I like to believe that I am a caring parent. When I look at my child, I feel such an overpowering love. So powerful that I experience a shift within my core. It’s not just me that feels this way though, I know this is also true for my wife. I sometimes wonder if we have gone too far making our daughter the center of our lives, the crux of our days and our nights. We adore our daughter and probably spoil her with our time and attention. There are countless studies that have been done that tell you to make sure that you don’t forget to keep your marriage at the forefront. Now don’t get me wrong, my wife and I still attend social gatherings, throw occasional parties and every now and again get, ahem, romantic-like. Lately, I have been wondering if this devotion of attention to our daughter is having implications on our relationship as a married couple. That discussion, however, will have to wait until another time. What is really on my mind and that has sparked the passive aggressive writer in me is the lack of respect other parents show one another.
An event has recently unfolded in my household and is currently testing my resolve as a parent and as a husband. Quite honestly it has taken every shred of self control to not just write a abusive letter or just show up and give the director of our daughters school a serious tongue lashing. You see, my daughter has a viral sickness that she picked up, without question, at her daycare. There is no need to be alarmed as it is not a life threatening illness. Still, this has been a very trying time for me and my wife as it has pushed my relationship with my wife to an uncharted area. This situation has also validated my opinion on sending my daughter to daycare where irresponsible parents seem to not care for others’ welfare and put their needs above others.
Those closest to me know that I have never been the most patient person. Even though I try to show compassion, I often jump down peoples’ throats or have freak outs – this is how I cope when I get scared about a specific instance and can’t handle it well. I have been working on this shortcoming for the past two years, as patience is a needed virtue when one has a child. But with my little girl being ill, I feel myself needing some type of support group for the anger and terror that I feel running through me at this moment. I am not sure where my anger is coming from or where it should be directed. I just know that it is there.
In an effort to make sense of my anger, I will try to describe my situation.
Two weeks ago we received an email from our daycare. The email is written in “cute” comic sans…fuck you comic sans…in an effort to lighten the severity of the message. This “cute, happily worded” email stated that there had been a “limited breakout” of Coxsackie Virus. It went on to reassure us as to how the classroom had been professionally cleaned twice-a-week since the breakout (bullshit) and how they are being cleaned daily by the staff (underpaid college girls). I’ve watched them clean once. If you want an infected children’s playroom room cleaned effectively you need to hire a mother with four fucking children who knows a thing or two about getting shit clean. (Need. To. Calm. Down.) #Bleachablemoments
I digress. We watch our daughter…and we wait…and nothing happens. We are elated that we dodged the Coxsackie bullet and cheered our adult beverages to the upcoming weekend of birthday excitement. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention it was our daughter’s 2nd birthday. We had parties planned and food ordered/made.) Unfortunately, we celebrated a little too soon.
It began innocent enough with drooling. We thought, “Well, she is 2 years old now, maybe the molars are coming in?” “Yeah, it’s the molars. She keeps reaching in her mouth.” Then, all of a sudden, it happened; the floodgates opened and all hell broke loose. What followed was 48-hours of excruciating pain for my poor little girl – a fever over 104.8, mouth sores the size of nickels, lesions on her hands and feet, headaches, sore throat, an inability to drink, eat, sleep and soothe herself. Worse, there was nothing we, as parents could do to soothe her pain or her fear. My wife Lisa and I were more scared than anything. We teetered at the front door not sure if a trip to the ER was needed. We watched helplessly as our little princess writhed in pain. We tried anything and everything to take her aches away. We held her, massaged her, applied cool compresses, anything we could think of we did. Our fear quickly turned to anger and blame.
Slowly though, it began to wear on us. The hours blurred together, the sound of crying and whimpering become all we heard. I tried to escape the sounds of her pain but they were echoing in my ears. I kept telling myself, “She needs you to be her daddy, to hold her and make it alright.” It worked for a little while. I’d sack up again and did my best. I would hold her and rub her head and back while singing “Twinkle Twinkle”. Looking back on the experience as a whole, the mistake that my wife and I made was that we didn’t take care of her in shifts. This lead to us being worn out at the same time. We were her only line of defense and we were being destroyed by the passing hours, by the onslaught of cries and screams, and by our inability to be able to help our daughter.
Slowly, my patience ran out and I began grabbing onto anything to help me keep my sanity. (If I had enough hair, I would have pulled some out.) The constant screams of pain and fear coming from my little girl drove me mad. It was like a bad trip man – I just needed it to end. Eventually I broke down and I started going after my wife. I didn’t mean what I said and I honestly can’t believe I said what I said. I thought, “What an asshole you are! How can you be so insensitive to your own wife?” Not only that, but I found myself starting to lose my cool with my kid. That was the most scary part of it all. I can make up with my wife because adults fight and can rationalize the circumstances under which they were fighting about. (Well, most adults.) It’s different with kids, especially that young. I mean what kind of animal yells at a sick child? Luckily, it never got to that point. It was the first time that I have ever experienced such a sleep-deprived state with an extremely sick child – shit got real, and quick.
While my little lady still isn’t feeling 100%, the situation is much better. The virus is retreating and we are slowly getting back our daughter, and our sanity. We are even able to sleep. And as I reflect on this experience, I realize what I need to work on as a parent – patience and more patience. I have also been able to reflect on what I have done well: I’m a great cuddler and can sing “soft kitty” and “twinkle, twinkle” really well for a looooong time. I know that if I just focus on the shitty things this blog wouldn’t be worth writing and I would be perceived as a monster, which I know I am not. Having a child is one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced, yet it is also one of the scariest. The trials one goes through with a child can make one push themselves to unknown limits and it can also make the good better.
Looking at the good also helps me to see the good in others. I know that I couldn’t have done this all on my own. Lisa was a rock. Her compassion was second to none, and I can learn a thing or two from her on patience. Although we both had our moments where we wavered, we were able to hold strong and beat this moment of fear and uncertainty together. I still am a D-bag for some of the things that were said in the “heat of the moment” but I just hope that she will forgive me.
However, having a sick child is a responsibility that all parents have to deal with, and a large one at that. Not only is it a parental responsibility, but it is also a communal responsibility. This means that one should not shirk their responsibility by loading a contagious, and seriously ill child up with OTC medicine before dumping them into daycare or any school/public environment. This act is selfish and irresponsible. It is these sick children that expose other young children, and even the poor teachers, to flu’s and viruses that could be contained and otherwise avoided. Of course, there are exceptions. The common cold, sniffles, even a sore throat and cough can be looked past and begrudgingly understood by other parents and accepted as “ok”. It is when the illness goes beyond the “routine” and the implications are far more severe.
Maybe its time for some parents to get a refresher in common courtesy? Or possibly better, an ass whooping from a parent who is damn tired of their kid getting sick because they suck at taking responsibility? These are the same A-hole parent that goes to work sick and gets all their co-workers sick. Kudos to you! You are the D-bag parent of the year!
(I have thought of the extreme possibilities of single-parent homes or the poverty-stricken parents with sick children who could lose their job if they miss work. These are exceptions but I do not think this is the case every time a child is sick.) Even if these cases were the norm, I don’t believe that it should allow for this behavior and the disregard for the safety of others. What are we teaching our children at the same time? Are we telling them that it is OK to disregard the safety of others and to put others in harms way because, essentially, we can?
I am sure that I may have upset some people with this article. But this entry is my attempt to reflect and explore a horrible moment that my family had just experienced for the first time. It is not an attack on any parent, but rather from a parent who is frustrated and scared for what may be the next illness my daughter gets because someone chose to “dose and drop”. This is an experience that could have been avoided if responsibility had been taken. If nothing else I hope you, the reader, take the time next time your child is ill to stop and think about if your child is too sick to go to school. And if you really don’t care about the other children or teachers at least think about your child most likely becoming more ill than they already are. My heart goes out to all parents and guardians who experience moments like these, and those that live with illnesses that cannot be treated with Tylenol, patience, and cuddles. I know that many more families live with the challenges of a chronically ill child, and that my situation pales in comparison. However that is not the point of this article so please realize that I do know and sympathize with those who are living with those extremes.