My poor little three-year-old has had croup. After crawling into bed with me this morning and pulling my face close to his, he would cough. I kept trying to shield myself by turning my head, but his sweet little arm would wrap around my neck and force my face right in front of his. And he would cough again. This went on for a few minutes before he said matter-of-factly, "Mami, I not sick anymore."
I pondered briefly about what he was trying to say to me with this little statement of his. It was true that his cough no longer sounded like a barking seal, he hadn't had trouble breathing at all the day before, and his voice finally sounded only congested instead of quiet and raspy. His fever had been gone for two days as well. So could he sense that he was on the mend? Perhaps. But when I questioned him further, he alluded to the many times that he would get close to or touch his older brother who would then push him away saying, "stop! You're getting me sick!" His comment combined with our brief interaction of coughing and pushing away and him pulling me back, helped me see just exactly what he was trying to tell me. Had he the ability, perhaps he would have said it more like this, "Mami, I am tired of not being able to touch people or be near the ones I love. I don't like people pushing me away. I want to be all better so I can be close to you and to my brothers and sister. I don't like being treated like I am the disease." I understood what he was saying and I pulled him close.
I, too, have felt the pushing away of others at times when I have been under the weather, but more often I have felt it when my kids are sick. In our desire to protect our families, do we inadvertently alienate others in a time of need? Is a little cough or runny nose enough to send us running the other way? Surely there are safe ways to show love and concern to those who are unwell. Have someone else watch your well kids while you bring over some already-made soup and visit. Or watch the sick kid so mom can do errands that can't be done with a sick child at home. Maybe offer to take the well kids for a while so the sick one can get the attention he or she needs as well as giving the siblings some space to keep them from catching the bug as well. Or just make a brief door visit to avoid contamination. Do whatever you can to support and show love.
Let's face it, we will probably get sick somehow anyway. He who has no germs, cast the first stone. You can embrace the ill-one without embracing the illness. As my little guy reminded me this morning, pushing away never made anyone feel better.