If you’re lucky, you can tag your spouse at 3:30 or 4 in the morning and tell him it’s his turn to attempt to placate your miserable three-year-old. He’ll be surprised since he only slept a few hours since his last shift but he’ll willingly take the boy from your arms. You will fall back asleep on the nearest clear surface–your bed, the guest bed in your tiny office, the couch or recliner downstairs. You don’t even remember how many times you have rotated among these locations, or the glider in the kids’ room, throughout the night, in attempts to soothe the boy with a change of scenery or a snuggle position that will somehow bring him relief.
The next day you will feel completely disoriented, leaving the house in the morning only for medicine that you pray will be an acceptable flavor. You also get chocolate, thinking this may serve as an incentive and reward for swallowing the medicine if it proves to be offensive. The chocolate is met with enthusiasm and devoured even though it turns out bubble gum Benadryl is not so awful. But somehow the chocolate causes distress and there is rushing to the bathroom where no one throws up but rather drools and dribbles m&m residue and refuses to drink water or milk and he becomes generally hysterical.
What seems to be the only way to distract him from the itch is movies, so naturally you let him watch age inappropriate films such as Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2, which you bought on iTunes (in a bundle with the new all-female version) because he’s been obsessed with Ghostbusters for months based solely on seeing the Ghostbusters Lego sets in the Lego catalog which he read so much it completely fell apart. Ghostbusters is much worse than you remember it being, but he likes it. You observe that Bill Murray is ageless. Then you watch Annie (the version starring Quvenzhané Wallis) which all of you have seen at least a dozen times but it’s easier to take than Ghostbusters and big sister needs a chance to choose.
Sometime during the film fest he rallies enough to ask for you to high five his feet, and at last he consents to let you spread on the baking soda paste you whisked up, which seems to help at least a little and it makes you feel better that you’re actually doing something useful for your sick child.
You play Legos at his request even though you are weary of playing good guys vs. bad guys and would rather just build. Sometimes he will build with you but today he just wants you to be a bad guy farmer while he is twin Iron Man brothers teamed up with a mini figure you made at the new Lego store that you named Frank. You wonder how on earth you can disinfect all the Legos.
You check your phone so much that he actually starts tapping your arm to get you to put your phone away. You feel bad that you’re looking at the phone, although to be fair you’re spending about 25% of the time you’re on it looking up information about coxsackievirus or texting people at school to tell them to be in the lookout for signs. The rest of the time you’re just distracting yourself from the unpleasantness at hand, or trying to feel a connection with the world and other grownups who are out living their lives since you and your husband are at home unable to leave the side of your child except to do dishes or laundry to fetch medicine or ice packs or wash your hands approximately 500 times. You notice that you’re running out of soap.
Eventually you and your daughter leave the house to get Five Guys, which later you regret. But while you’re there hurriedly shelling peanuts and quizzing her on Virginia geography for her upcoming social studies test, you feel gloriously liberated. Even circling through Clarendon for 15 minutes to find a parking spot–you completely forgot it was Saturday night when you left the house–isn’t so bad because you and your daughter can listen to Harry Potter.
Thankfully your son is hungry and thirsty at last and eats a little dinner and drinks some water and some milk. At one point you go into the bathroom with him and he sees the rash all over his mouth while he’s washing his hands and looking in the mirror. He is, understandably, dismayed, but he doesn’t cry.
You change your clothes a few times because he’s been desperately rubbing his face and hands and feet all over you throughout the day. You strip the pillows and wash all the blankets. You wash your hands another 500 times. You check facebook and get sympathy and advice from other parents.
You worry that your daughter will catch it. She worries too and she meticulously avoids touching his legos or other toys and brings down sheets and a comforter and her own pillow to lie on the love seat where he has been lying. This is actually pretty smart, you think.
Finally both children are in bed. You enjoy listening to your husband practice mandolin. You do a little cleaning triage. You know you should just go to bed but it is lovely to be awake when no children are awake, for just a little while. You hope, hard, that everyone will sleep through the night and that tomorrow brings healing.