Parenting While Sick: The Sixth Circle of Hell

I’ve been struggling with a nasty flu that hit me fast. I’m no doctor, but the high fever, cold sweats, and general misery are all symptoms of a radioactive spider bite. So I’m thinking there’s a good chance I’ll come out of this thing with super powers, which is exciting, but also kind of unnerving because my frame isn’t exactly built for a leotard, you know?

Sadly, the doctor disagreed with my diagnosis. There would be no superpowers. It was just something viral that one of my kids brought home. Children truly are the gift that keeps on giving.

Throughout all this, I got to enjoy a couple of brutal days of parenting while sick. My wife abandoned me for “work,” leaving me with 12 hours of quality time with two 3.5-year-olds and a 101 fever.

It’s a little known fact that “parenting while sick” was actually the punishment given to heretics in the sixth circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno, but Dante’s editor thought the punishment was too harsh, so they went with flaming tombs instead.

Every typical parenting duty—getting the kids dressed, fixing breakfast—is a slow, agonizing torture when your fever is so high you can feel your toenails grow. Suddenly, a simple request like, “daddy, can I have a juice box?” becomes a monumental feat of heroics. It’s only 12 steps from the couch to the fridge, but she may as well have asked me to squeeze the apple juice from a stone.

I spent a lot of time “supervising” from the couch…with my eyes closed.

On the upside, I learned that my two little toddlers are really sweet children with an amazing capacity for empathy. My daughter kept bringing me various trinkets (a watch, a juice box, a salt shaker) and saying, “this will make your body better, daddy.” My son didn’t throw a single tantrum over the color of his milk cup, the volume of the TV, the wattage of the light bulbs—the things that usually set him off. Instead, they played well together, building an entire city of block towers, and asked me throughout the day if I was feeling any better now.

I also learned that I’m probably a better parent when I’m sick, which is surprising. I’ve always known that I’m a great “tipsy parent” (no one loves their kids more than I love my kids after four beers), but I’m probably the world’s worst hungover parent. The combination of physical pain and emotional guilt is too much for my feeble mind to handle.

Sidenote: I’ve always suspected that potheads would make great stay-at-home parents. Is anyone more patient or better at craft projects? I don’t think so.

Anyway, when I was sick, I was way more patient than I usually am, and by patient, I mean I let the kids do whatever they wanted.

Goldfish and donuts for lunch? Sounds good. Want to build a tower out of old batteries and scissors? Wash your hands first.

I just didn’t have the energy to fight the good fight for nutrition and safety. Maybe tomorrow.

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