly vivid to me as those memories of times when my kids were ill or in pain.
I remember Maddie’s first Christmas when she was just about four months old and had a terrible cold and an inflamed tear duct1 that was making her eye swell shut in the most pathetic-looking way. I was struggling with the same cold, and I remember just holding her on my in-laws’ couch and rocking her while I wiped both of our noses.2
I remember when Charlie had serious constipation issues when he was probably about six months old, and I would hold him over my shoulder and rub his back while he tried so hard to take care of his business. This scene tragically repeated itself for years, though he’s been much better recently.
I remember when Maddie was really little but old enough to talk already and had a sore throat that made her voice sound like a croaking frog. It seemed to change her very demeanor and made her seem so much gentler and more fragile than usual.3
As for Sammy, the COVID Kid spent the first year of his life in so much isolation that he barely had a cold. Now that Maddie and Charlie are both in school, he’s spent the second year of his life having a nearly non-stop runny nose.
And Jack is thankfully still serious sickness-free in my memories. Long may he reign.
Maddie tested positive for COVID upon our return from Christmas travels, but thankfully had nothing more than the already-present, school-induced cold. As we waited out a week-long quarantine over New Year’s weekend, she was on the upswing, while others in the family took a turn for the worse. I started developing exhaustion and respiratory symptoms and was fairly convinced I had COVID, even though the rapid test said I was negative. I took a PCR test five days ago, but I’m still waiting for the results. What a mess. At least all the kids tested negative eventually.
Meanwhile, Charlie–who has also had a runny nose for the duration of fall and winter–started coughing a raspy cough two days ago, and has now developed pink eye in both eyes. Sad sickness memories are being burned into my brain as I type this. A listless three-year-old who just wants to lie on the couch, who is mortified of eye drops and cough syrup, who hates getting the slightest bit wet when he’s not in a pool or the bathtub and won’t let you put a damp cloth on his blood-red and goop-shut eyes, who has a 102-degree fever measured under his arm because he won’t put the thermometer in his mouth, who is shivering in my arms as we sit under an electric blanket.
Sam started developing similar goop around his eyes this afternoon, and I’m starting to wonder if this game of duck-duck-sick will ever end.
These are the moments when you’re all-in as a parent. My children are remembering or perhaps realizing for the first time that they are not invincible, and I am remembering that I would do anything to ease their suffering or pain. I know in the long run this is helping to build up their immune systems at a crucial time in their lives when they’ve already been deprived of many necessary germs and seasonal head colds. But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.
Moments like these make me pray so hard for parents of children with long-term or terminal illnesses. I can’t imagine the stress and the parents’ desire to carry that cross for them. I try to convince myself that I made a bargain with God that I would go through cancer so that my children would be spared any such trauma. Unfortunately that’s not how it works, but I am grateful for the complication-free births and remarkably good health they have all been blessed with thus far.
So we will carry on with another weekend full of Kleenex and force-fed medicines, hopefully making some more fun-filled memories together again soon.