They say children don’t come with instructions. They also don’t come with a warning label. Sure, they’re cute. Sure, they’re cuddly. They’re also as pestilence ridden as a mosquito in a canal dig.
I’ve been a healthy person for most of my life, rarely missing school or work—looking down my non-runny nose at the sniffling and coughing of those with less hearty immune systems who hack through concerts or who sniffle and lament from their tissue-strewn desks. Their illnesses, I thought, bespoke a lack of character on their part. They simply didn’t want to be healthy.
Then my daughter, Viva, came along, and for years now my body has been a luxury hotel for malady and crud.
They carry everything, your children, like plague rats in light-up sneakers. They go off to school or daycare or activities with the other filthy little scourges, where they proceed to exude as many bodily fluids as possible on as many surfaces as possible and then maul and lick those same surfaces. Then they leap in your arms and give you a kiss.
This is why our mothers were so worried about us wearing our hats, and washing our hands, and drinking our juice. It wasn’t just about keeping us well, it was about preventing us from bringing the world’s contagions home and getting the rest of the family sick.
Homes with children should probably have an airlock where the children are decontaminated before they enter, lest their Andromeda Strains infect the life support system. It’s only logical then, that we, like our parents, have become concerned with eating right, with sleeping, with vitamins. (And I always run out of my grown-up vitamins, so half the time I’m two-fisting gummy Elsas to stave off disease.)
We’re trying to keep our little adorable rat fleas hardy while staving off whatever insidious microbes they’re smuggling into our biosphere. Viva is a healthy little girl, which I’m thankful for every day. The various breeds of affliction she brings home I’m less thankful for, but I suppose having a child is worth a few dozen sick days… and Elsa gummies aren’t so bad.
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.