Sick Kids: 10 Positive Things They Learn When You Keep Them Home

Kids hate being sick. And so do I.

For four days this week I lay in bed wondering when the creepy-crawly things under my skin would disappear.  The top of my head felt as if it were being attacked by a rogue jackhammer.

Life ground to a sixteenth of its usual speed. I experienced ordinary things as though all my senses were magnified:  that sip of chicken soup, a cool cloth on the forehead. I even dreamed in pastel watercolors.

My husband took tremendous care of me. Even brought me popsicles and juice with a straw – things we did for our kids when they were sick in bed.

At least adults realize that “this too shall pass.” Children need so much more nurturing and reassurance when they’re ill.

It’s not hard to know when kids are coming down with something. At least not if you’re in close daily contact with them – something I call “hand-raising.”

I remember sitting on the step between our kitchen and family room, holding my little girl in my lap. Her eyes had a dull, watery glaze.  I noticed a faint odor when I nuzzled her hair. I called it the “sicky smell.” Her cheeks appeared flushed. I knew she wasn’t feeling well before she even said anything.

She was the kid whose fevers brought on vivid hallucinations. One time she thought she was Cinderella.

But truly, my kids were sick so infrequently that when they did come down with something, it seemed unnatural.  At times I wanted to cry along with them. I just wasn’t used to seeing them in pain.

The one time I actually caused a child to become ill upset me terribly. My husband and I took our three-week-old boy out for a Sunday drive.  * (See, there was this ghost town I wanted to visit. I’ll say no more – just stop throwing bricks.)  The next day the baby sounded like some pathetic porcine creature. He was so gummed up, he had trouble breastfeeding and breathing at the same time. But I was determined to get the good stuff into him (breast milk is a living fluid, creates immune factors and other invisible goodies).breastfeeding image

I had to suck the goo from his nose with the notorious blue bulb syringe (a.k.a. “The Exaspirator”).  He must have seen me as the mommy from hell.  Still, he seemed generally happy and his cold did not develop into anything more.

Keeping sick children at home is about respecting those small people you are responsible for and dearly love. Besides, why spread the joy?

What really makes my heart ache is when kids who look like yesterday’s French toast show up at school because they aren’t “contagious” anymore. Like they were contagious two days earlier, but now their parents can’t keep them at home, so they’re back, hacking their heads off, snot running down their noses, with about as much energy as a dying cell phone. But at least they aren’t contagious. sick-child

It’s a pity. Parents’ jobs, commitments, lack of a babysitter, etc., all keep kids on the go when they’re not well. But here’s the thing: children’s needs are always going to be different from the needs of the adults who care for them – sick, well, or whatever.

Look at it from your own perspective: Have you ever felt ill at work? Your body tingles all over. Your throat feels like White Sands National Park. You wish you could turn the thermostat up to eighty.  What’s the first thing you want to do?

Stick around doing paperwork?

No. You only want to GO HOME!

Just imagine how children feel. They want their own bed. A bit of quiet, and a loving voice to soothe them. They may need to a cool wash cloth over a hot forehead, a midday nap.

Those things can’t happen at school.

When my kids got sick, I wanted them home and in their PJs ASAP. I took their temperature and tried to assess how sick they really were.  What did they need? What should I do for them?   Sometimes I let them lie on the couch during the day, but I preferred bed. I would never deny them the right to stay home if they said they felt ill (who am I to argue?). But there would be no miraculous “3:00”  recoveries.

Except for stitches, dislocated elbows and one suspected case of appendicitis, I never ran anyone to urgent care. For many years we did not carry health insurance. We paid out of pocket.  My “health insurance” of necessity was feeding everyone a steady diet of nutritious foods. And that’s the best insurance of all, because it prevents illness.

Also in the way of prevention,  we made sure our kids always got plenty of rest. I think this is so important, not only in keeping children healthy, but in getting them well.

If they did get come down with something, I got my herbal remedies together: osha root tea and honey for coughs, Echinacea tincture to build the immune system, for example. We steamed their congested chests in the bathroom, and gave them ginger baths and poultices.

Something else I learned to do is healing touch, which my daughters remember with fond memories. They would often relax to sleep.

If they didn’t get well after a few days, I made a “same day” appointment with the pediatrician, but only if they weren’t recovering as I had hoped. Perhaps a cold had turned into a rare ear infection. Or a sore throat looked like strep. Those things I didn’t mess with. Any parent whose children must contend with these demons has my sympathy.Sick-child-in-bed-006

After our kids recovered, my husband and I almost always noticed a strange phenomenon: They showed a leap of emotional growth. Sometimes they had a physical growth spurt as well. Other parents have shared similar experiences with me.

It all makes me wonder if illness isn’t somehow necessary.

The bottom-line is that there is some good that comes of being sick,  if we look for it. The next time you have a young one under-the-weather, remember that there is much to learn from the experience. The lessons sink in with your loving care.

  1. Being cared for tells us how much others love and value us.
  2. It’s OK to get well in our own time. We don’t need to “hurry up.”
  3. It’s all right to be weak sometimes.  We can trust that others will help us.
  4. Our bodies can mend – if we give them permission to rest. It’s OK to do nothing.
  5. It’s always good to pay attention to the body. It will tell us when something isn’t right.
  6. Cooperating with those in charge – parents and doctors – will help us get well.
  7. Our health is always more important than work or school.
  8. It’s not anyone’s fault. (Unless of course it is. *See taking new baby on Sunday drive.)
  9. Sick people sometimes do embarrassing things, like throwing up.
  10. When we are well again we appreciate our health so much more. FFG

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