“Mommy! It’s weird enough staying home on a Monday school day, but staying home without M is even weirder!” my daughter J told me while munching on dry rice cereal this morning.
We didn’t have the weekend we’d hoped for. I went to the gym Saturday morning, as planned. We spent part of the morning cleaning the house, then stopped by a store for a birthday present before getting on the road to a friend’s birthday party. About a mile from the house, I heard a sound from the back seat. I looked in the rearview mirror, and poor little M was vomiting. When she could finally catch her breath, she began to cry. “I wanna go home. Mommy, take me home.”
I was stuck at a red light in a turn lane, helpless to comfort her. As soon as I could, I turned the car around and headed home. I talked to her the entire very long mile home and she just took turns throwing up and crying. I opened J’s window for her when she began to gag. Thankfully, her breakfast stayed down.
As we pulled into our driveway, I told J that I needed her to fend for herself while I tended to her sister. I unlocked the door and let J in, then returned to the car to lift my sobbing, retching, vomit-covered M straight into the bathtub. By this time she was apologizing for the mess in the car, which I told her not to worry about. I got the shower set to a comfortable temperature, helped take off M’s clothes, then left her in the warm water to throw the soiled clothing in the washing machine. I washed the puke out of her hair and helped her wash her skin, which had her feeling much better. She asked to wear her pajamas, pathetically telling me she really didn’t want to go out again that day.
While she dressed herself, I pulled the nasty car seat out of the car. As I was pulling the cover off, I heard a wail from the girls’ room. M had thrown up again, this time on the carpet. I comforted her, dressed her, and tucked her under covers on the couch with a big bowl in her lap in case she felt nauseated again. The car seat cover went in the washing machine too, and I started it on the sanitary cycle. Then I took my carpet cleaner to the spot on the carpet.
M wanted me to hold her, which I did for a while, feeling her grow steadily warmer in my arms as she took breaks to throw up. I took her temperature, which was a miserable 102°F. Fortunately, she was able to keep a dose of ibuprofen down. By this time, J insisted that she was bored. I gave her a number of ideas for activities, but she wanted me to play with her. When M felt better, I hosed off the car seat and cleaned the car upholstery and carpet and then played a few rounds of Funglish with the girls.
(The things we moms do… comfort babies, clean up vomit, provide security and medical care. I would have never guessed this would become second nature and feel completely manageable. This stuff is easy after twinfancy!)
The next morning, M had her appetite back and was ready for cereal. The fever didn’t return, and by evening she was her normal goofy dancing self… but not before her sister began to complain of a headache, completely lose her appetite, and run her own fever.
Fortunately, J never threw up, but I elected to keep her home from school today. Daycare rules have been drilled into me for all time. No kids in school until they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours.
M tried to convince me to let her stay home, but was more than happy to go to school when she realized she wouldn’t have to go to after-school care. And that brings me back to the beginning of this post.
“Mom,” J told me, pondering the clock, “In a few minutes, M will be starting science.” An hour later, I got an update. “Now, M will be writing in her journal.”
I found it intriguing that J didn’t seem particularly concerned with what she was missing or what the class was doing. Her focus was on M’s activities. One of those twin things, I suppose.
When illnesses are minor like this, it’s so much easier to have one child be sick at a time.