I am sick of being sick. I caught yet another one of my children’s illnesses this past week. Being sick as an adult is way less enjoyable than being sick as a kid. My mom used to pull out all the stops when my sisters or I were sick as children. She’d check our temperature, give us medicine, sometimes a Coke or Ginger Ale—a treat for us at the time—for an upset stomach, rub our backs, tuck us in and even roll in the small TV on the portable TV stand from her and my father’s bedroom. If only we could bottle the love and care our parents show us when we’re sick. Wouldn’t that be powerful medicine? Being sick wasn’t fun, but being taken care of and cared for helped get me through it.
I struggled with the decision to put my children in daycare when they were young, but knew that going back to work was something that I wanted and needed to do. One of the ‘upsides’ of putting my children in daycare I was told was that they would be exposed to all the germs out there. You’ll see, other parents told me they’ll have tons of colds for the first year or two, and then it’s smooth sailing. When the kids who stayed home go to school, they’ll be the ones getting sick and your kids will be fine. Needless to say, that’s not how it’s worked in our house.
My kids did catch colds almost instantaneously when they started in daycare and seemed to be sick non-stop until they were about two years old, when at last the constant illnesses did seem to wane. I thought we’re in the clear, excellent! It felt like what had been prophesized for me by those knowing parents was coming true – the kids would be sick often when they were young, but not sick later.
It didn’t hold for long. Soon I started to experience another trend. I would get sick when the kids did or get sick even when they did not. I have always been relatively healthy, rarely getting sick, but since my kids have been in daycare and now elementary school, I feel like I get sick as much as I did as a child. I have had countless colds and stomach viruses. I even caught both strep throat, which I remembered as a child’s illness, and a 24-hour stomach bug that was running rampant through the daycare that somehow missed my children altogether but got to me. How could that be?
Of course, any of us can get sick at any time. Germs are everywhere and our best defense, as we tell our children, is to wash our hands frequently and cover our coughs and sneezes. This rash of illnesses also made me wonder if I was somehow contributing to the germs that were taking hold in my body. Was I as healthy and strong as it had been as a younger adult? Had I somehow allowed my body to become more susceptible to germs? Was I taking care of myself? Was I getting all the vitamins and minerals I talk to my kids about?
It got me thinking about my overall health. I exercise regularly and do eat my vegetables, but also know that between my own activities and my children’s, I run myself ragged. I’m still working on how to get myself to that ideal healthy-all-the-time state; assuming it’s even possible. Sadly, my mom isn’t here to take care of me, rub my back, care for me when I’m under the weather and reassure me that everything is going to be okay. But I realize that I need to show myself the same kind of love and care my mother used to give me: not just when I’m sick, but all the time. It might not come in bottled form, but it’s tangible—allowing time to rest and reflect, being more selective in the activities my family commits to and being more purposeful in taking care of myself—that’s the best defense I’ve come across for taking care of myself daily, more powerful than any medicine I’m aware of.
How do you defend yourself against getting sick? How can you better take care of yourself?