You Think It's Funny, But It's NotErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2003.
Ask any parent about the worst part of parenting, and they'll all tell you the same thing: "I hate it when my kids get sick." The cries of "I don't fe-e-e-e-e-l go-o-o-o-o-d!" are always met with a heavy sigh, closed eyes, and a brief, but fervent prayer for strength and patience. Mostly patience.
It's not that we're unsympathetic to our children's illness — any parent would willingly take the illness upon themselves to spare their child the agony of a head cold or stomach virus. It's just that when our kids are sick, they wear on our nerves.
They whine. They fuss. They won't sleep when you want them to. They think that watching TV will help them get better. They think playing will help them get better. They want to eat pizza after two straight days of vomiting. And they're filled-to-overflowing with snot.
I've been a father for over 12 years, and in that time, my wife has dealt with more colds, flus, and runny noses than I care to remember. (Okay, I helped.) We've wiped noses, blown noses, and used that little snot vacuum, the plastic nozzle with a ball on the end that sucks the snot right out of the kid's head.
Forget all other the other things your kid spews out in a normal illness. It's the snot that creates the biggest headache for parents.
As everyone knows, a young child is normally filled with all sorts of runny, icky, sticky goo you'd care to name. And on a normal day, they expel enough of it to fill a small garbage can. Which also means it ends up on our shirts, pants, fingers, and shoes.
So when your child is sick, take the daily output of the average two-year-old, and double it — twice the snot, twice the tears, twice the "uh-oh-we-shouldn't-have-given-her-peanut-butter-and-bananas."
It's situations like this that separate new parents from the seasoned pros. Anytime something comes out of a child, new parents scramble around like their little bundle of joy just belched fire. Veteran parents, on the other hand, just sit calmly with a look of resigned defeat and mumble, "Oh great, I got snot on my favorite shirt again."
When new parents get their child's snot on their hands, they'd gladly use a belt sander to wipe it off. When it happens to seasoned parents, they wait to wipe it on the other parent when they're not looking.
Of course, snot and mucus play a big part of any child's illness, and it's the reason for the heavy sighs when our kids start whining about how they don't fe-e-e-e-e-l go-o-o-o-o-d. That's because, with the exception of potty training, it's the big milestone that most parents pray for: blowing the child's nose for the very first time.
Oh sure, there are other, more momentous events like the first time your child crawled, walked, and went to the big boy potty. But nose blowing is a pretty important one, because it marks the first time the parents don't have to race for a Kleenex because of the huge lava stream streaming out their nose, or grabbing the child's hand to keep him from smearing it on his cheek.
Unfortunately it's also the milestone that parents don't discuss. No one cares when a child learns to blow their nose. It doesn't get recorded in the baby book. There aren't any in-depth articles about it in parenting magazines. Parents don't call the grandparents and shout "Bobby just used the big boy hanky!"
Most kids don't learn to effectively blow their nose until they're about two-and-a-half. And even then, it's only a half-nosed blow that's about as effective as pouring a glass of water on a forest fire. It's not until a child hits three that they can trumpet with the adults and really clear out their sinuses.
That's the day parents pray for, so they can stop wiping noses, using the snot vacuum, or hearing that blasted snot whistle over and over and over until they just can't take it any more and they turn on the radio to some really obnoxious static just for some relief from THAT FREAKIN' WHISTLING!
But it's at that point, that wondrous magical day, when taking care of sick children finally gets easier. That's when you can plop your sick kid on the couch, turn on cartoons, and just toss them an industrial-sized box of Kleenex.
And hope they don't get diarrhea.
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