I am sure you know the drill: Wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before eating and preparing food. Use hand sanitizer when getting to a sink is not convenient. Opt for the elbow shake or an air kiss. But there comes to a point in the winter, especially February, where if you haven’t gotten sick yet, you are just plain lucky.
Sometimes, the best way to stay healthy and build up that immune system is not to lock yourself away until spring thaw but to dance straight into the fire. In other words, you can spend a lot of time with preschoolers, like I do.
Entering the preschool classroom in February is like entering the lion cub’s den of viruses. The rhino virus comes to play with the blocks while his friends influenza and roto hang out by the toy kitchen. Streptococcus and the dreaded Conjunctivitis like to frolic in the water table.
I guess I’ve developed a sense of humour along with the immune system. Because thinking back to when I was a young parent, the germful world was a very fearful place.
I remember being so worried of my children catching something when my kids were in preschool.
“Did you hear?” I asked another mom one day during a Yoga class that was scheduled during preschool hours. “The stomach bug is going around in class. What if my daughter gets sick?” As luck had it, I, the novice and neurotic first-time mommy, presented this question to a veteran mother-of-three mommy. I was feeling a bit guilty because despite this worry, I still dropped Jolie off because I wanted to go to my Yoga class.
“Don’t worry,” said veteran mommy in the middle of practicing Triangle pose. “They get sick. They get better. That’s why they have immune systems.”
This was probably some of the best advice a new mom could get. And as my kids get bigger, they get sick less often, but February is always the time they get sick. One February break, when my kids were in preschool, I cancelled nearly every playdate we made. The week was spent watching movies and reading books between doses of Advil for fever reduction and ice pops for hydration.
One year, my lucky husband was away in California for a conference just in time for the rest of us to get the dreaded stomach bug. I spent a wild Saturday night dragging sheets from my son’s bunk beds into the snow so I can hose them off.
I probably should NOT say this, but these episodes of illnesses seem to grow more seldom as my kids get older. So preschool parents, hang in there!
But if you are a younger family, this is the time of the year where a preschooler’s immune system gets the most rigorous of workouts. Unfortunately, that little 3-year-old may also take their whole family down with them. Siblings get sick. Parents have to reshuffle work commitments.
This is why I proclaim February as Sickie Month.
It is Sickie Month because it is the time in school when we see the most absences. I hear it in the lingering coughs when sick kids come back.
I see a sick day coming when the boy who usually roars like a tiger with his preschool pals loses his roar. I see a sick day coming when the girl who usually bubbles and twinkles with all the enthusiasm and glee of a little girl loses her twinkle. I’ve sat with kids as they shiver with fever and wait for their caregivers to pick them up. Now that I’m a veteran mom of three, my maternal instincts know that a dose of ibuprofen will make the child feel right as rain, though I know my school policy makes me as a teacher unable to administer any medicine.
If you have any doubts why it is necessary to have a February break, just ask a preschool teacher.