We’ve all been there: we look over at our kid and notice something isn’t quite right. Their energy level is lower, their appetite has faded, or something in their eyes has dimmed. The sick has come and invaded your child. It’s now up to you to parent your way through it.
This past week I was home for five days with my son, W, as he battled the flu. While he was home sick, I went through five different stages of parenting him. Being a sick kid was brutal for him, and being home with a sick kid was a challenge for me. Thankfully we made it through and I was able to send him back to school well, if slightly enervated. And, among other things that got back-burnered, I finally had the time to chronicle the stages of my parenting journey.
Stage One: Mary Poppins Parenting
This is the beautiful phase, the adoring phase, the fluff the pillows phase. Every moment of taking care of your kid is like a spoonful of sugar. It is hard to see our little ones under the weather and being able to nurture and care for them feels nice. This is especially nice if you have a 6-year-old who doesn’t cuddle as much as he used to. (Not that I’m naming any names …)
While in this stage, we are at our best, at our proudest. If only the world could SEE us being such fantastic and loving and nurturing and oh my heavens what is that thing coming out of your nose?!!!
Stage Two: Rubber Gloves Parenting
Ah, reality starts to click in. The sick is gross. It is disgusting. It is all over the place and, “Honey! Please don’t touch that! Mama will get that for you!” This stage is when we see the things we can not un-see, do the things we can not imagine we would ever have to do, roll up our sleeves, and put plastic sheeting down everywhere. It is about to get real.
With luck, we are still able to radiate calming and loving vibes towards our children. Never let them see the fear in your eyes.
Stage Three: Panic Parenting
WHY IS HE NOT BETTER YET? You have given the medicine, he’s had a cool bath, he’s napped for seven hours, WHY WHY WHY WHY is he still sick?!! Panic sets in fast and you start to wonder if maybe it’s more than the flu. Maybe it’s a SUPER flu. Maybe it’s something beyond that. Maybe you should Google his symptoms or tell Facebook or get some sort of outside opinion on the matter because this seems like this sick is taking a really long time and your kid can not live on crackers and Gatorade forever.
This stage is also where you start to feel a tickle in your throat. And wow, you REALLY are tired. So tired. You feel like you could nap all day. Is it warm in here? The sick must be spreading. You will have to tarp the house and alert the neighbors.
Stage Four: Remote Parenting
You have colored all of the pages, played with all of the toys, and admitted that no one is going to give you a parent of the year award after your early morning panic attack. It’s time to embrace remote parenting. It’s educational. It’s fine. No one else needs to know. If you have screen-time rules, this is not the time to play by them.
You show your kid how to pull up the TV guide on the cable remote, how to navigate to the kids programming, how to change the channel and where the volume controls are. You get a bonus point for explaining the TV parental guideline ratings and giving a stern face when saying, “Nothing inappropriate!”
This is the phase where any healing comes from being still and supine. You have accepted this.
Stage Five: Celebration Parenting
There is nothing (NOTHING) like being awakened by a healthy, happy, HUNGRY child. The day this happens you can finally cross into the phase of celebration parenting. You did it! You fixed your kid! He’s all better and he wants his breakfast now, please and thank you. You have earned that pious look on your face. You have earned that cheer as you thrust your child back into his germ-infested school.
“Honey! Please don’t touch anyone or anything!!”
While your kid is out in the world feeling brand new, you feel like a rag doll who got left in the backyard over summer vacation. It is part of the parenting package we all signed up for. Take a moment to bleach your entire house and catch up on your Thursday shows. You earned it. You survived.More On