Sick days are sacred. They’re about taking care of yourself, sitting on your butt, and doing whatever the hell you want. We had a sick day recently, and I recommitted to this idea, while getting the chance to reflect on my everyday (non-sick?) life.
You know your child is having a hard time sleeping when you roll over in the middle of the night to find him staring straight at you as he says “Hi Dad,” with absolute lucidity. That’s what happened the other night when my son couldn’t sleep, plagued by terrible fits of coughing that thwarted his attempts at rest. He eventually made it across the hallway into his parents’ bed, keeping us all marginally awake for most of the night.
Needless to say, he was a mess the next morning and had to take the day off of school. I opted to stay home with him so my wife could go to work, and after firing off a few work-related emails, I was free the rest of the day to relax and enjoy. But at first, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with him. I tend to be a “let’s get out of here” sort of dad. On the days that my son and I have had together without his mom, we tend to go to the park, hike, visit museums, enjoy street fairs, that sort of thing. I tend to be pretty active. I’m not as good sitting at home coming up with activities.
That’s why this sick day posed a certain challenge for me. What was I to do with my son for the day, stuck at home? And here was the fear: We’d only watch TV. I’m kind of a TV addict. That’s one of the reasons why we got rid of cable recently. And yet, without cable, there’s still hulu, amazon streaming, youtube, blu-rays, and a host of other non-cable media options. When I’m kind of stuck, parenting-wise, I tend to rely on TV as my old fall-back. We’re tired after dinner: How about an episode of AFV? Groggy at breakfast: Why not watch an episode of Ninjago? Mom’s on a work call: Did you see they’re streaming episodes of Ultraman on hulu?
So, a day stuck at home with a sick kid was just screaming out for non-stop television/movie time. And what did I do? I turned on the TV of course. We had breakfast on the couch, watching America’s Funniest Home Videos, but the whole time I was wracking my brain for things to do. My son’s been learning chess…no, I’m crap at that. He has reading to do….no, it seemed unreasonable to make him do homework while he’s sick. We could do some math….no, for the same reason as the reading.
Then I realized the conundrum I was in. I truly believe that sick days are sacred, and that in this age of achievement and ambition, our bodies sometimes put on the breaks. When we get sick, I firmly believe that we need to take cues from our bodies and slow down. So, on a sick day we’re supposed to sit around all day. We’re supposed to do the things we want to do. We’re supposed to put everything else down. The tricky part was that I’m a little too quick to sit around watching TV on days when my family and I are healthy! I tend to use TV to numb us out on a daily basis. My sick-day anxiety was due to this push and pull: feeling the need to honor what my son wanted to do on his special sick day (TV) and fighting the laziness that I tend to embody daily (TV). So what was the answer? TV.
I had to prioritize the fact that it was his sick day, so we were going to do what he wanted to do in order to feel rested and rejuvenated. I realized I couldn’t make up for my laziness on that day, of all days. I would have to start embodying more conscientious ways of unwinding when he or I weren’t sick. That way, when we’re truly sick or truly exhausted, television can be a special treat.
For that particular sick day, I just needed to be a little savvy and break up the day, because 8 hours of the tube wasn’t going to do anyone any good. When AFV concluded, I suggested, “Hey, why don’t we build a pillow fort?” Within a few minutes we had a fort of pillows and blankets scaffolding the couch. Dad’s fat ass nearly pulled the thing down getting in, but it survived. Then I suggested I read him a book inside the fort. He said I could pick the book. “Even the Hobbit?” I asked hopefully (I’ve been pushing Middle-earth on him for months). He said yes! So we cuddled up for nearly an hour under the almost-too-hot blankets, enjoying Bilbo’s unexpected gathering together.
And in the end, more TV. When I asked him what he wanted to do next, it was to watch Star Wars. Yes, there is one word that describes both my son and I: Nerds. He settled on Attack of the Clones, and I tried not to laugh too hard when Anakin and Padme frolicked in the meadows of Naboo.
In the end, we had a great time. Sometimes it takes an sick a day to realize you need some rest, but it may also take a sick day to realize the ways in which you spend your everyday life.