“Why is your kid always sick?”
This is the question my neighbor asked at the bus stop, after hearing that one of my kids was home sick (again).
At the time, I simply shrugged and then shrugged it off, but a few days later, when one of my kids came down with yet another illness, the question lurked in the back of my mind.
Why is my kid always sick? In fact, my are my kids (plural) always sick? Am I doing something wrong?
But quickly, my self-doubt turned to indignation. How dare he?!
You want to know why my kids are sick all the time? I’ll tell you:
There’s several of them
Numbers matter here. Sure, it only takes one kid to summon sickness upon a household, but if you have multiple kids like mine, they don’t all come down with an illness at once. They go down slowly, one by one, days or weeks apart. It’s like living in the movie Final Destination, only you’re not being stalked by death—you’re being hunted by sickness. As soon as one kid gets over it, the next one is sick, then the next one, then you, then your partner, repeat ad infinitum.
This phenomenon of slow-creeping illness is so pronounced in my house that, as soon as one kid is diagnosed with something like strep or norovirus, I am tempted to have them swap toothbrushes, share drinks, and breathe directly into one another’s mouths just to get it over with more quickly.
Their personal hygiene is crap (sometimes, literally)
Anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes with small children can tell you they’re disgusting. They pick their noses (and sometimes eat it), they bite their nails, they lick their fingers, basically, anything that personal hygiene suggests they should not do, they are all over.
Then there’s the bathroom. When they go into a restroom, they touch everything with abandon, they don’t always wipe carefully (or at all), and they sometimes lie about washing their hands.
They have zero concept of personal space
Aside from the obvious personal hygiene woes, kids are constantly in one another’s faces.
They hug, they kiss, and they close-talk like it’s their job (this is why fears of lice keep me up at night). If one kid has a virus, they can spread that thing faster than Ebola in The Hot Zone. Then your little Typhoid Mary comes home and “shares the love” with every member of your household, one hug, cuddle, cough, or breath at a time.
They go to school, where someone is always sick
As someone who has spent a decade teaching public school, I can promise you that, aside from a medical facility, no other place is as lousy with germs as your local school building.
We have a first grader, a preschooler, and a toddler. If there is a magic formula for how to be sick all the time, this combination is it. It’s the perfect storm of all the challenges described above. Unsupervised bathroom use, communal pencil boxes, plus sick Mackenzie, whose mom dosed her fever with Tylenol and sent her to school anyway–face it, your children basically attend Petri Dish Elementary School (don’t forget to buy your Spirit Wear).
Of course, this list doesn’t even account for all the germs your kids will casually pick up from licking the shopping cart at your local grocery store, rolling around on the floor at church, or simply living in your house. When it comes to “germ season” (which is a myth—germ season is every day from ages one to nine, at least), the possibilities are really endless.
The next time someone poses a condescending question to you about your household’s sickness, feel free to send them this list. Or punch them. I won’t judge you.
This article originally appeared on That’s Inappropriate.
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