Monday, January 25, 2010

What Goes Around Comes Around: Sending Sick Kids to School -- by Jamie

Last week, after a perfectly normal Thursday, I put Jayda to bed, only to have her wake me up at 2:30 a.m. saying, “Mommy, something’s not right.” I touched her forehead, and it was burning hot. After taking her temperature and discovering it was 102.6, I dosed her with Tylenol and insisted she put a cold cloth on her head while I held her in my arms. Always the drama-queen, Jayda then started moaning, “I sick, mommy…I sick.” “I know, baby,” I murmured, “Mommy’s here…and I’ll take you to the doctor first-thing in the morning.”

“I don’t want to go to the doctor!” Jayda snapped back. “I want to play!” And she jumped out of bed and proceeded to do just that…for two hours. Some fever. After dozing on and off, myself, until 4:30 a.m., I finally coaxed Jayda back into bed with me, and she fell asleep in my arms. At 6:30 a.m., I woke up and felt her forehead, and it was cool as a cucumber. The thermometer confirmed this, displaying 98.6 degrees. And yet, despite Jayda’s protestations, as well as the big pile of writing projects waiting for me on my desk, I took Jayda to the doctor at 9 a.m. He couldn’t find anything wrong with her—even swabbed her negatively for strep throat when I told him it was rampant at Jayda’s day care—and surmised that it must have been a virus, or even a minor strain of the flu that had only lasted for a few hours because Jayda had been immunized. Jayda’s exam was over by 9:30, so I had to ask: “Can I send her to school today?” The doctor looked at me sternly and said, “That’s not a medical question—it’s a social question. She IS fine…but she obviously caught whatever she had last night from someone at school. Do you really want someone else to catch it from her?” And so, I took Jayda home with me—a very healthy, incredibly hyper Jayda—with the realization that all the work I’d planned to do that day because I wouldn’t be able to do it on Monday (when Jayda would be home with me for Martin Luther King Day) would have to get done after Jayda’s bedtime. And an already-exhausted mommy would have to spend her entire day entertaining a tireless kid. Sometimes having a conscience sucks.

Last week, we had a play date with a friend whose 2-1/2-year-old son has never been in day care; my friend’s mom watches her little boy while she and her husband work full-time. However, my friend called me an hour before we were supposed to meet to give me a heads-up that her son had a runny nose. I laughed. Well, of course I also thanked her for her sensitivity (it’s always nice to know I have thoughtful friends), but then I informed her that as long as her child didn’t have a fever or a contagious disease, I had no problem with my child playing with him in a public place (as was our plan). These days I don’t even blink an eye at runny noses, coughs, and colds, as they’ve been a part of our daily lives ever since Jayda started day care at 3-1/2 months.

Jayda has a constant flurry of colds all winter long; if I kept her home from day care every time she had one, half of my tuition would be wasted. And while personally having a cold can make me pretty darn miserable, having one doesn’t seem to slow my kid down much. She won’t nap. She won’t rest. And she certainly won’t go to bed early. If anything, she just requires even more attention from me than ever, and, if I dare ask how she’s feeling, she only plays on my sympathies (Jayda: “Mommy, I sick! I need a special treat to feel better.” Me: “Oh, poor baby. What kind of special treat, honey?” Jayda: “M&Ms, Mommy. Lots of them.”) So while on occasion I wonder, “Should I keep Jayda home today?” when she seems especially congested, I generally wind up sending her to day care in the end, because I figure she’ll be happier there…and, let’s face it, so will I.

But is that fair? Is it the right thing to do? I can’t say for sure. But it is my reality. It’s tough keeping a kid home from school when you have other obligations—no matter what your circumstances are. So I’ve given myself some slack in regards to minor sniffles and colds. But fevers and flus and infectious diseases? Never. The kid who gave Jayda her mysterious fever should never have been at day care—and the parent who sent the child there should be ashamed (if the child was exhibiting symptoms, that is). I bitched and moaned for days about staying home with Jayda on Friday, and it took me three weekend nights to finish the work I’d hoped to do on her sick day, but I know I did the right thing—even if Jayda never seemed the slightest bit sick. And Jayda certainly didn’t mind having an extra day at home with her Mommy…or an extra helping of “feel better” M&Ms.

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