“Violet was out last week too, right?” the attendance secretary asks when I call Monday morning to report that my daughter is sick. Again.
Last week it was, “Violet’s been out a lot lately, hasn’t she?”
Every Monday for the past month. Most Tuesdays too.
My days off are Monday and Tuesday, so you can imagine how well-rested I’m feeling. Not very.
At least once a month Violet comes home saying someone vomited all over the lunch table or the playground. Her daily report always includes multiple kids being absent. When she and her best friend are at school on the same day, both feeling well enough to play at recess, it’s a cause for celebration.
Three Thursdays in a row, Violet visited her pediatrician. Three months in a row, we canceled her seventh birthday party before giving up and rescheduling it for her eighth (See “Back to Work”, KP News, Sept. 2022).
“Let’s try for August,” I said the last time I called the civic center to report that Violet was, yet again, too sick to party. “Maybe things will go better before school starts.”
In our household this school year, we’ve had multiple rounds of “Is this norovirus, food poisoning or stomach flu?” and “Do we have allergies, a cold, RSV or pneumonia?” Not to mention Covid, extreme hives, pink eye (both Violet and the dog), and more.
I’ve always sworn I’d never be one of those people who show up at work or school with a cold, who wander around public places visibly sick, but this year has felt impossible. What are we to do when the stuffy noses never end, when the coughing goes on for weeks? Do we call in sick every day, all year long? And what difference will keeping our germs to ourselves make if someone’s always barfing at lunch, wiping boogers on chairs, or waving used tissues around?
You might think I’d be embarrassed or worried by this gauntlet of symptoms, but my experiences have been echoed all year long by every parent I know. After so much pandemic isolation, which for my family meant zero colds, not even a stuffy nose for a full two years, we are now in the thick of it, buried in germ-infested sheets and stuffed animals, drowning in phlegm. It’s so gross. I’m so over it. We all are.
When I went to my eye doctor for a new prescription, she looked at me sideways and asked, “Do you have a corneal abrasion?”
“I’m seeing multiple scratches on both of your eyes.”
“On my eyeballs? Right now?”
“You don’t feel them?”
Violet’s Dad had been out of town the week before my appointment. While he was away, Violet and I had trudged onward through yet another vague illness, coughing through the nights, then waking with watery, itchy eyes to take our temps and Covid tests before reluctantly heading out into the world.
“It looks like the abrasions might’ve been caused by a mascara wand,” the optometrist said. “You really can’t feel these?”
It took a week of racking my brain and thrice daily eye drops before I realized what did it – these ridiculously long, swinging earrings I loved. Apparently, I don’t even have the energy to notice wounds on my eyeballs anymore, which perhaps perfectly encapsulates the experience of parenting a young child.
In the end, my scratched eyeballs healed up fine. I reluctantly threw my long, pretty, death trap earrings away and went back for another appointment I didn’t have time for, but at least I can see. And I can breathe.
Violet’s dad says I’ve probably had a cold layered on top of allergies, then got hit by another cold. I’ve never had allergies, but who cares at this point? Maybe this is just our life now, nastiness and exhaustion forever.
Or maybe not.
Today is a new Monday. A new month. Violet made it through breakfast without a single cough. I’m alone and the house is silent. Even the dog has ceased whining, allowing me the luxury of typing in peace.
There’s a ray of sunlight beaming through the clouds and a peek-a-boo of blue sky. The temperature is above 50. Summer is no longer a far off, unimaginable illusion.
It’s time to hang the hammock and set up the sprinklers. Get out your shorts, tank tops, swimsuits and flip flops. Warm days are coming; they’re already on their way.
Krisa Bruemmer is an award-winning writer. She lives in Vaughn.
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