April 29, 2006

When my youngest is sick

My youngest child, With-a-Why, has been home for the last few days with a bad cold and cough. He’s been droopy and lethargic and feverish. With-a-Why normally acts like a teen-ager, eager to hang out with his older brothers and their friends, but when he is sick, he reverts to his little boy self and clings to me. With his cheeks flushed red and his big eyes dark, he will snuggle next to me in bed and beg for me to read him a book.

The end of the week brought the usually shuffle of childcare arrangements, the kind of juggling of schedules that we’ve done for twenty years now. We couldn’t send a sick child to school. Thursday, I stayed home and Spouse came home on his lunch hour to spell me so that I could go to a meeting. And Boy-in-Black stayed home from school on Friday to take care of his little brother. Yes, it’s true, that when a younger child is sick, we will use an older sibling as a babysitter. I suspect the school frowns on this – well, I more than suspect since they send home stern notes reminding parents that it is illegal – but I have always admired the way the my Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter and Boy-in-Black have been willing to shoulder the responsibility of younger siblings. And it’s pretty clear from their academic successes that an occasional day off to nurture a younger brother has not hurt either of them.

Today, though, I’ve been able to give my youngest my full attention. I’ve spent the day up in our bedroom, cozily under the down quilt, propped up with many pillows, reading to With-a-Why and getting him fresh glasses of ginger ale whenever he asked. We finished The Golden Compass and am now almost to the end of The Subtle Knife. Sometimes between chapters, With-a-Why will sleep a little, and then I open up my laptop and do a little work. Or in this case, write a blog post.

It’s nice to have one child who is still a little kid. As I am writing this, he is curled up next to me, half asleep, his long black eyelashes shut against his pale skin. When he wakes up, we will read the next chapter, and maybe talk a little about our favorite characters. He’s already read the book on his own, so I will tease him to tell me how it ends, but he will never reveal anything.

So that’s pretty much all I’ve done today – cuddle my youngest child and read a book. But it’s been a good day.

38 comments:

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Wow. Would you come over and take care of me the next time I get sick? That sounds like the most comforting day.

Marcia said...

You are such a good mom. It does sound like a good day.

susan said...

I have really fond memories of my mother caretaking me when I was sick and home from school for a day or two. It's such quiet, connecting time at home.

What a rejuvenating day. I hope with-a-why feels better soon.

Lisa V said...

jo(e) how old is with-a-why? I think 10 or so?

jo(e) said...

Lisa V: Close. He's eleven.

Marcia: Thanks.

Susan: Yes, I have fond memories too of childhood sickness, spent wrapped up in a quilt on the couch with my Mom reading to me and bring me food and ginger ale.

Pilgrim: Sure, next time you are sick, let me know and I'll hop on a plane ...

landismom said...

It is really sweet, that your older kids will take care of the youngest one. And I agree, that sounds like an ideal day to me.

Psycgirl said...

That sounds like a good day. When I was little we had a special quilt for days spent home sick, and I have the best memories of my mom looking after me. Sounds like your kids must have them too :)

liz said...

What everybody else said. That sounds like a completely delicious way to spend a sick day.

Lilian said...

How lovely!! I'd definitely enjoy a day like that as much as you did. I miss spending the days with my boys so much now that I'm working on the dissertation. I still see them often, 'cause I work at home, but I still miss them. (Last week I got to spend a whole day with them and it felt heavenly).

negativecapability said...

When my little brother or I was sick, my mom would let the other one stay home so we could hang out together (I think this started when my brother was little and was very attached to me - when he was sick he would freak out if I left).

I bet that was illegal, but I'm glad she did it :) I hope WaW gets better.

zelda1 said...

My 27 year old son still needs his mommy when he is sick. Not that I curl up in bed, that would be just wrong, but I will bathe his forhead with a cool cloth, make him potato soup, and check on him and make him take his tylenol. The last time, when he was so sick, I came home from a meeting and went to check on him and felt his head, and looked at his feet, and told him to get up we were going to the hospital. He couldn't even speak and I went in and told the receptionists, he is real sick, too sick to sit in the lobby, and they saw my mother bear eyes and soon the nurses were coming with a wheel chair, blankets, and getting him in a room and taking care of him, and not one time did I leave his bedside. I read to him, poems from my Latin text, and then translated them. We watched cartoons, and when he got well enough, I ran home for a moment, just a moment. That's what we do, we parents. We stand by our children, even when they are no longer sleepy eyed babies. Good news. A judge signed the guardianship papers for me so that Monday, I get my grandson. Just thought I would throw that in the mist of all my ramblings.

jo(e) said...

Zeld1: I am happy for both you and your grandson. That's wonderful news.

Leslee said...

I agree that as long as the older sibs have good grades that taking one day off to care for someone else is great! Someday (but hopefully not too soon) they'll have kids of their own and they'll be the best parents because they'll have all this practice!

Lisa V said...

11 is still so cuddly. Rory is 11 for another 2 weeks. I actually love my feverish children. The warm to cuddle, and want to be cuddled. And I actually think their flushed cheeks are lovely. Fortunately I rarely experience them like this more than once a year.

cloudscome said...

All that the others said... sounds like a lovely day. Plus I love Philip Pullman's books!

Phantom Scribbler said...

Yeah, what do you think of the Pullman books so far, jo(e)?

I love that Boy-in-Black stayed home with With-a-Why. So sweet!

~profgrrrrl~ said...

Oh, that sounds lovely. You're making me want my mommy. :)

Lisa C. said...

I loved all three of those books. I can't wait until the Moosh is old enough to read "real" books. I hope he'll let me read to him (I am persona non grata right now - he's attached himself to his father and I simply will. not. do.)

I used to go on field trips with my youngest sister when I was a freshman in college and she was a first grader. We had such fun on those trips and I will always cherish those memories. I also taught my brother to ride a bike when he was five... another thing I will remember forever.

I hope With-a-Why feels better soon.

peripateticpolarbear said...

Aw, I hope he feels better soon.

Marie said...

There's something about those of you who are Moms. You just know how to do this stuff. But it was my Dad who took care of me when I was sick. He's just a big ol' softie that way.

jo(e) said...

Phantom: Well, I've enjoyed reading the books so far, and I'm glad With-a-Why convinced me to read them because I would not have read them on my own. I don't read much science fiction/fantasy.

I would say I have mixed feelings about the books so far. I am not crazy about the good vs. evil polarity that informs the plot, and there is too much eguating heroism with "masculine" values. And some of the plot twists seem really artificial. Yet there are other parts I really love -- just the whole idea of the daemons, for instance. I like some of the more philosphical questions that the books raise about what happens when humans are greedy for power.

I guess I say that I think the books are worth reading, but they aren't books I would read over and over again.

Bitty said...

Like so many of the others, I add my voice to those who find this a comforting story. At the same time, it frustrates me that the rules of society make actually taking care of our families such a difficult job. Of course we all know what many people believe: it shouldn't be an issue because taking care of the children should be Mommy's only job.

Years ago a friend of mine became a friend because she came to work with me. She had been fired from her last job for taking off too many days to care for her sick child. However, she didn't have the economic luxury of staying home all the time, so she came to us. She was a fabulous employee--who sometimes had to take a day off to care for a sick child.

If you're breaking the law by having your children stay home to care for a sick sibling, that sounds like a law that needs to be broken. In fact, as long as children don't have excessive absences and do well in school, it shouldn't be anyone's business why they stay at home.

jo(e) said...

Bitty: Yeah, I agree with you.

One of the things that drives me crazy where I work is that if a man misses a meeting because he is home with a sick child, everyone smiles and talks about how great it is that he is an involved father. If a woman misses a meeting because she is home with a sick child, everyone rolls their eyes and takes this as proof that women don't work as hard as men. That kind of stuff makes me scream.

ccw said...

Hope he feels better soon!

This sounds like a great way to recover from illness.

timna said...

what a wonderful day.

Mieke said...

What Zelda said stikes terror in my heart. I don't want it "wrong" to snuggle up with my boys - regardless of their age. And I feel there will be a time when they are older that it will feel odd. Odd in a way it wouldn't feel if they were girls and I don't just mean because we are the same gender but because of the difference that their seems to be between boys and girls and their parents.

When I was deathly ill a few years ago, hospitalized for ten days, both of my parents (who are divorced) flew out to help me once I was released. I had just turned 30. My live in boyfriend had taken lots of time off while I was in the hospital so he needed help as I recovered (I was very weak). My parents climbed into bed with me, on either side, more than a few times and we all napped. Sometimes my mother would snuggle into bed with me. Other times my father would lie beside me, holding my hand as I drifted in and out of wakefulness. It was not odd at all to be held by my parents. I still hold my father's hand when we walk.

I hope that it will be the same for me and my boys even when they are grown.

Terminaldegree said...

Some of my fond childhood memories are of being taken care of by my mom when I was sick.

I've just gotten over one of the worst colds/flu/somethings of my adult life. My mom flew out here early (my parents were planning on coming for Easter anyhow) to take care of me. The first day she was here, she made dinner and changed the sheets on my bed. It made me realize that at age 30something, I still wanted my mommy! :)

It's so nice that your kids take care of each other. I realize that schools need to have attendance policies, but after missing 1 1/2 months of high school in a single quarter due to illness, I still graduated with high honors and made the honor roll that term! It made me realize just how little learning often gets done in school! So my hunch is that your kids learn MORE by staying home to take care of each other...

Camera Obscura said...

If you and With-a-Why want a little lighter reading occasionally, start in on Terry Prachitt's Diskworld series. Kinda sorta Douglas Adams sense of humor but slightly less adult -- a college of wizards where the librarian has been turned into an orangutan, a vampire that can't stand the sight of blood, a banshee that's so afraid of people that it leaves notes that read, "Whooooooooooooo." And there are fifty-gajillion of 'em so you're never going to run out.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Sounds wonderful! You make everyday occurances sound magical--what a way with words and the heart!

Please send me some work for Silk Creek Review!

We read the Golden COmpass and loved it and have the Subtle Knife but we are also reading Swallows and Amazons, and switching back and forth. Right now, we are reading Swallowdale. Subtle Knife is next. Don't tell us how it ends. LOL Mary

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

oh jo(e), never stop writing. I often fear my children growing up -- I fear them becoming teenagers; I fear not knowing how to parent them -- but your posts always make me feel better about it.

Today is my birthday and for my present, my son, who's 4, picked out all his clothes and got dressed entirely by himself and went to daycare without one note of complaint. That boy is psychic. He knew exactly what I wanted : )

Teri said...

You are just the most wonderful mom. I'm in awe!

halloweenlover said...

Oh, I love this post! What a wonderful way to spend the day. I also love how the two older siblings take care of the younger. You have raised your babies so well, Jo(e)!!!

ArticulateDad said...

Oh, Jo(e). I want only a tiny bit of your serenity, and I'll be whole. I must say, there have been many times in my life when I called my mother up on the phone just so she'd tell me everything's going to be alright, honey... it will.

jo(e) said...

Happy Birthday Jennifer!

Scrivener said...

Can I ask what, precisely, is supposed to be illegal here? Is it having a teenager home alone with his sibling? But don't kids B-i-B's age babysit regularly? Is there actually a law that says a teenager can't care for a sick sibling? Or is there just some law that says a kid can't miss school except for reasons x, y, and z?

jo(e) said...

Scrivener: Babysitting is not a valid reason for missing school in this state. It is considered an illegal absence.

Scrivener said...

What's the difference between an illegal absence and an unexcused absence? Like, is he going to get a ticket for babysitting on a school day? Or do you face some sort of legal sanction for allowing him to do so?

jo(e) said...

An illegal absence affects the funding the school gets.

I guess in theory teachers could penalize him for papers being late or missed work when the absence is illegal, but that never really happens.