Heaven help me, y’all. I’ve been sick. Congestion, cough, drippy nose…the whole nine yards. And for the first time in years – years, I tell you! – I ran a fever. And all I can say about that is I really hope it’s the last one I run for a good long time.
See, I’m used to taking care of other people. I nurse my kids all the time and my husband occasionally. But, for reasons that I can’t explain but completely appreciate, I myself hardly ever get sick! And, honestly, I like it that way.
Now, just because I said I’m used to taking care of people, doesn’t mean I’m good at it. Don’t believe me?
Not Awful, but Really No Good
The reasons I’m a “not awful” nurse are really pretty straightforward. I have a 100% patient recovery and survival rate! GO ME!!! Also, I can usually manage to keep illnesses contained so that only one or two victims fall instead of having the entire ship go down in flames. That’s successful, right?
As I told my husband this past weekend, though, when people in my house are sick I will lovingly take care of them…from a distance.
Recently, my 13 year-old and 6 year-old BOTH came down with separate bouts of influenza. The older one lucked out and had flu-B, which basically meant a low-grade fever and a really stuffy nose for a few days. For him, the care I offered included a TV rolled into his bedroom, meal delivery service, answered text requests, and nightly refilling of the humidifier. As an added bonus, I’d wander in occasionally for some conversations, but physical contact was on an as-needed basis for back-patting and forehead-feeling.
Naturally, being younger, the 6 year-old required a little more attention. Especially considering she had flu-A, which meant a nasty cough and a significantly higher fever over the course of almost a week. She was lucky enough to have her mattress moved into our bedroom so that I could try to get some sleep in and amongst her coughing fits. Poor thing, she’s a born cuddler but I just couldn’t bring myself to get that close very often. Once a day or so, she’d lay her head in my lap and I’d stroke her hair. I’d also rub her down with some VapoRub, which made her feel better. She’d come downstairs to hang out on the couch with me during the day, but when she’d head upstairs for the night, I automatically fell into Crazy Cleaning Lady mode, Clorox-wiping anything she had possibly touched during the day.
I mean, I guess it doesn’t sound awful. I’m definitely not the worst nurse in the world, but frankly I just don’t have time to get sick myself! Which leads to my next point.
The Practically Imperfect Patient
Sure enough, all it took for me to fall to the funk was teaching preschool during the worst flu season in recent history and caring for 3 of my family members over the last month. You can imagine how unsurprised I was on Monday when I started feeling like total crap. Right?
Now, I was a good girl. I kept myself sequestered to one part of the couch. I slept in the guestroom instead of reinfecting my still-recovering husband. Also, I made sure I was the only person using the downstairs bathroom. Furthermore, I made sure not to handle anyone’s food or drink besides my own, and I kept physical contact to a bare minimum.
Basically, I did to myself exactly what I would’ve done to anyone else. And it made me realize something. See, I actually like being left alone when I’m sick! I don’t want people touching me. I want them to feed me and bring me things I need, but leave me alone to watch hours of mindless TV in peace.
Also, I whined. I whined a LOT. And I got my nose out of joint because, darn it, everyone was doing just fine without me being in charge every minute of every day! How dare they be so self-sufficient, anyway?!
The Great Discovery
Well, they were so self-sufficient because that’s what we’ve taught them to be! We’ve taught them to how to do things around the house and how to take care of and help each other. While I was down and out, they were able to pull dinner together, keep the dishes going, do their own laundry, and get their homework done. They even blew me kisses, brought me pictures they drew, and offered me drinks and popsicles. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Laying around on the couch gave me quite a bit of time to reflect on this new reality. The truth is that these children won’t always need me to take care of them. They’ll always need my love and guidance, sure, but maybe not so much my nursing. So maybe I should try a little more hands-on mothering and a little less germaphobic avoidance the next time they’re sick. As it turns out, even if I do end up getting whatever bug they’ve got, I’ll be just fine. Because I’ve raised up some pretty good nurses.