A Shot of the Flu
by Patty Eggertsson

The Sunscreen Song got a lot of playing time on the radio recently, and it was full of advice for the younger crowd. The song is clever and thought-provoking, and most of the kids Iíve talked to think itís pretty cool.  My limited experience as a parent, which began 16 years ago, would also include this little tidbit: get a flu shot every year. In fact, take two, theyíre small. The flu will do a real number on even the heartiest kids, not to mention their compassionate caretaker. There is nothing harder than watching your little one suffering, and when your child is sick, I donít care how old he is, he is still your baby.
 

Those sad, droopy eyes are the first clue, quickly followed by lethargy and a clinginess that would match the Jaws of Life. The flu gives mothers a chance to do what we do best: hover, nurture, and fret. These sometimes get lost in the shuffle of carpooling, laundry, PTA meetings, team sports, yada, yada, yada.
 

The flu runs on a reverse timeline for parents and kids. The first few days,  the child lies around listlessly with no appetite or energy. We run between the sick child and the other kids in the family, the pharmacist, Blockbuster and the freezer, keeping it well stocked with popsicles and frozen fruit bars which are the basic staples of a sick child who doesnít feel like eating or drinking. We check their temperature every hour and give them cool rags to put across their foreheads. In the name of good taste letís just gloss over the pail that we place by their side; we all know what itís for and how itís maintained.
 

Days three and four are roughly the same but by then the reversal has started to take place. The kids are slowly getting back their strength and a healthy color to their face, while the parents are fading fast. Three or four nights of sleeping with one eye and one ear open have taken their toll, plus how many times can a person watch The Lion King in one week? Not only do you have to attend to the sick child but the rest of the family still needs hot meals, clean clothes and rides back and forth to school, practices and friendís houses.
 

Days five and six bring a marked difference in the patient and the parent. He is still too sick to go back to school but not too sick to be driving you crazy. Last year my little one stayed home from school for a whole week. It was the longest week of my life. By the time Monday rolled around nothing short of a tidal wave would have kept me from sending him back.  I sent him off with a kiss and a subliminal message, ďGet OUT of here!Ē Just kiddingóOK, maybe I was a little anxious to see him go butóall right, yes, YES! I prayed all weekend that heíd go back to school but is there really something wrong with that?!
 

Donít answer that. Just get me a red popsicle and a copy of ďYouíve Got MailĒ from Blockbuster. Iím feeling a little weak.
 


© Copyright, Patricia Eggertsson, 1999. All rights reserved worldwide.

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