Note: This column appears in the 5/21 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/22 issue of the Peoria Times
Life as a foster parent –- and, as I imagine, as a biological parent –- involves many unforeseen circumstances. One of the circumstances of being a foster parent that I could not foresee, and that no one decided to inform me about, was: indefinite sickness.
I’ll be honest here. I had always viewed people who were constantly sick with a roll of the eyes, not considering whether or not they were parents to germ-ridden children. I assumed they weren’t taking care of themselves, or that they were milking it, or that they just didn’t want to hang out with me anymore because I wasn’t a parent and we had nothing in common. But now I understand.
We’re about a month and a half into our current foster placement, and every second that the premises are clear of some various disease or ailment is like winning the lottery of health. Also, I have been keeping count, and so far we are up to: 17 seconds. Unfortunately, each of those precious sickness-free seconds has been nothing but an indicator that another disease is right around the corner. The calm before the barf.
With the joy of parenting has come acid reflux, fevers, ear infections, breathing apparatuses that are delivered to the house at 10pm at night, pink eye (my favorite), coughing, and a gentle flowing stream of runny noses. And that is just the kids. For us, it’s been even worse.
A few weeks ago I became randomly sick with what I assumed at the time was the plague. Lots of nausea and throwing up and a general inability to do anything whatsoever that lasted for about three days. So that was fun. Last week I got “something” that caused me to feel as though I was swallowing razor blades for five days, and when I went to urgent care to see if it was strep throat, I was informed that is was only the beginnings of a “really, really bad cold.” Whew! Doc’s only recommendation was to get more rest. Easy!
Hey kids –- I am going to rest for the next couple days to recover from the unknown sicknesses you have inadvertently bestowed upon me. Please behave yourselves –- as well as potty train and feed yourselves –- while I lay here on the couch and watch Mama’s Family reruns. Thanks!
It wasn’t long before my wife got what I had, and so most of last week was spent trying to parent kids while also staying as far away from them as possible because if they get sick we cannot miss work again. And that is the cycle: kids get sick at daycare / school, they give it to you, you try not to give it back, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because your kid just ate a gummy bear they found in the Target parking lot and that can’t be good.
I’ve talked to other parents about this, and it’s always accompanied by a patronizing chuckle and a “welcome to parenthood!”-type greeting. Ha, ha! I would laugh harder at that sentiment except my throat is swollen shut.
Regardless, I feel a duty to alert all potential parents to this fact, not to discourage them, but to mentally prepare them for what lies ahead. And that fact is this: Inherent in parenthood is the reality that, 90% of the time you will be rendered physically unable to properly parent.
Good (cough) luck!
Editor's Note: Stay tuned for my next post: Kids say the darndest things! Ha, ha...kids. What happened to me?