When you first have a baby and your a saggy mess of hormones, nerves, and adrenaline, the uncertainty of what you’re actually supposed to do with another human being can be overwhelming. So while well meaning friends and relatives and “been there” strangers will try to assure you there is no guidebook to parenting so whatever you are doing to survive is fine, what you really want is for someone to tell you exactly what to do so everyone makes it safely to high school graduation.
And then, as you’re helpless little human spawn continues to be helpless, you will hear it again. There are lots of ways to be a good mother, so “trust your instincts.” And at this point you will probably question your intuition and assume that yours is faulty. Because, why is the little person still crying?
Telling a new mother to trust her instincts is like telling a 10 year old to “just be yourself.” You don’t know who you are at 10 and you can’t be sure you have any motherly instincts upon giving birth because they’ve never really been tested before. And again, someone will tell you to just relax because there is no guidebook to motherhood.
But the thing is, there is. There are. There are entire sections of bookstores devoted to telling you how to care for your child. There are hundreds and hundreds of websites and know-it-all bloggers just dying to tell you the 3 things you should never say to your child or the 5 things you should always say. Or, the 10 things I should never let my child do or the 7 things I should always make my child do. Everyone’s got an answer and none of them are particularly helpful because they are either completely contradictory or so vague that when you’re trying to find out if it’s normal for your bundle of love to poop 5 times a day, you will find that pretty much everything is “normal” unless he spouts two heads and is pooping flowers.
We’ve been sick recently (common cold type stuff) and there is lots of information you can find about household remedies for various illness. Or what to expect if you pay the doctor a visit or even how to determine if you should actually go to the doctor. But what is missing (I think), is how exactly to handle your toddler when they’re kind of sick. So, lucky you, I will start the conversation and you can add to it, or disagree or tell me the 10 ways I am ruining my children.
1. Don’t bother trying to disinfect. It’s too late. Toddlers are fast, their sneezes powerful, and their urge to touch everything too strong. By the time their little noses have started running, you’re just going to end up using up all your disinfecting wipes for naught.
2. Instead, embrace the germs. If you have multiple children, expose them as soon as possible. “Here, use your brothers hand to wipe your snot.” Resist the urge to then wash brother’s hand. You see a sneeze coming on, pick up the other child(ren) and get them right in front of the line of fire (open mouthed is best). It’s best to have everyone sick at the same time. Eventually, everyone in the house will contract a version of the illness. Don’t fight it. Anyone who tries to tell you different is either lying or should start lying to not sound so perfect. Because no one likes a perfect parent.
3. Number 2 only holds true for other children. Do NOT, I repeat, do not try to infect yourself. There is nothing worse than being sick while trying to nurse sick children. This also holds true for spouses. I think their are two types of sick adults. Those who act like giant babies and those who refuse any care. Both are bad and neither type makes dealing with your sick children any easier. Buy some masks, wear some gloves and cordon off a designated safe zone (which is out of the house. See #1).
4. Do not ask your sick toddler how he/she feels. They don’t know. Or they’re trying to trick you. Or just make you completely insane. I’m not sure if this is true of all toddlers but mine will be whining and moaning as if death is upon them and then 75 seconds later will be up racing around the house. “I feel better!” Five minutes after that, back on the couch. They are creatures who defy laws of science and common sense.
5. Since you won’t really know exactly how sick they are, only go to the doctor if you really start to panic. This is different for every parent and will likely change as your kids grow and/or multiply. (I’m pretty sure my younger brother didn’t meet our pediatrician until the age of 5 or so. We had a universal jug of penicillin in the medicine cabinet that my mother freely and liberally dispensed to whomever. Family doctors in the 80s…they were the best!) Anyway, there is nothing more frustrating than having a doctor tell you your kid has a virus and you just have to “let it run its course.” They will try to make you feel better by giving you a rough idea how long the course will be, but they don’t really know. And if you’re really lucky, they’ll write you a prescription for saline drops and tell you they might help. This may be true but wrestling my toddler down while trying squirt salt water up his nose is about as fun as wresting a wet fish (which I don’t do), so I can’t say for sure.
6. Since it’s probably a virus and there is nothing you can do, you may as well send them to school. You’ll feel a little guilty about this at first but after the fifth or so time your perfectly healthy child comes home with some other kid’s germs, you’ll realize all is fair in schools and germs. If they call you to tell you you better pick him up, act dumb. “Really? Not feeling well? He said he was fine this morning.”
7. And just when you feel like their nose will never stop running, remember you can use this to your advantage. Whenever your little angel starts acting up at inappropriate places/times, sound casually confused and say, “He usually doesn’t act like this. He must not be feeling well. He’s had a runny nose for a while now.” It’s the perfect catch all excuse for bad behavior. (It replaces “he must be teething” from the infant stage.)
Now, don’t go thinking I’m acting like some know-it-all blogger or perfect parent. (They’re the worst!) If I were either of those things, my pristinely sanitized house and unusually-resilient darlings wouldn’t get sick in the first place.
And then just an hour after posting this, I checked my inbox and have a message titled, “7 Ways to Soothe a Sick Toddler” (though none are as I suggest). Funny.