The Highs & Lows of Solo Parenting with Two Sick Boys – Kveller
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The Highs & Lows of Solo Parenting with Two Sick Boys

Both of my boys were sick this past weekend. Thank God, nothing bad, not the flu, just high fever, runny, lethargic, and fitful all night and most of the day as well. I was alone with the boys, with my tendinitis hand and my low patience, which seems to be the tagline to my life right now: “Mayim Bialik: Actress, Neuroscientist, Low Patience.”

Here are the high points and low points, presented alternately, so as to spread out the bad and sprinkle them with good.

High Point: Sometimes they both fell asleep and napped at the same time. That has never happened in the 4 1/2 years since Fred was born. I saw how people who have kids who “sleep well” or people who “sleep train” and do “cry it out” must feel: a sense of peace and calm because people are actually sleeping and it’s quiet. I still do not regret that I didn’t sleep train or do any modified or overt “cry it out,” but I’m just saying, there’s nothing like the quiet of small people sleeping. I get it now.

Low Point: I don’t use Western medicine for the most part, especially for viruses and the symptoms of viruses: fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache, aches. I use alternative methods; I use homeopathy (not quite sure about it but it seems to work and it doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure), essential oils and massage and healing broths and liquids, and just good old fashioned holding. I’ve given up the notion that I’ll get anything done when kids are sick because they want you in their clammy clutches every second, don’t they.

Anyway, my older son was coughing (that dry tickly cough which for some unexplained reason makes me very very on edge, I’ll work on that…), and I don’t own any fancy throat spray with anaesthetic properties, but I do own a hippy-dippy Slippery Elm throat spray which works, but admittedly tastes horrible. I watered it down and thought I could slip some of that Slippery Elm (what, that’s not why it’s called that?) to my boy. Remember this is the middle of the night, and he’s been crying on and off and complaining miserably and I’m just praying younger son stays asleep, even though he keeps rustling about and threatening to wake up and give me a second crying sad sick person to handle. Anyway. I give older son the diluted Slippery Elm spray, and I guess it wasn’t as well camouflaged as I thought, because apparently the taste is so awful to him that he spits it right back out, right onto the bed. All of it.

Remember: we all sleep together. One bed. One set of sheets…which are now covered in Slippery Elm throat spray and his saliva. The low point was that I put my head down and started to weep. Older son looked confused, and I realized I had to get it together. So I grabbed a towel, now looking like one of the Marx Brothers or a Tasmanian Devil, running about frantically like a crazy woman grabbing towels, hoping he doesn’t start throwing up or something else worse. Thankfully, he laid back down and eventually fell asleep. But me crying on the bed was definitely a low point.

High Point: No one was hungry all weekend. I made sure they kept up with fluids, and that they were peeing regularly clearish urine (it’s actually pretty hard to get dehydrated, and if you learn the signs and symptoms of dehydration, you’ll be well informed so you don’t rush them to Urgent Care of start pumping them full of pedia-whatever unnecessarily). But no one had an appetite and it reminded me how laborious it is to feed small people. They had some broth, and a few crackers and hummus, but otherwise it was a sort of vacation from food preparation. They even refused some of the vegan peanut butter chocolate shake I got on Sunday for myself; that’s some sick potatoes. I wouldn’t wish for this kind of “vacation from food preparation” if it means my kids being sick, but it was one less thing to think about, that’s for sure!

Low Point: Older son tends to talk in his sleep, and sometimes he gets disoriented when he gets up to go potty at night, and needs redirecting, but with the fever and whatnot, he almost peed on the bookcase (I was able to side-step that and whisk him to the bathroom), and he was seriously talking up a storm, but this time with his eyes WIDE OPEN. You know that Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman movie “Eyes Wide Shut“? Well, this was “Miles’ Eyes Wide Open” and talking about things that did not exist. What FREAKED me out was when, his little face six inches from mine, he declared in the creepiest horror-film whisper imaginable: “Someone’s here.” My heart stopped. I felt chills up the back of my spine. I felt like crying because it was so so so creepy, but I held it in and said, “I’m sorry, what?” And he repeated it. And I thought maybe he was right, but I told him, “No one’s here. It’s the cats.” I didn’t really know if I was certain, but he fell back asleep and indeed, no one was there. Just the cats.

Low Point: In an effort not to get sick myself, I ingested two teaspoons of raw garlic each night during the weekend. Older son, complete with lack of filter, but using a scientific term rather than a scatological one in an effort to not hurt my feelings, told me in no uncertain terms, “Mama, you smell like feces.” This made me laugh. But he wasn’t kidding. Raw garlic to a sick 7-year-old apparently smells like feces. Duly noted.

High Point: Let’s end on a high point, shall we? Older son was pretty much grumpy-pants all weekend, and that’s his prerogative, I suppose. But when he needed to sleep and nap, he cuddled right up to me like a sweet baby. He had me put my arm under him as we did for so many years as I nursed him through the nights and days, and he rested his head on my chest, and he would sleep. Then my shoulder would start hurting from the weight of his big head on my arm and shoulder and I remembered that pain as one of the reasons we had to encourage him to sleep other ways when he was a toddler. And I also don’t want to hurt my shoulder and have to go to therapy any longer than I have to already for my hand, despite prematurely grey hand therapist making it as fun as can be.

Having sick kids is hard. And I am grateful to live in a country where fresh clean water is available, and where there is Urgent Care if we need it, and I know it could have been so much worse. But it’s still hard.

It’s hard to be alone with sick kids as you are getting a divorce. It’s just hard.

I am glad I kept it together for them as best as I could. I am glad I am their mama, even if I do it so imperfectly that I doubt myself and beat myself up. I do, I doubt myself all the time. I want to be better, I want to be more patient. I want less intensity and less stress.

I’m grateful for humility, because it makes me never satisfied with where I am. Next time, I want to be better, and I want to do it better. It won’t ever be perfect, but I guess I get to keep on trying. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to keep on trying.

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