I remember when my firstborn son
was a baby, and I’d shamelessly brag all the time about how healthy he was.
“He’s never even had a sniffle!” I’d tell my friends and family.
It was true. He really didn’t get
sick his first year of life. I sang the praises of hearty genetics and
breastmilk—both of which helped to some extent, I’m sure. But it was more than
just that. Looking back, I see that much of it had to do with circumstances,
and probably a lot of it had to do
with good, old fashioned luck.
I was a stay-at-home mom to an
only child. We definitely left the house, but he lived mostly in my arms or in
a stroller. The fact was, my son almost never encountered germs! No wonder he
was never sick.
Of course, all of my obnoxious
bragging came to a screeching halt when he became a toddler and started
interacting with other kids. In his second year, the kid was sick ALL. THE.
TIME. The common cold, norovirus, Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, strep. You name it, the
kid caught it. I’m actually surprised he had as many playdates at he did at
that age considering he was sick pretty much every other week.
I'll admit that I was hard on
myself about it. OK, very hard on
myself. Even though I knew these sorts of things happen, I immediately began
blaming myself. My kid was a super picky eater, and I wondered if I wasn’t
nourishing him properly. I went out and bought every immune boosting vitamin
known to man, and started making him green smoothies every night.
Nothing helped much.
Besides the guilt, the whole
thing made life pretty miserable for me. Some kids aren’t very bothered by
illness—it just makes them more sleepy and snuggly. My kid, on the other hand, always seemed to
get a “man cold.” Any little ailment would keep him up all night. To top it all
off, we discovered that he had virus-induced asthma, so colds were never just
colds. They were week-long stress parties, complete with nebulizers and even
oral steroids on occasion. (WARNING: oral steroids make your kids literally
bounce off walls.)
The fact was,
unless I kept my kid in a bubble, he was going to get sick. Probably a lot.
At some point in the middle of
all this, I remember bringing up the frequency of my son’s illnesses with his
pediatrician. She brushed it off almost completely, telling me that she sees
this kind of thing all the time, and the fact that my son visited her less
often than most kids meant he was healthy as a horse. “Whatever he gets, he
fights it right off,” she said. “Don’t worry, you’re building up his immune
That was definitely a turning point
for me. I realized that I had been beating myself up about the
whole thing—stressing and obsessing for no good reason, really. The fact was,
unless I kept my kid in a bubble, he was going to get sick. Probably a lot. And
all I could do was schedule him for his well visits, visit the doctor when he
needed to, and keep him comfortable when he was under the weather.
The silver lining is that the
little two-year-old who was sick for months on end is now turning 10, and
rarely gets more than a mild cold. I have a younger son, too, and we’re just
exiting the years of total nonstop, back-to-back illnesses. It was definitely
easier to go through it a second time, knowing there was a light at the end of
But having gone through the whole
thing twice, I can say with certainly that dealing with constant colds and
other illnesses can really suck. It’s one of my least favorite parts of
parenting, and it’s an area in parenting that has caused me more stress than I
So, to the parents who are still
in the trenches: You haven’t done anything wrong if your kids are sick all the
time. It’s normal, and unless your child has an ongoing medical issue, it will
most definitely pass. Also, there’s probably not much you can do but suffer through
it, unless you want to keep your kids inside all the time.
I know it can sometimes feel like
your kids are the only one who could possibly be getting this often, but they
absolutely aren’t. Also? You’re totally not
crazy for stock up on 50 bottles of hand sanitizer, buying elderberry syrup in
bulk, and praying to the gods that your kid never catches norovirus again.
We’ve all been there and it will be a thing of the past before you know it. So hang in there, mama!