This past week was a milestone of sorts: It marked the first time both kids were sick at the same time. I know! It IS weird that they don’t make a Hallmark card for that. I’ll spare you the details, but in summary, we had a snotty, feral baby with a high fever and four molars breaking through simultaneously, as well as a toddler with a cold, who was exceedingly surly and prone to statements such as “I need soda now. It will help my heavy nose feel better. I love you, Mommy.” Which, I mean, I don’t even know what to say to that. Except that “Heavy Nose” is totally going on the list of potential singles for my hypothetical band, the Rapturous Zipper Protuberances, so named for the best spam subject line I have ever received.
I mention all of this because, well, I love both of my children dearly, but hot damn, BOTH of them sick at the same time was…difficult. J and I kept eyeing each other suspiciously if the other so much as looked at the front door: “What are you doing?” “Taking out the recycling! Jeez!” “THEN WHY DO YOU HAVE YOUR PASSPORT, ASSHOLE?” “I WAS JUST INSPECTING IT! NOT FLEEING THIS PLAGUE-RIDDEN HOUSE, IF THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE THINKING!”
Fine, perhaps it wasn’t that bad, but it was a bit stressful.
And you know, I tried, I really did, to find some useful ideas online for how to distract miserable sick kids, and make them more comfortable, but they only responded to my well-intentioned YET INSIPID ministrations (“juice? extra pillow?”) by escalating their moaning. I realized the guidance sucked, threw the metaphorical playbook out the window, and…behold!
I share with you here my patented (read: not patented) five-step program, What To Do If Your Children Are Sick At The Same Time:
1. Deal With Their Noses. Because My God. -- Difficulty Level: Easy to Medium, depending on your puppetry skills
Hey, you know what sucks about cold-having, teething babies that don’t know how to blow their noses? Everything! But more specifically, the fact that, if your baby is anything like mine, he/she flails wildly about if they so much as glimpse the tissue approaching their wee, raw nose, and then! THEN! Heaven forbid you actually make tissue-to-nose contact, they act as though the tissue is CRAFTED FROM PRESSED BATTERY ACID. COATED IN FIRE ANTS. ILL-TEMPERED ONES. And let’s not forget the aforementioned “heavy-nosed” three-year old, who kept sighing and generally looking like a sad-eyed Precious Moments figurine whenever I suggested that perhaps he could entertain the thought of blowing his nose.
My solution came to me while giving them one in an endless series of baths: I was cleaning their faces with their washcloth puppets (you know, like these) ,talking in a ridiculous and embarrassing puppet voice, and I realized they were not making a PEEP. I pressed my luck, quickly tickling them with said puppet washcloths, and then, while they were still giggling, attacking their noses. Miraculously, it worked.
I kept the gig up, assigning each of them a washcloth puppet Specifically Designated for the Gross Cleaning of Noses. The distraction of the puppet was effective, earth-friendly (like I’d give a badger’s ass in this situation, but still), and afforded me the opportunity to work on my puppet voice. Which in case you’re wondering, sounds like a Barney/Yoda/Grover hybrid. Everybody wins! Including the planet! YOU’RE WELCOME, EARTH.
2. Sacrifice Yourself on the Altar of Dignity, aka, play The Tent Game -- Difficulty Level: Medium to Hard, depending upon ease of tent procurement and relative size of your butt.
My kids were whiny and listless, so I figured that perhaps breaking out some of the toys they hadn’t played with in a while might perk them up. They have this tiny pop-up tent thing which hasn’t seen the light of day in MONTHS. They asked me to play in it with them, but alas, my ass couldn’t fit through the tent door. (In my defense, it’s REALLY SMALL. The tent door, that is. Not my ass. CLEARLY.) Naturally, they thought this was hilarious, and begged me to try to get in again. And so it was that I spent the better part of an hour dramatically and loudly lamenting the size of my posterior precluding me from getting through the door. Occasionally, I’d mix it up and have them try to shove me through, kind of like a circus elephant into a train car, which they found humorous.
3. Godzilla Baby Wars --Difficulty Level: Easy
Build elaborate block tower with older child. Call “Oh, GodZILLaaaaaa!” to baby child. Predictable results, easily repeated, perfect for those run-out-the-clock situations.
4. Putting To Use Oft-Overlooked Hobbies -- Difficulty Level: Easy, for YOU.
My friends, I was a gymnast back in the day, and wouldn’t you know it, children love watching people do somersaults and cartwheels. And YES, I may have done about 73 of them over the past few days, but dammit, the sick kids were happy. You may not have been a gymnast, but perhaps you know magic tricks? Juggling? Drawing cartoon characters? Trust me, there’s something to entertain them. Just put away the 12-sided die.
5. Bubbles! -- Difficulty Level: Easy
Oh my god, LIFESAVER. You know that scene in Knocked Up where Paul Rudd is all, “I wish I liked ANYTHING as much as my kids like bubbles”? It’s kind of true.
Fortunately, they both seem to be on the mend, but I know at the first sign of the next round of sniffles, the tiny, dignity-destroying tent is coming out again. Sigh...Whatever works, right?