It starts in October, November if you’re lucky, and it doesn’t stop until April.
If you have a little person in your house, you know about the common colds that come and go and come and stay during the winter months of your small child’s life.
The snot. How it flows.
And you know it’s not really about the snot. I can tell, because you’re not grossed out one iota by the word “snot.” No, what it’s really about is your child’s inability to breathe at night, the lack of sleep your whole family experiences, the resulting ear infections, maybe bronchitis, or worse. It’s about how many events or days of work you’ve missed, how much time and money you’ve spent at The Minute Clinic, or maybe just how guilty you feel that your beloved small one is under the weather again.
Believe me, I’ve been there. The effects of the common cold in children under two or three are far reaching –no one sleeps, everyone is exposed to the germs because what little child knows how to contain their own germs?, and the total inability to effectively blow his or her nose is just really discouraging. Not to mention the effects on your furniture…but let’s not go there. And I am the last person who would make light of 3:00 a.m. worry fests. I’ve gotten up at odd hours of the night just to make sure my baby was still breathing about a million times now. Sometimes I go in and listen to my three-year-old and five-year-old breathe, even though SKDS (Sudden Kid Death Syndrome) is not a thing. It’s just the way moms are. We like to know our children are okay. And seeing them sick is hard.
But, there is hope, dear mother of a constantly sick toddler. Here are two things for you to remember today as you cuddle that snotty tot and read Goodnight Gorilla five more times today.
#1 It’s not your fault.
Repeat after me: “It’s not my fault.” And I’m serious. I’m not trying to pad your inner psyche with down feathers and soften reality. Your little children are being exposed to a world of germs for the first time ever. They are getting sick because their bodies haven’t built up immunity to certain common germs. I’m not a doctor, but it stands to reason that sometimes you have to get sick first to build up immunity. It stinks, but it’s the way it goes. And maybe there are some ways to boost their immunity a bit, but whether you’re using crazy awesome vitamins or hitting the essential oils harder, those little children are probably still going to get their fair share of viruses. Sure, it’s possible that day care or preschool is causing your child to be more exposed to germs than is really good for him or her. I would encourage you to consider your options there, but the main thing I’m trying to communicate here is all children get sick at this age, and they get sick way more often than we as moms think they should. It’s pretty natural in this messed up world of sicknesses. End your guilt trip and come home to this reality: you’re a good mom, even if your child gets sick.
#2 It will get better.
A few years ago, I had a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. We didn’t go anywhere but church, ballet class, and the occasional play date, but somehow we were still sick off-and-on for a large part of the winter. Now I have a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a baby. And you know what? The 5-year-old is hardly ever sick. The 3-year-old is sometimes sick. But it is so different than when there was a toddler in the mix. Toddlers just pick up everything! They still put stuff in their mouths more often than is appropriate or necessary. And the affectionate ones, while particularly heartwarming, sure do give a lot more hugs and kisses than is absolutely necessary! But when those toddlers become preschoolers, it actually does get better. They don’t get sick with every single thing they come in contact with, and when they do get sick, they can do amazing things like blow their noses, take cold medicine, sleep on a pillow…the list could go on and on. In a few years, sicknesses will still come and go in your household, but it won’t put a hex on the whole family’s ability to function as normal human beings like it does when you have a sick toddler.
So now that you know It’s Not Your Fault and It Will Get Better, here’s the important thing. It’s temping to just shut it down and not go anywhere. Amazon groceries, anyone? Maybe that’s a good option for certain situations. But for the vast majority of us parents, keeping our children from life to protect them from sickness has much worse consequences than the sicknesses themselves. For one thing, you’ll all go stir crazy. I’m an introvert to the core, and I still go crazy after a while of not interacting with other adults. For another thing, holing up in your home may be a good idea for short periods of time, but I’ve found it really squashes our ability to care for our friends. You know, to say, “yes, we are totally up for a play date today” or “sure, I can watch your child for a couple of hours.” I would much rather my children learn to care for people than stay completely healthy all the time. It’s hard to swallow my desire to control as much as I can about my children’s wellness, but building long lasting character in our families is way more important than preventing fleeting illnesses (I know, I know, they sure don’t feel fleeting sometimes, but back to Point #2…).
And you know now that I’ve written this down my whole family will be down with the flu tomorrow. It’s pretty much a done deal. So I’ll say to myself, “I am still a good mom and sickness is inevitable. This will get better. And friendships still matter.” Even in January/February/March.
This post is featured on the blog carnival “Works For Me Wednesday” over at Giving Up On Perfect. It’s a great place to get some ideas or perspective on life.