It’s a running joke among my friends with spouses who travel frequently for work that chaos is destined to descend upon your house as soon as one parent is flying solo. More chaos than usual, that is – usually in the form of a sick child, malfunctioning car, or some other malady throwing a wrench into your daily logistics. With my wife in the middle of a crazy stretch of travel which has her on the road for 20 out of 28 days, I lightheartedly shared the following graphic across my social channels on Sunday.
I think you can guess where this is headed. At bedtime on Sunday night, two of my kids started showing ominous signs that they were in the beginning phases of a virus. Around the time I got everyone settled in bed, I noticed that it felt unusually chilly in the kids’ bedrooms. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the 2nd-floor heat wasn’t working. I tinkered with the furnace a bit while muttering to myself but very quickly exhausted my HVAC unit knowledge and gave up.
Sure enough, my two little ones came in my room around 4 AM declaring that they were sick. My 6-year-old son had a fever and my 4-year-old daughter had awoken with one eye crusted shut due to viral conjunctivitis. I cleared the discharge from my daughter’s eye with a warm washcloth and got both kids settled in my bed with the dog lying between them.
Thankfully, we were able to stay in bed a little later than usual (I’m typically out the door with the dog at 5:30 and wake the kids at 6:30), the silver lining to my 8-year-old son’s school being closed for a professional development day. I called the heating company to make an appointment on the way to drop off my 10-year-old at school, then took Sandy (our dog) to doggy daycare before heading to the pediatrician. And that’s where the real adventure began…
The four of us crammed into a small exam room designed to typically house a parent, their child and a medical professional. My poor 6-year-old son has twice been diagnosed with strep this winter. Couple that with a few other near-misses and he was having his throat swabbed for the umpteenth time over the past few months and was none too pleased. While we waited for the rapid strep test results, I asked the nurse practitioner if she could sneak in a quick exam of my daughter’s eye, which she thankfully obliged despite me not having made a dual appointment. A few minutes later, she returned with a prescription for my daughter and a negative test result for my son. This whole time, my 8-year-old son (the lone healthy child in the room) had been sitting quietly in the corner of the room.
Because my son had been consistently complaining of a headache for the past few weeks, the Dr. thought it would be a good idea to draw blood and run a test for mono so we could rule out that possibility. On the heels of a dicey throat swabbing, my son decided he was having no part of any finger pricking and went into shutdown mode. I sympathized given what he’d been through and tried to quietly reason with him, quickly transitioning to full-blown bribery attempts. When it became clear he wasn’t willing to negotiate, the nurse recruited some assistance to help restrain my son.
This seems like a good time to remind you that pediatrician’s offices tend to keep their examination rooms at abnormally high temperatures to ensure that small children stay warm during their check-ups despite having disrobed. Combine that with jamming 3 kids and 3 adults into a room designed to house 3 people and we were operating in sauna-like conditions. Oh, I should probably also mention that the 8-year-old sitting idly in the corner doesn’t do well observing medical procedures of any kind (can you guess where this is going?).
While we held down my son so his blood could be drawn, I told the other two kids to look away. As I focused on trying to soothe my son during the blood-drawing process, I suddenly became aware of a commotion behind me, complete with a wretching sound. The combination of being overheated and witnessing blood being drawn had made my son violently nauseous. I turned around to see that, for some reason, he was still wearing a sweatshirt and jacket. He was sweating profusely and his face had turned ghostly white. I quickly told him to take off a couple of layers and head to the sink in case he needed to throw up before shifting focus back to my son on the examination table.
One of the nurses and I shared a knowing glance and smile and I let out a small chuckle. Never had my parenting motto been more apt. As I often tell people, without laughter, there are only tears! In moments like these, when everything has gone to hell in a handbasket, all you can do is embrace the situation and laugh. Fast forward a few minutes and we had my little guy band-aided and calm, my other son sat with an ice pack on his neck and bedpan held to his chin, color slowly returning to his face. One of the nurses returned with juice boxes for all three kids and, with a grin, asked me “so, where’s mom today?”
Shortly thereafter, we made our way home, the proud new owners of a bedpan. I got the kids situated on the couch and turned on a movie. The repair guy came and restored the heat. A friend dropped my oldest off at the house after school (it truly does take a village, doesn’t it?).
I’d definitely file this one in the win column for Murphy’s Law of Parenting but, ultimately, we emerged relatively unscathed. I’m sure we’re destined to encounter other fun obstacles during the remaining few weeks of my wife’s busy travel schedule, but such is the nature of the beast (law?). I’ll say this much – the whole situation was made much more manageable thanks to my recent transition away from my full-time gig. I’d have reached an entirely different level of stress and frustration had I been trying to manage colleagues and clients at the same time as yesterday’s mess.
Do you have a Murphy’s Law of Parenting story to share? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter by tweeting at @DadLifeStories. Thanks for reading!