This time of year the butter shelf in my fridge looks something like this:
Frances (as one of the family’s few possessor of tonsils), brings home strep monthly. Every so often she donates it to someone else. (I think I have had a kid home from school for six weeks straight.)
I was talking to some friends this morning about how differently we react to our sick kids.
For example, Fiona is a chronic complainer, in the mold of Shel Silverstein’s Peggy Ann McKay (“I have the measles and the mumps, a rash, a gash, and purple bumps.”) Her feet get hot at night under her blanket, and she often feels the need to tell me this — at four AM. Her vision is often blurry, her throat scratchy, her skin itchy. I’ve taken to keeping a list of her ailments on my phone; each night, I pretend to send it to the pediatrician.
Consequently, when she gets genuinely sick it feels inevitable. It is also EXTREMELY annoying given the fanfare the actual sickness receives.
If she “passes” a strep test, she lights up, as if from within. A sufficiently feverish thermometer is held over head and marched around the house, accompanied by a little trumpet sound from her lips, and a skip in her step.
Try as I may, I have little compassion for her when she’s sick; she uses up too much sick-pity on a daily basis. If she climbs feverishly into my bed, I move her back to her own, before her sweaty little feet hit the mattress.
I feel similarly when Frances wills herself sick, because that is exactly what she does. Last week, she could smell the strep coming, and she thus took her temperature HOURLY until eventually it crept up over 100. Again, the Parade of the Thermometer. I thought Fiona would puke with envy.
Efram, however, was felled by strep this week. In general he asks for so little, and is sick so very rarely, that I cannot do enough for him when he is suffering. (I told my friends that he and I must have looked something like the Pieta while I cradled his long, gangly, streppy, body.)
I’m not talking about favorites here. Really I’m not. This is sick-pity, and if you suck it all up year round, the cup will be empty when you really need a drink.