Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

I got the call as my 3-year-old and I were returning home from story time at the library. My first-grader threw up at school and I needed to pick her up. This is what sick days as a parent look like.

I knew it was bad when I drove up to the school and saw Megan’s classroom windows propped open. It was January and freezing outside. She didn’t make it to the bathroom, I thought. She told me she vomited on the teacher’s circle-time rug in front of the entire class. (So sorry about the rug, teacher.)

When Megan returned healthy to school a few days later, one of the more annoying boys in the class called her the “throw-up girl.” I told her about the time I was her age and threw up in my grandparents’ church lobby right after services let out. The place was packed with people, and they never completely got the stain out of the carpet.

“It happens,” Megan said. “My friend Janie said someone once puked on her bus.”

My family is typically healthier than the average family.

I can count on one hand the number of times my two children have thrown up during their lifetimes. All we typically deal with are a few colds per year.

Not so this school year. We still get flu shots, wash hands, clean the house, eat healthy, and try our best not to spread germs, but the illnesses keep popping up, and they are many and varied. They’ve hit Megan and me the hardest.

My husband, on the other hand, has an immune system of steel. If he does catch what we’ve got, it’s not bad enough for him to call off work. He’ll say, “My stomach hurt a little after lunch today.” Meanwhile, I’m at home throwing up and can barely drag myself to the kitchen to make a cup of herbal tea to keep myself hydrated.

Between Megan and me, we’ve had vomiting, bacterial and viral pinkeye, colds, and several rounds of flu-like bugs with persistent fevers. Also, I have been plagued by occasional cold sores since I was a child, and one of my colds triggered an outbreak.

My vision was still slightly blurry from viral pinkeye when I caught another bad cold – the type where your nose runs so prolifically that you have to keep a Kleenex perpetually jammed inside your nostril, and you stay home from church so people don’t have to listen to you blowing your nose throughout the sermon.

Sick days as a parent make me feel like we’re living the movie Groundhog Day.

To add insult, we got a form letter with strong shaming tones from the school district after Megan’s latest illness. She missed three consecutive days of school because of a fever.

“Megan’s attendance is irregular and therefore improvement must be made,” the letter scolded in passive voice.

“We can’t win,” I told my husband.

Of course I can’t send her to school sick. Any parent who sends a sick child to school deserves a lecture. It’s also evident I will get a lecture if I keep her home when she’s sick.

I’d love to rewrite that form letter. I would make it say something like, “Hey, your kid is a good student and you’re a good family with no truancy issues. We’re sorry it’s been such a crummy year. We hope you all feel better soon.”

When I commiserate with friends, it seems all families have bad years now and then – years when they’ve hardly shaken off one illness before a different one gets a foothold. Whether it’s bad luck, or a less-effective flu vaccine this year, or maybe the fact that you haven’t successfully convinced your children how unsanitary it is to pick their noses, illnesses just happen sometimes.

I can only hope next school year will be less crummy for our family and I experience less sick days as a parent. In the meantime, bring on the spring weather. My house needs a good airing.

What do your sick days as a parent look like? Any tips on how to stay healthy? 

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Category: Health

Tags: bad flu season