Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two-Year-Olds Just Don't Care

WARNING: The following post might not be suitable for those who have trouble reading about illness.  Pittsburgh Steelers fans are also advised against reading it, since they probably are feeling ill themselves, and reading a post about sickness might make them feel worse.

Getting sick ain't what it used to be.  Before Kyle was born, we would spend a sick day lying on the couch, snoozing, eating soup, and watching old game shows and TV movies (from Bollywood if we were lucky).  Our home would be quiet, naps would be long, and recovery would be fairly swift.  The caregiver (usually the spouse) didn't worry, and often the thermometer was never taken out.  Having a child changed all that. 

I've discovered that being sick with a child is not easy.  It's not easy when you're sick, and it's certainly not easy when the child's sick.  However, the scenarios could not be more different.  Tender loving care is a one-way street, especially with a two-year-old.

Our son became sick on Thursday.  The illness came with just a single warning at dinner time.  Kyle, who had been running around all day and acting like his usual self, barely touched his dinner before saying, "All done!"  I had been washing dishes, as our apartment, like many in New York, was last renovated before dishwashers were invented.  I thought the little guy was just being picky, so I told him to just stay put while I finished scrubbing, with hopes that he'd change his mind and start eating.  Then, out of nowhere, "BLLAAAAHHH!" 

Kyle's lunch was suddenly all over his dinner, and all over his shirt.  Compliments to the chef.  I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran to him.  I mopped up his stunned face, found him a new shirt, and cleaned the mess on the tray.  Everything else I hoped to do that evening was canceled, as I spent the rest of the time pampering the poor little guy and helping him through this illness.

Kyle did not give Jennifer and me the same kind of treatment one Sunday night in December, when we were both hit with food poisoning. Jennifer and I took turns watching over Kyle while the other one spent some "quality time" in the bathroom.  Kyle seemed oblivious to our struggle.  He ran up and down the apartment, laughing and yelling joyfully, as one of us sat on a kitchen chair, staring blankly at him while trying hard to stay composed until the bathroom became available again.

When Kyle became sick, we let him rest in his crib and gave him plenty books to read.  When we became sick, Kyle still demanded that we pick him up and carry him until our arms were sore.  When Kyle became sick, we rubbed his back as he lay on the couch moaning.  When we were sick, Kyle still wanted to wrestle with us, and he jumped head-first onto my fragile stomach.  When Kyle was sick, I quickly brought him to the bathroom, and stood beside him as he threw up into the toilet, telling him that it was all going to be okay.  When we were sick, I sat alone in the bathroom, exorcising the demons.  From there, I could hear a child's voice in our dining room, giggling and shouting "BLLAAAAHHH," mimicking the sounds he heard coming from me.  No sympathy at all.

In fact, Kyle's most tender moments come when he's sick.  He will sit still, and he will cuddle with us.  While we love the affection, it makes us feel worse because we know he's ill.  I would rather have the laughing, wrestling, screeching, stubbornness, and even the fake barfing.  Having gone through several of Kyle's illnesses, and all the worries and feelings of sadness that come with them, I realize that, no matter how bad I feel when I'm sick, it's much worse when the little guy's not well.  I'm glad he's better today.

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