Germs. The arch-nemesis of mom’s everywhere. I have four kids – all of whom are home sick from school today. Fevers, body aches, sore throats, coughing fits, and low energy that could rival a sloth’s. You get the picture.
This morning I woke to the aftermath of the germ-war waged on my family. It looked like a battlefield with bodies strewn everywhere. One halfway on the bed (and half off), another never quite made it down the entire stairway before needing a siesta. Two more on opposite couches with nearly inaudible moans meant only to alert the Medic (that’s me) to their whereabouts.
This Florence Nightingale is a bit weary these days. Loads of toast and jam served on napkins, force-feeding my little patients gummy vitamins while checking temperatures routinely throughout the day. Everyone is set now – blankets, pillows and a steady stream of their favorite Netflix show – while I load the dishwasher and make more soup.
Germs stink. Sickness sucks. Every new sneeze and cough brings with it the unavoidable possibility that most of us – if not all – will soon join the ranks. What can be done? Buy stock in tissues and thermometer sleeves? Keep a stockpile of OJ and chicken broth in the fridge? Resign myself to burning all my PTO days manning this makeshift hospital? Sounds bleak and unenjoyable. And bleak is a place where my soul goes to die.
So, I have decided to embrace it. Yep – you heard me! I am embracing Germ-Fest!
I am the first one to admit that cancelling plans brings deep disappointment. Calling friends to say we can’t meet for lunch; uninviting family friends for dinner. And that family sledding adventure? Not today. But I can’t just sit in dashed hopes and disillusionment. So, I’ve started to embrace the “sick days” as an unexpected directive from life (and God) to slow down. No extra house projects, no unrealistic expectations on myself to rearrange the entire house and alphabetize the spices. Just snuggle, sit, watch a movie, read a book, and enjoy the chance to stay put and just be.
For now, I’m giving myself permission to say “yes” to as much as possible. Video games? Okay! Netflix binge watching our new favorite show? Yes! OJ and popsicles for every meal? Why not! Germs have given me the gift of time with my kids – time I can’t get back and certainly don’t want to waste.
I’ve also decided not to take the blame. Germs are simply not my fault! Too many times have I fought back tears hearing someone say that cringe-worthy judgement statement: “Your kids are sick again?” Unintentional shaming is still hurtful, but it is often unintentional. So instead, speak the truth to yourself and choose to believe it.
Sometimes it’s more about self-imposed analyzing. Rest assured unless you are making your kids lick grocery carts and public restroom door handles, you did not cause this. Germs just happen. I’ve wasted too much energy on the “ifs” – If I had gotten them more sleep, if we’d eaten more veggies or said no to that cookie; if we hadn’t gone to Target with the kids…
The only way you could avoid (most) germs is if you don’t ever go to see people or go wherever people have been. So, unless you plan on living like a hermit and holing up on an uninhabited island, stop spanking yourself with the guilt-paddle and be thankful for your immune system!
This will not last. Soon enough they’ll all be back to normal. No special requests for books to be read, legs to be rubbed, or my tweens saving a spot on the couch for me to cuddle up and watch the movie of choice. Germs will eventually lose the battle and health will win out.
So tonight, when these midnight and (midmorning) visitors wake me from my slumber with important updates on sore throats and persistent coughs, aching legs and how much water is left in their water bottles, I will sleepily dole out compassion and tenderness like it’s a prescription. And when I catch the cold-bug after being repeatedly baptized by sneezes at close range, we’ll build a mountain of tissues together and see how high we can make it grow. Because germs or no germs, being their mom is still my favorite job.