“It’s kind of green, it’s kind of yellow, it has a rainbow in it, and a circle inside that you look out of. So, can you get it Mom? Can you?!” – Nick, 4, describing a flashlight that had been put up on a high closet shelf several months ago. He’d come to me bearing a stool, intent on accessing the object of his desire, preceding his query with, “I forgot what it’s called, but…”
“Gee, when you’re sick at home and sleeping all day, school sure does go a lot faster.” – Adam, 7, upon realizing his siblings were home from school.
I’ve been thanking my lucky stars this week that we no longer have children in diapers.
After a phenomenally healthy winter, the flu bug finally gained access to the Salonen household. It started a week ago, when I heard a horrid noise coming from our bedroom. I’d forgotten just how awful it sounds when a grown man is "worshiping the porcelain god." We’d splurged on a dinner out that night, too – one of my favorite eateries. It might be a while before we return.
At the time I thought maybe the bug had been a strain against which Daddy had not been immunized like the rest of us, and that we’d escape unscathed. But Monday night, our 7-year-old curled up in our bed in the early evening, and when he got up to go to the bathroom, he lost his footing. Troy had seen him get up and mumble something incoherent and summoned me; I arrived on the scene just in time to see him wipe out and go limp, as if he were having a seizure. Phone in hand, I was about to dial 9-1-1 when he came to. After about a minute, his lips went from white back to red, and not long after that, he was on the pot with a saucepan on his lap, dealing with eruptions of body liquids on both ends, saying in between bursts, “This is the worst day of my life.”
This weekend, the girls started throwing up in the middle of the night. It’s funny, they are trying so hard these days to carve out distinct lives, but in the end, they are just too close, unable even to escape being sick in tandem. Someday they’ll appreciate the bond they share for better or worse, in sickness and…(sometimes in health, too).
Our youngest also had a short episode of something, which I’m still not sure was a true illness or just an issue of not having made it to the toilet in time (all these lovely details). Needless to say, I’ve made a couple trips to the store for Sprite recently. You gotta have Sprite when you’re sick. Oh, and chicken broth with noodles, once things start staying down.
It’s not glamorous, but still better than what my friend Lori in Minneapolis faced when she checked on her young son in the middle of the night recently and saw that he was covered from head to toe in vomit, unaware; not to mention my poor friend Jennifer down in Texas, who hinted at the scene in her household of diapered children and a mom and dad who were both sick alongside the kids.* At least we’re sort of taking turns around here.
But what I really wanted to report, rather than just all the gory details, is what has happened to the dynamics in our home since the flu hit. I’ve caught glimpses of our children showing compassion for one another. They wince when watching each another in the vulnerable state of being ill, as if they actually (dare I say?) care. I am seeing looks of sympathy in their eyes as they run to retrieve a “puke pan” or fill up a glass of ice water for a sick sibling. Sure, they’ll be screeching at one another again in due time, but the bug has quieted things down around here, shown different sides of them. Our youngest even has taken on the duty of doling out Sprite to the "sicko" of the day.
Indeed, illness can change things up within a household for the better. There are the obvious downsides too, of course, and quite a few plans have had to change in the last week, but I think the end is near. And now I know what I have suspected all along: that when push comes to shove, our children actually care about each another. They really do!
(I knew it. I just knew it!)
The Salonen Five – Christmas 2008