I made my sick kid cry.
No, I’m not a monster, it’s just that he was perched on the couch, ordering his third $4.99 pay-per-view movie in as many days, and I was beginning to feel a bit manipulated.
Lest you think I am totally clueless, he did start out with red, crusty eyes and dark eye circles and he was rather pale so I know that he had been sick. We even went to the doctor where he was given eye drops and I was scolded for letting him go to a water park (aka a giant Petri dish) where no one knows what diseases lurk around the edges of the pool. But that was day one. Even day two seemed legitimate, but by day three, I had my doubts. So, I decided to whip out my slightly rusty, legal skills and cross-examine my 11-year-old.
I started off well. I sat next to him, wiped the hair off his forehead and pretended to check for the fever that I knew was not there:
“So, I think you should go to school today,” I said very tenderly.
I stood up and blocked the TV. “Are you listening to me?” I asked. “I said, that I think you seem a lot better so you should go to school today.”
He shifted on the couch to get a better view of Jack Black as Gulliver.
“You know, I don’t really think that you are sick enough to be staying home from school.”
Still no response.
(Here is where I start to pick up steam) “In fact, it seems that the only time that you are really sick is when I ask you to get off the couch. (Louder now) “I’m sure that if I told you that you could have a friend over, right now, you would suddenly perk up.”(Wait, it gets better…) “If you stay home today you don’t get to use the computer, or the TV or any video games, you can read a book. In fact,” (almost yelling now) you can sit in your room. If you were really sick you would be sleeping!”
I turned off the TV with a flourish and pointed toward the staircase to his room.
I knew I lost it. I mean, really? All sick kids take to their beds? What was I talking about?
I never did that – I spent the day on the couch and watched TV when I was sick just like every other kid.
So, here I am, knowing that I’ve gone too far (even the dog abandoned me by this point) when my son’s tears start to flow. “You never believe me!” he wailed.
And still I hesitated. My son is quite dramatic, you see, so usually the tears don’t clinch it right away. (I once found him lying on the floor, clutching his chest and gasping for air, howling that he couldn’t breathe in the winter coat that I insisted he wear– in February, in Chicago. So, yes, he is quite dramatic.)
But this time it was real: the shaking shoulders, the runny nose, the blubbering. He’s a good actor, but not that good.
So, after many hugs and many apologies for my outburst, I reached for the phone to call the school to let them know that he would be out for another day. Just as I picked up the phone, it rang. It was the nurse calling from the doctor’s office to tell me that my son had strep throat and needed antibiotics.
So, like all people who suddenly feel very sick, I took to my couch to watch TV…just like my kid.
Connie Lissner is a writer, lawyer, wife and more importantly, the mother of two boys. She was once told that a child’s job is to constantly push a parent’s limits. She assures you that her boys do their job very well. She, in turn, is trying to do her job of not totally screwing them up. She navigates the slippery slope of motherhood one day at a time.