I should have known better. When the twins were babes, one would get sick and then the other would follow suit. I didn't even try to keep their germs away from one another, recognizing the futility of separating spoons or binkies, accepting the inevitability of both boys becoming ill at the same time. All-in-all with the fellas, we've been pretty fortunate on the health front (Dare I even write that? Surely I am tempting fate...). We have had our share of gunky noses and coughs and a few ear infections along the way, but mostly these guys, despite their petite selves, have been really hardy.
I do believe the studies that show that their immune systems were boosted by exclusive nursing for over a year (Am I allowed to admit my incredible pride in this fact while being sensitive to mamas who struggle to breastfeed or make a different choice?). It also helped that up until this year, P or I were either full-time at home or working a part-time job with some flexibility. This allowed us, at the earliest sign of a runny nose or fever, to keep the boys home from preschool because we had the childcare thing covered. It let the boys have the necessary downtime to recover and didn't expose other kids to our burgeoning yucky germs.
Now that P and I both have full-time, out-of-the-house commitments, I recognize how fortunate we were to make the 'easy' choice to keep a boy home. Last week with P away, I took on single parenting duties and for the first time all school year, one of the boys got sick. I became panicked. In the end, I was fortunate to have access to back-up childcare through P's university for two days, but it was far from ideal. Poor S, curled up on the couch, feeling so lousy, and poor me, having to leave him with a woman I had just met 15 minutes before. It was incredibly stressful even though I knew she had been vetted, and I was regretting the fact we lived near no family and that we were no longer on a boarding school campus where we could have found someone to cover either our work or hang with our boys. After two days, I could no longer in good conscience leave S home with this caregiver, given that she did no actual care giving, outside of being a warm body on our living room chair and allowing me to go off to work. I write this sentence, understanding that this still puts me in a privileged position-- that there are women all over this country who have very little choice or very little access to quality childcare. However, it simply sucked to have sick boys at home (F joined S on the second day with a vicious cold), P away from home, my work being at the height of its craziest time, and a woman caring for the sickies who hardly interacted with them. On Wednesday, after learning that S had double ear infections and having missed the day of work, I raised the white flag and called P and asked him to come home a day early. S ended up being out of school the entire week, except for a brief hour on Friday morning, when we thought he was feeling better so brought him to classroom, only to bring him home when it was clear he was not.
And now this week is our supposed 'vacation' week. Knowing that while our school is closed, I still have a lot of work that needs doing, we signed them up for vacation child care (VCC) Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Yesterday, C woke up complaining about his head and I should have seen it coming. "This seems familiar," I immediately thought to myself, but after breakfast he insisted he was feeling better and really wanted to go to VCC. Given that P had to go have a colonscopy and I was feeling work pressure, I packed all the boys up and off to 'school' we went, which also allowed me pick up P from the hospital when his procedure was finished without having to drag the boys along. I knew, however, that C was just off. Normally an incredible sensitive fellow, he was even more so, and the tears flowed far too much all day, showing no resiliency at all. By the time we got home, C declared his extreme fatigue and just climbed into his bed, falling asleep at 6PM, having not eaten a thing, including a special snack of chips he passed on to his twin. Once a six-year-old does this unprompted-- diagnosis confirmed: he was really sick. So it wasn't too much of a surprise, to us anyway, when he awoke at 3:11AM and spent the next hour or so throwing up, poor fellow.
So here I sit on another Wednesday at home with a sick little guy on the couch, very little sleep below my belt, not working but feeling incredible pressure about it. And you know what? I am feeling sorry for myself. Even though I know this is a real picture of parenthood, a prime example of putting another's needs before your own, I am just feeling sorry for myself. And to misquote T.S. Eliot intentionally, February is the cruelest month. Welcome to my pity party, and you know--it's my party so I'll cry if I want to.