Never go to a birthday party prior to a major event like Christmas or a vacation. This is my new rule and I wish I had followed it recently because another mother did not follow what I think of as a major parenting commandment: thou shall not bring a sick kid to a birthday party.
We went to a birthday party for someone close to us recently where we only knew the birthday girl and none of the other small group of guests. It did not appear odd to us that one girl was resting, being quiet and lounging about because we didn't know her or her personality to know that this was unusual behavior. After the quiet girl licked a candle and put it back in the cake, after she had eaten some cake and things were winding down, her mom announced that they were going to leave a little early because the daughter is not feeling well and has not been herself all morning. All of the other moms who know the girl jumped on this comment, saying things like "I thought she might be feeling a little under the weather." When I heard this, I knew the sickness was coming our way.
I took my daughter inside to wash her hands and I wiped my son's hands too, but he's a toddler who puts his mouth on everything, making the hand washing almost pointless. Two nights later, he started acting
odd and by morning he was clearly sick. My husband was hit next, followed by me. While it sucks to be achy, congested and feeling like the entire front of my face was hit by a baseball bat, the worst part is we are headed to Maui in a few days. I know how I feel when I see someone with a bad cold get on an airplane and I hate the thought of being that person, the massive germ walking and waiting to infect everyone with the recycled air. Obviously I am also worried that the trip will be ruined by everyone feeling tired and down.
Last December I was paranoid that my kids would get sick before Christmas and the six hour drive to get there. The kids made it fine, but I got sick on Christmas day, ruining it for me and my kids. After this birthday party experience, I've decided to screen some of our pre-trip activities in the future. Obviously school - a major source of illness - is always there, but beyond that it seems like people are reluctant to stay home from special events like birthday parties when their child is mildly sick. I don't mean the small sniffles, either. I mean the illnesses that zap energy and fall under the only-want-to-watch-TV-and-eat-soup category. Who wants to tell their kid they have to miss a fun time? No one wants to come off as the mean parent, but come on, sometimes it is needed. I know my daughter would deny a sickness if I told her she had to miss a party with cake. One mom I know brought a sick child to playgroup - the illness went well beyond the sniffles - and justified it by saying that "the [other] kids are going to get sick sooner or later." Thanks for making it sooner, rather than later, is what I wanted to say in response. I've heard of chicken pox parties, but there is a reason no one has cold and flu parties.
Or else there is always the frequent excuse that the child was not sick when they left the house. That definitely happens sometimes, but I heard one mom say it once, only to have her three year old child contradict her immediately by reminding her mom she'd been sick all morning.
I'm not normally a germ-phobe either. I don't douse my kids' hands with anti-bacterial gel every time we get back into the car from a class or activity because I want them to build up resistance, but maybe I need to rethink the gel, spray or wipes during important times of year. Until then, I'm off to warm some soup for my sick kid.