Curtain-climbers, crumb-crunchers, rug-rats—people have all sorts of names to describe the kids in their lives. This time of year, they become germ-incubators.
Don’t get me wrong. I love kids; which is probably why I tend to be sick from Christmas to Easter. For every adult practicing fastidious personal hygiene, there is a small child picking his nose, sneezing into his hand (or into the face of his sister, friend, grocery store checker, school bus driver—fill in the blank), sharing her juice box, kissing the dog on the lips, peeing on the toilet seat (without lifting it), or leaving various pieces/splotches/splashes of food/drink around the house on the floor, table or counter-top in which to cultivate a wide variety of common germs.
I was exceptionally lucky, as a working mom when my daughter was small, to have mostly avoided the dreaded Daycare situation. For the most part, Lisa was watched by various friends and family members who folded her into their family unit, thus limiting the amount of germs to which she was exposed. The exception was a one month period of time just before Christmas, 1985, when for some reason I found myself without acceptable child care options, and decided to take her to the local church Daycare.
The very first day I arrived to drop her off, I was greeted by a little girl, probably somewhere in the one to two year old range, who was sporting a giant green bugger on her upper lip. I couldn’t to this day tell you a single other thing about this child, so focused was I on the apparent slimy offspring of the latest and greatest bug making its rounds of the greater Albuquerque Area that year. It took everything I could do not to clutch my small child to my chest and run for the door, never to return to germ-land.
Work, however, called. There were literally hundreds of people waiting in various cities around the U.S. counting on me to show up and transport them and their germ-infested offspring to other unsuspecting cities over the next four days. I paid for that one. Lisa never returned to that Daycare, as it took that entire month for her to get over whatever dreadful disease she’d likely picked up on the very first day.
That first year she was scrawny—she was born early, small and behind the power curve. That year a string of illnesses left her at the age of one weighing in at a mere fourteen pounds—just over two Tuckers, which is my latest unit of measurement.
From her second year on, however, her immune system founds its stride and she became one of those champion child versions of germ-incubator even the hardiest of adults fear. These kids pick up anything going around. During the two days the bug occupies the child, the kid experiences a slight sore throat, sneezing (which is what we can all agree is the perfect distribution mechanism for any bug), and perhaps a cough. They have many opportunities during those short two days they are feeling a little punk to spread the joy, I mean, germ. By the time you even realize they’re sick, they’re already over it, and have often not even missed a day of school.
You on the other hand, have caught it by then. Even armed with anti-bacterial soap at every sink, a bottle of bleach in one hand and a spray can of Lysol in the other, a nightly Purell bath and hands dried and cracked from endless washing, the bug somehow breaches all the barriers and you find yourself flat on your back and out of commission.
Your child is back to full appetite, requiring you to continue to drag out of bed to make meals. She’s scheduling playdates with other little germ-incubators, and the havoc they are all wreaking is making you exhausted just to watch. That little bug that your child, with her five year old immune system kicked in two days, takes you down, with your thirty-year-old immune system, for two weeks. Oh, the joys of parenthood.
As an adult, Lisa now has two of her own little germ-incubators. Tyler picks up the latest germ du jour at school, and brings it home to spread the wealth. He had it for a day, Lorelei had it for two—Lisa is now going strong into her second week. I was her side-kick last week, returning phone calls, scheduling appointments, etc., after she’d completely lost her voice. She’s been to the doctor twice, who told her to do all the home remedies she’s already been doing, to no avail.
Did I catch it? Of course! And I was nice enough to share it with Grant. Its a mean little bugger and apparently highly contagious.
Of course Tyler is already back at school, no doubt incubating the next dreaded disease. And the next time I see him, I’ll be opening my arms for one of those cherished Nana hugs, in spite of the dangers because, after all, they’re only six once.