A colleague was ill? I was concerned. I was cautious. I calmly ran down lists in my head of contacts I'd had with them so I could professionally assess my risk. I never felt a sense of eminent dread.
With children, the stakes for all bets go up. With children who are nursery-aged and (especially) school-aged, I found a point of empathy with pioneer women. (I understand you weren't expecting that comparison, but bear with me.) How often did a lone wagon face starvation, dehydration, illness or catastrophe? How often did someone look up, see vultures circling, and know a grim certainty that eventually they'd come for you, too?
One child gets sick, and I know my second will, too. It's reasonable. They play together often and rarely heed constant reminders to "cover your mouth when you cough!" My daughter is distraught if her brother leaves for school without hugging and kissing her good-bye, and dealing with the certainty of her meltdown versus the chance she'll get sick is a no-brainer in my mind.
Sometimes I hope the child/parent barrier will halt infections. I wash my hands numerous times a day. I turn faces away from mine when I see a cough coming. I've tried to keep a clean-but-not-sterile house so they aren't grimy but still have immune systems. We have a dog, so they're exposed to dander. I'm telling you, I've thought this through!
Then we enter my uncalculable realms, the ones where numbers don't work. My feverish son this weekend, who rarely cuddles anymore, who seemed most content when I was next to him on the couch, stroking his strawberry-blond head and quietly asking now and then if he'd like something to drink, getting him acetaminophen -- all the things that still have me wanting MY mom when I'm sick. Being known and anticipated in your needs or your desire to be left alone is among God's greatest relational gifts. The risk I chose willingly was greater exposure to whatever germ had him complaining of leg pain (just above his knees) and limping for two days.
The vultures came closer last night.
An hour after I tumbled into bed, I woke to a small voice next to my bed, tearful because she'd gone to the bathroom in her underwear. I will never again fail to put on my glasses to handle such things. Only after I stumbled out of bed, found clean underwear, a warm sleeper, and picked up her soiled underwear did I realize it was both liquid and semi-solid. Lights on, woke sleeping husband, put on glasses (I'm legally blind without them), ran a bath, scrubbed carpet, husband scrubbed child's bed, started laundry soaking... chaos for minutes to regain comatose state within an hour. (And older child slept through it all; the kid is a ROCK.)
I don't like circumstances like these, but I do love being my kids' go-to person. When the world takes a turn for the worse, we seek the people who know each next step out of the mess and are willing to walk through it with us. I loved being able to soothe my small girl last night and reassure her that everything would be OK. (God bless husbands who are willing to help in such times!) After she was clean and back in pajamas, I cuddled her on my lap for a while to make sure she was warm -- despite the fever I felt radiating from her.
And I watched the vultures circle closer.
This morning she seems much better -- thank you, sweet LORD, that neither child threw up -- but now my stomach is uneasy. I've felt those aches in my legs my son mentioned (and my daughter this morning). I think today will be a quiet day with my girl. I'm thankful I have the option for it to be quiet!
And no more vultures.