5 tips on making the most of a parent-child sick day

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year-old daughter Viva, who is really vibing on 7-Up today.

So, you got the dreaded phone call from school. Your Kindergartener just threw up on her addition worksheet and now you’re rushing to pick her up while frantically rescheduling work/meetings/classes. Oh, and what’s more, you feel the familiar rumblings and aches signaling that you’re getting sick, too.

Face it, this isn’t going to be a productive day, and tomorrow is going to be twice as busy as you catch up.

You’re all in on a sick day now, and maybe up to your knees in body fluids that radiate illness. Might as well make the most of it.

Embrace the sick day

If you only follow one tip here, let it be this. Embrace that which you cannot change. You’re home from work with your kid. You might be feverish and puking, but you’re still home with your kid. The degree to which the rest of your week is doomed is set and finite. Take what you love and leave the suffering for tomorrow. “Space” is something we all want in our lives more than anything, and something life tries not to afford us. This illness has given you space. “Lila,” Robert Pirsig’s sequel to “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” tells the story of a fleet of pleasure boats stuck in a lock at the end of a weekend. At first, when they realize they’ll be missing work on Monday, everyone freaks out. When they realize they aren’t going any place,  parties gradually break out, and everyone has a truly memorable day. They embraced the space that circumstance forced upon them. You do that now, but instead of on a boat, on the couch with blankets and chicken soup. Speaking of chicken soup … 

Enjoy bland foods

Like most children, my daughter, if left to her own devices, would subsist entirely on pasta and white bread with butter. We try to foster a broad gustatory palate here, serving full flavor, culturally pluralistic foods. But, you know, kids and their super sensitive taste buds … 

Good news, today it’s all animal crackers, oyster crackers and 7UP. Are these foods almost absurdly basic and factory produced, yup. Are they delicious? Yeah, kind of. Enjoy the comfort food, enjoy the aggressively inoffensive taste and texture of a sick-day diet. (Come one, when’s the last time you had a full sugar 7UP?)

Loosen screen time restrictions. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re hyper-conscientious earthy crunchy modern parents and your kid only gets ten seconds of screen time a day. I know. I know. Throw that stuff out the window today. You’ve got no place to be and all day to get there. 

You know what you get to do today? You get to crank your brain down and truly invest in a family-friendly show. You get to “be there” for Odd Squad! Have you watch Odd Squad? It is FANTASTIC. Laugh with your kid, get scared with your kid. They want nothing more than to have TV rot their brain, and today their wish is granted.

Put those Christmas gifts to work

I’m guessing you’ve got an ever-growing stack of board games in the closet. Many of us have homes drowning in toys and games. Remember all those boxes the little one opened on the 25th, the contents of which you haven’t seen in six weeks? Time to bust them out. You’re snowed in, nauseous and headachy so I don’t recommend the clattering mess of “Hungry Hungry Hippos,” but this is a great day for “Outfoxed,” “Hi Ho Cherry Oh,” or “Trouble.” And every day is a great day for action figures, Legos and princesses. It might even be a great day for princess action figures riding around in Legos.

Cuddle

You’re already sick. If you aren’t exhibiting symptoms, you’ve certainly already been exposed in the past few days. If this were a zombie movie, you’ve already been bitten. So, keeping your kid at arm’s length is a futile gesture. (Although keeping their fluids off of you is always a good idea.) Time to cozy up on the couch and release the oxytocin that lowers stress, anxiety and blood pressure, and bonds your child to you. 

TV, toys, animal crackers, cuddling and enjoying the moment in a peaceful, mindful, deliberate way with your child? Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? Of course, I’m leaving out the diarrhea. The diarrhea really takes the edge off the “paradise” assertion. But there are upsides to a sick day. Put on your pajamas and enjoy the good parts.

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