When a child is sick…

As I am typing this, Ben is curled up into a tight ball because he is suffering from stomach flu for the umpteenth time and he just finished his 5th puke and 2nd diarhea of the day. I am keeping vigil by the bedside for the night, in case he rouses from sleep again, which he did. 

I still remember when my first child is sick for the first time, it was as if the whole world is at the brink of collapse. Every spike in temperature, every single pain or discomfort, every single rash, makes my anxiety escalate. Unfortunately, it also makes my temper short and I would get irritated over every little thing, including well intentioned help. 

Now fast forward to my third child. The chances of the three children getting sick at the same time, or getting sick one after another, suddenly turns threefold. It makes my already frazzled nerves three times more frazzled, and my sleepless nights due to tending to their miserable calls three times as lengthy. What happens to a sleep deprived anxious mother tendng to three children round the clock? I start to get irritated at everyone or anything who gets in my way, including my mum, my hubby, my maid, my children and even the mosquito that buzzes around. It also makes working seem enjoyable in comparison. (Aside: This is why I dread taking child care leave.) So stress level is high all round, and whn I get stressed, all the children could sense it, and they get upset as well, doubly upset even, because they are sick.

So one thing I reaised when a child is sick (or when all the children are sick at the same time). Chill. Relax. Most childhood illnesses will blow over in 2 days, and if it doesn’t, the child gets hospitalised and gets monitored by health care professionals round the clock for a week or so. There is absolutely nothing one can do as a parent beyond that point, except to ensure physical comfort (sometimes even that is not necessary if you are blessed with caring nurses in your ward) and that the child is not too bored by the stay (but the steady stream of Cartoon Network in the children’s ward already took care of that). There is absolutely no point in getting frustrated or anxious, as not a single day will it help to expedite your child’s recovery.

So what helps children when they are sick? Mostly, your comforting presence. The security they feel we they could open their eyes and see you at any time. To be able to whisper “Mommy” and there you are by his or her side. To have that sip of water from yor hand, and not from anyone else. To have himself or herself tucked in to the next drug induced sleep. To feel your touch on their forehead, or tummy, or chest, or anywhere that hurts and in discomfort. All these are best done, without worry or anxiety. Because trust me, they can feel it.

I know you will ask, how? How do I not feel anxious? This is my child wheezing for the fifth consecutive night. This is my child lying in the hospital ward. This is my child suffeing in pain.

But do not get sucked into the suffering. Be present, but not be attached to the suffering. Accept, and don’t question why this child is so prone to sickness and gripe in your heart how unfair life has treated you and how heavy the burden is to care for a sick child. Accept it that this is part and parcel of life and of parenthood. Accept that it could be better, it could be worse, but nothing you feel could make it better. Accept that it is your duty to care, but not your job to worry. Turn to whatever faith you have in whatever religion, and lay your worries there. Your child needs you, not your worries.



4 responses to “When a child is sick…

  1. Poor little man… But you are a wise mummy and have a good handle on it! I’ll never forget my “month for hell” when between my 3, ranging in age from 6 weeks to 4, had 3 cases of chicken pox, 1 staph infection, and an inner ear infection with allergic reaction to the medicine. Oh yes, and I had a light case of shingles! Hang in there- you’re doing great!

  2. Thanks for your encouragement…:) What you said reminds me of my time when my three cildren aged 3 to 7 all get chicken pox together as well! But because of mums like you who have survived before me, I know I will survive too. 🙂

  3. My son was hospitalized last year, and my stress level was sky-high. It’s so hard to accept we don’t have the power to fix all their hurts… You are so right. Be there, be calm, be comforting, have faith…past a certain point, that’s simply all we can do. Great post.

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