July 6, 2011
© Dan Thompson
Laylee and Magoo snuggled under blankets on our neighbor’s front lawn. The ground was growing chilly and the hour was growing late but they would not go to bed until every last firecracker in the neighborhood had been lit. It was late on Independence Day evening and Magoo, though sick with a sinus infection, refused to surrender to the parental redcoats who were trying to take away his freedom.
Truth be told, Dan and I weren’t trying that hard to get him to bed. If we’d really wanted him to go in, he would have gone in. We know who’s in charge around here, but it was a holiday and he just wanted to be part of the action. He woke up that morning with glassy eyes and a bit of a fever but he was excited for the Fourth so we packed everyone up and headed to the parade.
Our town parade involves tractors and classic cars, big waits between each attraction, and line dancers. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, someone walks down the parade route dressed up like a giant cornstalk. It’s not the most thrilling event in the world but it’s a tradition and since he wasn’t dying and it wasn’t an event where he’d be touching other people, we let him come. I had him steer clear of the bouncy houses or any other attraction that would involve the transmission of germs and after the last tractor had rumbled past, we made our way home.
That afternoon his fever shot up over 103 and he grew more and more miserable. He lay on the couch drifting in and out of sleep while we roasted marshmallows and hotdogs. We’d ask him if he wanted to join us and he’d say, “Wake be ub for the fireworks.” So at around seven when the neighbors started shooting off rounds of light to moderate pyrotechnic ammunition, I wrangled him out onto the street with a fleece blanket and a camp chair and he sat vacant-eyed and pitiful, periodically drifting asleep, only to be woken by a loud bang and a flash. He’d smile faintly and try to focus his eyes on the spot where the explosion had happened.
Every 20 minutes or so, I’d ask him if he wanted to go in and he’d shake his head firmly. He wanted fireworks. So we gave him fireworks. At about ten, with him still shaking his head, Dan scooped him up and carried him to bed. I think he was asleep before his head hit the pillow. Yesterday he was still miserable and I’m left wondering if I did the right thing letting him be up and about when he felt so awful. When your kids are sick do you slow down or do you keep on truckin’? I feel like I go round and round in circles with this question.
I want my kids to get the rest they need for their bodies to heal, but I also don’t want to punish them for being sick. If an illness falls at the same time as an event or activity they’ve been really looking forward to, and I think they can do it without making someone else sick, I tend to lean toward letting them participate in whatever capacity they are able.
Right now he’s upstairs sleeping, a snoring, pathetic little sleep but I like to think he’s happier with the memories of fireworks dancing in his head. It makes me feel better.