I’m still in the trenches of toddlerhood, and yet, I already know I will look back on my daughter’s preschool years with affection for what it is: sweet, fun, curious, and undeniably precious.
What I won’t miss about this stage is that it’s germy. SO germy.
The preschool years bring endless crud into our home. Crud that is heartbreaking when your beloved child’s body is working hard to fight it off, but that also works its way into other bodies. The adults in the home who have jobs and responsibilities, run the entire household and have just endured the emotional and physical roller coaster that comes with nursing a sick child back to health.
One thing I didn’t fully understand until becoming a mother is that when our kids are sick, carefully and selflessly caring for them is no easy feat.
Days (and nights) are filled with endless boogie wiping. Breathing treatments. Round-the-clock medicine administering, noting the time and type of their last dose. So many cuddles and kisses. Allowing extra screen time and an endless supply of their favorite snacks—whatever makes them happy. Scheduling and attending doctor’s appointments. Seeking advice from trusted sources and fellow moms. Cleaning up bathroom messes and washing mucus-laden sheets. Assessing your child’s symptoms at all times. More cuddles and kisses.
The work truly never ends, but it all seems to pay off when our little ones finally breathe a sigh of relief and exclaim with dried, crusty nostrils and an enthusiastic smile, “Mommy, guess what? I not sick anymore!”
Sure enough, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The thermometer displays a normal temperature. We notice that the once endless congestion has become fleeting. Glassy eyes are bright again, and the lethargy is replaced with energy once more.
Then, almost expectedly, I feel it.
That familiar ache in the shoulders. A glance at the thermostat to see why it’s so chilly in here. A slight drip down the nose. Tiredness we can’t shake with even our largest mug of coffee. There’s absolutely no way that I’m sick now—I sanitized everything; I’m sure of it! Sure enough, the thermometer beeps furiously and glares its red warning after a quick check: 100.6 degrees.
But, moms don’t have time to be sick. I’ve made promises to my child who wants to go back to the park, promises of YouTube dance parties, and playing with the puzzles and Play-Doh that were abandoned over the last few days. Remember? It’s time to celebrate! We need to make up for lost time.
I struggle with this guilt, this knowing, because as moms, we’re always thinking of our children. Their happiness always remains our priority. But there’s no denying it—momma feels exhausted. Feverish. And just downright not well.
It happens often, you see. Despite the relentless disinfecting, handwashing, and the meticulous oversight of whose cup is whose in order to avoid germ-swapping, moms still end up with the illness their child just battled. But it’s not from a lack of preventative measures or a poor immune system.
It’s from being fully aware that our turn might be next but remaining close as they cry, whine, and scream because they need you there. Sleeping right next to them to watch them breathe because you can’t bear the thought of not being there. Not when they’re like this. Soothing the symptoms through back tickles, couch snuggles, and kiss after kiss after kiss. The endurance of a right-in-your-face cough while asking your toddler if they can stomach some applesauce. Or a sneeze to the open eyeball while giving yet another dose of Motrin. Letting them air out their frustrations however they need to because you know the discomfort they are experiencing, and you want it to end just as badly.
We know we’re likely to be the next victim of this germy host, but there is no way we will not comfort our children.
Sometimes we’re lucky, and we can all move forward. But when we’re not, we learn to dig deep and find a way to put one foot in front of the other. To rise above how unwell we feel. To do what we can to rest and heal. Reminding ourselves that this will pass.
Then we do it all over again. These are the preschool years. The sick years.
It’s the really, really hard days and trials that have allowed me to see the resilience I’ve developed as a mother. The superhero-like strength. The ability to move past the thoughts that tell me I can’t do this and persevere.
If you’re sick, momma, or your little one is, and you’re doing all the things, if you find yourself in the trenches and consumed with making your household and yourself better—once again—during this stage of life, remember this . . . these may be the sick years, but it is a good life.