My son had his first fever on Monday. I thought he felt warm from the moment he got up, but it took a few hours of him wanting to snuggle to convince me the body heat he was producing wasn’t just another genetic link he shares with my husband. My son is not a snuggler. He is far too busy running all over the living room, trying to climb everything and hunting for carpet fuzz to patronize me by spending time curled up in my lap letting me rock him. Monday he was all about storybooks and cuddling.
I’m proud of myself for not panicking. I did call the pediatrician, but only to make sure there was nothing I needed to be doing other than giving him some baby Tylenol and letting him lounge in my lap all he wanted. Aside from the willingness to cuddle, the fever didn’t really seem to affect him. He still played, just a bit more quietly than usual. He still had a decent appetite (although he wanted more of it in liquid form) and he still took his regular naps, even with the Tylenol, which I thought might knock him out. After one dose his fever was gone, but I gave him another dose before bed just in case.
After I put him to bed, I did call the sitter to let her know if his fever returned we’d be staying home. I sat down at my computer to type some simple lesson plans. I was trying to recall exactly what we’d done on Thursday (it was a four day weekend for the kids), when it dawned on me that so far this year I haven’t taken a single day off for myself. In fact, I’ve only taken three days this entire year: one when my son had a rash* and I took him to the pediatrician, not because it bothered him, but because it upset me; and two when my father had his surgery and the doctor muttered that horrid word, cancer. Even on the occasions when I have been sick, I’ve trudged off to school in order not to waste any of my sick days.
When I was thinking about this, I remembered the good ol’ days when sick days were made and used and wasted. When my husband and I first started dating, I took a sick day because we’d stayed up late watching a movie and talking and I just didn’t feel like getting up the next morning. If my kids were being particularly annoying one day, I’d call in sick the next day, taking what I liked to call “a mental health day.” There was nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t even in danger of having any sort of breakdown, I just didn’t want to deal with them.
For six years I directed plays and after spending six weeks practically living at the school (including the entire weekend run of the plays), I always took the following Monday off. It didn’t matter that Sunday’s show was a matinee and I was home by 5, I felt I’d given enough for one weekend and spent the next day watching movies, shopping or playing Sims. Heck, my students used to joke with me on their way out of the building, asking what sickness I was coming down with for the next day. I’d laugh, give them a ridiculous name like “Cluelessitus” or “Chronic Godiva Syndrome.” I never thought twice about those days. I’d earned them and I took them.
I can’t believe I was ever so cavalier.
Now that I have a child, this isn’t an option. Sick days are no longer about having fun. They aren’t even about me being sick. Instead they will be spent for my son’s well baby check-ups, or staying at home when he has a fever or is throwing up. Even if I get lucky and he keeps the amazing constitution he’s had so far, I plan to have another child in a few years, so I have to save my days for OB appointments and my maternity leave. Schools are usually pretty flexible and will give you an entire semester off of school, but they’ll only pay you for the sick days you have saved up.
I adore my son, but I have to admit I miss my days of lounging in my pjs on a weekday afternoon watching Can’t Buy Me Love and eating chips, knowing I should be in third period teaching my kids a chapter of Lord of the Flies. Spring break can’t get here soon enough.
*It turned out not to even be a rash. My son just has amazingly dry skin, which might be the only thing he’s inherited from me. He did get medicated lotion which made me feel a bit justified for taking an entire day off.