The Sick Day Test

I am always working on practicing what I preach about living mindfully, remembering self-compassion, and keeping perspective about when and how much to totally stress out. The hardest time for me to do all of this is basically all the time I'm being Mom.

The best test of my progress: “working” at home with a “sick” 3-year-old.

When I picked up my 3-year-old at school Thursday, I knew he had a fever. He wasn’t complaining and was acting normally, but his skin had that radiating heat that has nothing to do with the outside temperature. I gave him Ibuprofen and hoped it was one of those fluke low temps that didn’t mean he was too sick.

Hope is key to parenting, even when it is all illusion.

I fell asleep at 11 pm. His crying woke me up at 11:38. His skin burned again, wiping out hope, confirming he would be staying home with me all day Friday. My day to write all day. My only day. True to form, he spent ten minutes irrationally refusing more Ibuprofen as I pleaded with him in the dim light of the bathroom. He finally took it (I had to be standing with him in my arms, NOT sitting) and it took another 20 minutes of snuggles to get him back to sleep.

I usually feel badly about yelling, but I don’t beat myself up about it (self-compassion? Check!).

My husband had a very irregular work day of driving to Wisconsin, so he couldn’t be of any assistance. I resolved I would not “should” myself today. Yes, it’s my one day to work on this blog and a book chapter with a looming deadline, but I’m not going to panic. We are going to take this one step at a time and stay calm. I’m sure I will be able to get more done than NOTHING.

In case you’ve missed my other pieces about parenting this 3-year-old, he has systematically disrupted what we thought we knew about children and being parents. He is charming and hilarious and sweet . . . and stubborn and strong-willed and rigid . . . and did I mention he is 3? He is predictably unpredictable.

Of course he wakes up free of fever, but the recent temp and misery means I can’t bring myself to send him to school. Without fever, he accompanies me to a 9 am dentist appointment where he sits uncharacteristically still watching Paw Patrol. I feel confident – he’s going to be slowed down by this sickness and we can do this.

When we get to the car, he starts acting more like himself. He refuses to get in the car because he wants to ride his scooter home. (His scooter is not with us. We are at least 2 miles from our house.) I balance ignoring the behavior to not reinforce it, and ensuring he doesn’t run into a busy street. I take deep breaths and continue to go with the flow, and not worry about all I’m NOT getting done.

Once we are in the car, him bribed with looking at photos on my phone, I talk up how fun it will be to go home and watch Batman, his ultimate favorite that he never gets to watch with his sisters home. We get home and he declares he does NOT want to watch Batman, “I want to play. With Mommy.” We sit down and play trains. I can tell he has to go to the bathroom. He refuses. I keep inserting subliminal messages into our play about both Batman and going to the bathroom. No luck.


After him yelling at me for several minutes to NOT make a phone call I must make, I’m on the phone. He shows up in the hallway, his pants visibly soaked. “I went to the bathroom but then I went in my pants.” I think it was the other way around, bud. I get off the phone, take off his wet clothes, and put on new underwear. He insists on no more clothes, but then needs me to hold him everywhere we go because he’s cold.

I take some deep breaths. I know it won’t help to lose my patience, the remains of which are fleeting fast. The morning is almost gone by now.

I move on to the next minefield, lunch. As expected, he rejects all of my reasonable options. He asks for a Go-gurt, which is the only thing he has eaten today so far. I hold my ground to stick to other choices, including many he usually loves (Greek yogurt, pasta, pizza) but he sees my limit and raises it. He repeatedly opens the refrigerator to pull out the Go-gurt himself, so I finally yell, “No!” I usually feel badly about yelling, but I don’t beat myself up about it (self-compassion? Check!).

He sits on the floor, almost naked, screaming with tears running down his face. I try to console him, and clean up the streaming snot.  He of course maniacally swats the tissue like it’s a bee trying to sting him. I take him to the bathroom where I sit on the toilet to better aim my tissue, and I look down to see a puddle of urine on the stool. Apparently when he said “I went pee in the bathroom,” he did not mean in the toilet, as I assumed.

More deep breaths. Staying in the moment and not in the future when it is becoming more clear I will have accomplished nothing today.

I put him back on the floor. I let him sit and cry in his underwear while I silently eat my lunch, finally scooping him up into my lap when I can tell the anger has fizzled into sadness. He snuggles while I finish eating. He gives into eating a Nutri Grain bar, and lets me sit him on the couch and turn on Netflix.

Relief. I start typing.

Not even an hour in, “Mommy I’m all done. I’m ready to play.”

I give in. We get out a puzzle and I turn on some music. He insists on Kids Bop and we sing terrible pop music. I put puzzle pieces together and he proceeds to take them apart: the perfect metaphor for today, and for every day as his Mom.