It’s nearly eleven p.m. and all of the children fell asleep by eight, tucked into sleeping bags at the foot of my bed. We transformed the bedroom into sick bay as one child after another came down with a hacking cough and an aching body. Charlie got sick on Sunday night and by Monday afternoon all five children and Stuart were coughing and shivering and aching. I alone remain healthy. Now it’s Thursday and the coughing continues.
The humidifier breathes out steam into the darkened room. The children inhale moisture and cough on the exhale. My last few days have been spent distributing lemon water, saline spray, and homemade chicken soup. The kids thank me for this by coughing into their dinners…and mine. Mountains of soggy tissues decorate the livingroom. Well, not exactly tissues. Toilet paper. They blew through the two family-sized boxes of tissues three days ago.
Stuart is curled into a ball on the bed beside me, alternately throwing off his covers and reaching for them again. His head pounds and he shifts restlessly trying to find a comfortable position. He stayed home from work today, a first this year, and Claire delighted in bringing him his meals and making him glasses of lemon water. I have been impressed to see how the kids still serve other family members even in the midst of their current discomfort.
We are in the golden years of parenting. I have not had to soothe a feverish baby or comfort a thrashing little one in the middle of the night. The children have been fairly self-sufficient. They huddle under blankets in the living room while I read to them. They drift off to sleep on and off during the day and they don’t cry. Now they sleep fitfully on my floor and I listen to them breathe and cough and I enjoy our togetherness in spite of the circumstances.