One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest

I am sick and tired of my family being sick and tired. Winter is gloomy enough without being stuck in the house for days upon end trying to nurse my children or myself back to health. I dread my children getting sick as much as I dread snow days. In both cases it's unpredictable, exhausting and totally inconvenient.

            So when our sons claims to be ill, my first instinct, after racking my brain to remember where a thermometer might be, is to have them rate their level of discomfort.

            "On a scale of one to ten, how bad does it hurt?" I figure unless they're puking or have a fever, they're going to school with anything less than a seven. If they pass the first litmus test, I then remind them that sick people have to sleep or read all day, and cannot play on the PS4. This seems to weed out any of the true fakers.

            If one of the boys happens to make it through both phases of the sick test, I will reluctantly grant him a sick day. It's not that I lack sympathy, as much as the patience for their endless interruptions when I am trying to get work done from my home office. I also figure the headache he may or may not have is nothing compared to the headache of sending a kid to school only to be called an hour after drop off to come back and get him and enduring that "I told you so" look on his face all the way home.

            A few weeks ago, our oldest son, Arthur, started complaining that he didn't feel well. Indeed, his high fever, lethargy and persistent cough told me all I need to know. I was certain he was coming down with the flu. I immediately sequestered him in the guest room and started him on a strict regiment of Advil, fluids and Jewish penicillin, also known as chicken noodle soup. I then started obsessively Lysoling the entire house (and yes, "Lysoling" is a verb, just as my mother) and disinfecting every surface within arm's reach. I told him he was forbidden to leave the room and instructed him to text me if he needed anything. If I could have hermetically sealed him in that guest room I would have. I wasn't taking any chances.

            One or two days of playing nursemaid to a teenager is hard work. Six days is pure torture. Our house quickly turned into a modern day Downton Abbey, with me playing the role of the lowly servant relegated to the kitchen while Lord Arthur repeatedly summoned me from the upper chambers. On the morning of day three Arthur sent me the usual, "I need you" text which is just vague enough to cover everything from, "I feel sick and might throw up," to "My iPad needs to be charged." This time he wanted to let me know that texting had grown cumbersome and suggested we start communicating via the walkie talkies we had somewhere in the kitchen. I reluctantly obliged.

            A few hours later he called me on the walkie talkie to say that he had been Googling his symptoms and was pretty sure he had walking pneumonia and not the flu. I thanked him for his diagnosis and suggested he sleep more and Google less.

            By day five the guest room smelled like a combination of Lysol and body odor and thankfully the walkie talkie batteries had finally died. When I brought him his lunch tray he admitted that no, he had not read and didn't really have the energy to do much homework, but he proudly informed me that he had just finished watching the first two seasons of Glee and was about to start the third.

            Nearly a week after his symptoms began the fever was still hanging on so I finally took Arthur to the doctor even though I knew what she would say. "He's negative for the flu," she reported. That is not what I thought she would say. She proceeded to write a prescription for antibiotics and suggested he rest a few more days before going back to school. Turns out, he had walking pneumonia after all. Yep, mother of the year.

            On the way home I bought new batteries for the walkie talkies, two new cans of Lysol and lunch for Lord Arthur. His "I told you so" look all the way home meant that he was feeling better, but that I had a long road of recovery ahead of me.