Tick, tick, tick. My paranoia grows with each passing hour. One by one, all three of my kids have fallen victim to a nasty stomach bug that crept into our house last week. And even though physically I feel fine, I’m mentally queasy about the prospect that the virus might be coming for me next.
The kids managed to stay well all winter long – remarkable given that they go to elementary school, which can turn into a petri dish of viruses during cold and flu season. Then, only days after the official start of spring, the wheels came off the bus and it’s been a blur of bodily fluids ever since. We’ve stripped three beds in less than 6 days.
Six-year-old Kate is the third victim of the dreaded Stomach Bug, and she’s handling it like a real trooper. While I type on my laptop, she sits beside me in bed, watching cartoons and keeping the “sick bowl” on her lap, just in case she’s not able to sprint to the bathroom when the Bug rears its ugly head again.
As far as I know, every parent has a designated “sick bowl.” In our house, it’s an oversized plastic salad bowl that will never again hold salad or any other food. The rule is “Once a sick bowl, always a sick bowl.” You just never see it in the same way again. But we’re thankful for the sick bowl because it has saved the carpet more than a few times.
If Kate’s illness goes the same way it did for her two older brothers, she should be over the worst of it in 24 hours and over it completely in two or three days. In the meantime, my mission is to convince her to keep sipping her ginger ale and to eat a little apple sauce when she’s feeling up to it. I keep a steady stream of cartoons queued up to take her mind off her tummy troubles, and I stay nearby because, when you’re sick, you want your mommy.
But I know how this will probably go. She will recuperate and join her brothers back at school. And I will be here queasy and alone, wondering if I’ve dodged the bullet or if I’m a ticking stomach time bomb. It’s the waiting that makes me crazy, and I’d be lying if I said that the possibility of being next on the hit list isn’t affecting my decisions.
When you know you’re being stalked by a stomach virus, you choose your meals carefully based on the possibility of seeing those meals for a second time in reverse. Chili for dinner? No, not a good idea. Spaghetti noodles? Definitely not. Salsa and chips for a snack? I’d certainly regret that move.
So even though I’m not sick, I find myself eating the same things the kids are eating – bananas, applesauce and dry toast. And I walk around the house wondering if I can wash my hands often enough to outlast the incubation period of whatever nasty virus has its eye on me.
If I could, I’d warn the virus that I’m ready for any duel it may have in mind. In my makeshift holster, I’ve got a bottle of antibacterial hand soap on one side and a bottle of Clorox disinfecting wipes in the other. I’ll fog up the room with Lysol and try to scare it away.
But who am I kidding? If it gets me, I’ll be on my knees on the cool tile of the bathroom floor begging for sweet relief. Pass the sick bowl.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.
Author Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography