A tickle in the throat is not a good sign. Especially when it turns into more of sword cutting the back of your throat every time you swallow. When accompanied by a hot feeling behind the nose, it can only mean one thing: you’re about to be sick.
As an old Vicks® NyQuil commercial teased, Moms don't take sick days. Ain't that the truth? But what about when you absolutely have to?
Special needs parents have a difficult time being sick. It’s not that we’re wimpy or can’t manage a cold for a few days; it’s that our kids can’t manage completely independently and still require our focused time and attention despite our weary bodies. We’re trying to muddle through the day with that just-run-over-by-a truck feeling, and our offspring, no matter what their age, needs our attention.
It is plain hard to do. When you can barely take care of yourself, there’s another individual needing your energy and supervision. You can’t not do that job. Last week, when a cold invaded every nasal canal and ear passage, and made side-trips to my back and hips, it took every bit of strength I could muster just to help my son Zach brush his teeth. I just couldn’t stand up, and if I wasn’t lying down, my nose was dripping.
He needed meals, activities, and medication. I don’t know about other special needs parents, but when struggling with an illness that demolishes your strength and energy with the efficiency of an EF-3 tornado, just standing at the refrigerator door looking for food feels like you’re at the base of Mt. Everest in slippers.
I felt bad for Zach; any kid knows intuitively when their parent is “off,” and one glance at my Silly Putty beige face and red Rudolph nose gave confirmation. The kicker was that both my husband and I were sick. No outings, no swimming, and only some leftovers for a few days. My husband managed a couple of trips to pick up food, which helped.
In the long-ago days of Thomas the Tank Engine videos, Sprout, and PBS Kids, parental sick days meant several hours of rest and relaxation while both of us nestled in the comfort of the couch. Sir Topham Hatt, Percy, Kipper, and (dare I admit?) The Wiggles entertained and soothed. Last week, HGTV ran almost continuously in my living room. I feel like I know Ben and Erin personally. I kind of want to live in Laurel, Mississippi now.
We trudged through the week in the way that parents and kids do when someone, or everyone, in the household is out of commission. Thank goodness for the California sunshine; we soaked up as much of it as we could.
I think our children with special needs know in their hearts that when Mom or Dad isn’t up to par, it’s just going to be different for a few days. Zach rolled with it pretty well, perhaps because he had just been sick, too.
Special needs parents need to give themselves both a break and a pat on the back. I found myself getting irritated at myself for not being up to snuff momentarily. Impatient with my body for not bouncing back quickly. We can’t do that. We need to give ourselves permission to be wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by mugs of tea for a few days. We have to know we are doing the best we can under the circumstances. We should remind ourselves our kids are going to be fine, as are we, in a few days.
Then, we can return to being very useful engines.