The first time my ex-husband had the flu, I locked him away in the bedroom and told him not to dare come out. I threatened his life if he made the kids sick. He teases me about this to this day and says he had to beg for food and water.
“Honey, could I please have something to eat?” which was followed by my grumble from the other room. Three hours later he’d call out, “Honey, did you happen to make me anything to eat yet?”
I don’t remember it quite that way but I know I didn’t want him anywhere near me when he’s sick.
I thought it was just him. Surely I was a good mom – I could stack puke bowls with the best of them, wash sheets, clean up putrid messes in the middle of the night and still cuddle my poor sick children when they needed me. I was just not interested in a sick-o husband. I have no patience for that and little compassion.
Perhaps it comes from enduring the nine-month flu (pregnancy) three times; complete with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (look it up, I dare you) and several IVs for dehydration. I must have gone cold since then to poor namby pamby men who cannot take the one-day bug or one-week flu like a woman.
We rarely got sick in our family at the time, so it had been a long while since one of the older boys was truly ill. But when my oldest reached 10 years old in 2005 and got the 24-hour bug I realized I’d entered the dark side of parenting and it wasn’t just anti-sick husband issues any longer. My son fell ill and I was repulsed by his very germ-laden presence.
Oh no! Had my son gotten so old that I was now uncaring when he got sick too? And really, I knew the truth almost immediately but I hid it from my husband lest he worry about the children. My son had reached a developmental milestone that my neuroses had made up and the evidence was clear. It was as clear as spittle that drools from gaping mouths during dry heaves: I’d gone cold to my boy.
My son carefully nudged me awake early in the morning, whispering about a stomach ache. I nary opened an eyelid but (lovingly) shoved his germy breath out of my face and told him he’d be fine, and to go back to bed.
“You probably just need to poop!”
Snoring within seconds I didn’t hear him hurling in the bathroom, just a room away. I realized after I’d gotten up later that morning that the only reason I cared was because he’d left last night’s undigested dinner in my sink. I was horrified that after 10 years with me he didn’t know where to aim.
Hello! Where’s the compassion? I held this child every moment of his first 11 months. I caressed him to sleep when he had pneumonia. I held him close when he had fever chills. And now? Now I’d become a Momster!
I forced myself to open his door and covered my face with my shirt so I didn’t suck in his disease-riddled breath. I said, “Are you sick?” and before he fully answered I said, “That’s fine,” and slammed the door with a promise of all the ginger ale he could drink if only he would STAY IN HIS ROOM.
Not that I wanted him in my house but I knew if I sent him to school they would make me come and get him. Besides, I could put much more room between my lungs and his at home than I could in the car.
I hustled into the younger boys’ room and let out a war whoop to end all monkey business. Attention boys! Death is imminent. Black Hawk down in the next room. The germs are seeping under the door as we speak. You’re lucky you haven’t succumbed. The last boy down the stairs is indeed dead meat. Hustle, hustle, hustle! Anyone touches that diseased child’s door with even their line of vision will be swiftly dealt with!
No one gets sick on my watch. One was an accident; two is a hex on our entire family.
The boys saluted the Momster and with eyes forward, barreled down the stairs to freedom. After they went to school I returned to the death room, dressed in gas mask, and offered up a sandblaster and a long, tall pitcher of ginger ale.
But with my husband’s words echoing in my head that I was neglectful during his illnesses, I couldn’t take the chance that if I left a wee boy in this state in his room alone that he wouldn’t make it through the day. What good would I be to my remaining healthy children from jail?
So I did the unthinkable (to me) and invited him into my room. I guess I’m not such a bad mom after all. But I warned him that I would be working nearby and I have my own cold which means my immune system is down and if he so much as breathes in my direction, he’s a goner. He would be allowed to talk to me from across the room when color came back to his lips.
Loving the dimensions of my king-sized bed I let him tuck into the foot of my husband’s side, while I draped mine in plastic and posted a sign on my pillow. “Only the dead dare touch this pillow.”
He sipped happily from his ginger ale and for the first couple of hours, everything was peaceful.
It wasn’t until the vomiting and diarrhea started that I flipped out again. I forced the child to scrub his hands with soap and water more times that day than in the year prior. I approached the bathroom like the morgue filled with plague victims. Every time he touched something with even a finger I yanked it away and rubbed it down.
When he closed in for comfort, I held him at arm’s length squealing at him to stop breathing and wash those hands again! He eyeballed me wearily, wondering when his perfect kidlet life had ended and he was now alone. So very alone. Had he already entered the compassion-less world of adult women, relationships and resulting loneliness?
We made it through the day and I sent him off to bed. At 7:30 the next morning I had disinfected everything and I finally unlocked his casualty room. “Are you better?” I whispered from under my shirt, and he was! I tossed his little butt into the shower to scrub off the stench, shoved an industrial-sized toothbrush past his furry tongue and I hosed down his room with disinfectant.
I took no chances though and forced him out the door to the school bus before he could touch anything important. I even tied his shoes for him. Let him infect the school, I didn’t care, the scourge needed to be out of my house!
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