Monday, January 16, 2006

Croup. Crap.

The kid has croup. This is scary to me. If you don't know what that is, it is a virus that causes a sharp, barking, uncontrollable, spasming cough. Croup can get bad. When I was in middle school, my younger brother had to go to the ER in the middle of the night to be placed in an oxygen tent because he had croup. So, it kind of freaks me out to be one of the people expected to handle this sanely.

In the first place, it sucks when your kid gets sick. My mom always used to say to me, "I wish it could be me instead of you" whenever I was sick (which, to me, always sounded more than a little masochistic if not just plain weird). But I think I understand what she meant. It's not just because parents worry about sick children or because we don't want them to suffer in any way, although these are the obvious reasons. But it's also because, as a parent, you identify with your kid's discomfort and fear, and you remember your own childhood illnesses and the way they felt, the way you couldn't communicate to others what you needed in order to feel better. For me, these memories involve me being awake for long hours at night, either nauseous or uncomfortable, with only the closet light on in my room. (In contrast, as an adult, I can control this somewhat - I have a t.v. in my room, I can leave the light on, I can take all kinds of medications whenever I want to in order to treat my symptoms. I've never forgotten what it was like lying there in the half-dark; to this day, when I have a bad cold, I sleep with the lights and the television on.) So, first, I remember what that felt like and how much I hated it, and second, I worry that I haven't been able to make my kid comfortable because he doesn't know or can't tell me what would make him feel better.

When the sickness prevents your kid from sleeping, it's bad enough. Three-thirty this morning found me driving around my regular "nap route," hoping that the kid would eventually fall asleep (he did). And of course, when the kid isn't sleeping, neither are you. I'm amazed at how well parenthood has prepared me to function on very little sleep. Today, on less than four hours of sleep, I drove the car (a feat in itself), attended two, two-hour-long meetings, did all kinds of laundry, and am just now sitting down to read and grade (I doubt I'll make it through that little project).

When the sickness involves sitting in a steamy bathroom (which relieves the cough and allows the sick kid to breathe more easily) with a crying kid who doesn't like being sweaty - well, that's no fun, either. Especially if it's three am and he's screaming like a banshee.

But when you know that the illness itself is risky - and you know this because the flier the doctor gives you tells you to sleep in the kid's room to monitor his/her breathing - and when the codeine cough syrup the doctor gives you *also* comes with a warning that it can cause breathing problems - well, even if you are pretty sure that your kid is in good shape, it's pretty freakin' upsetting.

He's apparently fallen asleep - there are no coughing sounds. We may all get some sleep yet. Wish us luck.

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