You know your child gets strep throat a lot if he can diagnose it himself, at home, with 99% accuracy. I’m not a betting person, but I’d wager that he tests positive for it tomorrow when I take him to the pediatrician. I can’t remember the last time he was ill with something other than strep throat, in fact. Every few months, it starts with moodiness, those little bumps on his elbows, and a scratchy throat; maybe a few sniffles. This week, we thought–and hoped–he was just suffering from allergies like my husband and myself. We sent him to his science camp Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, wondering if I’d get a call to pick him up early or if his symptoms were just part of the morning. All three days, he did fine, even playing outside with friends after camp one day. We had reason to think he wasn’t going to get sick.
Alas, last night, the coughing escalated. The sore throat was sorer. The fatigue was heavier, and his mood was edgier. Even before he went to bed, we knew he wouldn’t make it to camp this morning. If this round is anything like every other time he’s gotten sick recently, the next few days will involve many movies, a few jars of applesauce, numerous doses of cough suppressant and ibuprofen, a handful of books, and some good sofa naps.
No parents like to see their children get sick, and I know we are so blessed to have things like strep throat be the worst we’ve seen in both our kids. We long to see our kids energetic, busy, and happy. There’s not much fun in having a sick child (though my toddler was pretty excited about all the movies her brother was watching today). Up and down the stairs for that medicine, the other pillow, that book, another bowl of applesauce, a new box of tissues, the humidifier, or yet another movie.
There is one element to having a sick child that I actually look forward to: snuggles. Our son is surprisingly more affectionate and snuggly than his little sister, even when they are both healthy. However, as he is passing through “little boyhood” into being a big boy, his hugs are a little harder to come by. Or, he’ll give a hug more like a constrictor squeezing its prey than a boy embracing his mommy. He is right at the cusp of being aware of and eventually resisting holding my hand in public. It’s a very bittersweet rite of passage. But, when he is sick, and for some reason especially today, our boy wants us to be close. This afternoon, I went over to the sofa upstairs to check on him, and he just grabbed my arm to snuggle with it. I was about to let him rest on his own, as his eyes were drooping shut, but as I ventured to stand, his grip tightened and he mumbled something about staying. Something similar happened later tonight when I checked on him after getting his sister to bed. His eyes opened as I came into the room, and he asked me to stay with him. I kneeled down next to his bed, and as I patted his back and smoothed his blanket, he grasped my hand and held it near his chest, just the way he would clutch a favorite stuffed animal.
Comfortable? No. Was I going to stay all night? No. I stayed for a good fifteen or twenty minutes, though, just being close to him. Every time I shifted a little, he pulled my hand closer. He seemed reassured by my presence. Even though I couldn’t take away his cough, or ease his congested breathing, it means the world to me that I can offer comfort just by my presence. Even minor illness brings out a certain amount of vulnerability and desire for extra comfort. In a few days, when he’s back to 100% health, God-willing, I’ll have to settle for the somewhat reluctant kisses and the rib-cracking, Heimlich-maneuver hugs. Tonight, even if it’s in the middle of the night (but sleeping through the night would be wonderful, too), I’ll be thankful that my not-so-little boy still craves that sweet, quiet closeness. That is, however, the only thing I like about strep throat.