When my son walked over to me with that sad look in his eyes, without his usual pep and mischievous grin, I started to worry. He then came in for a snuggle and I could feel that he had a fever. Ok, no big deal.
Over the next five hours the symptoms started racking up – Cough, Fatigue, Body and Headache, Loss of Appetite, and a Bad Stomachache – and this is when my brain started to spiral into panic mode. Ever since they were little, my kids have gotten summer colds and fall fevers. I’m usually the “getting sick builds their immunity” mom who encourages them to get dirty, but my kids having a fever this year couldn’t feel more different.
It was a Sunday so there were no places to get tested that day, so all we could do was wait. The pervasive messages of how keeping your distance helps prevents viral spread likely prompted my daughter to think to take out the measuring tape so that she wouldn’t sit within 6 feet of her little brother, an act that was completely pointless because hours before that they were sharing a drink.
Keeping their distance also made him feel ostracized and like he had done something wrong. I walked away from the two of them to just get a moment to think quietly. I started making a mental inventory of every place I had visited in the last 14 days and that is when my panic really began.
It was 12 days since we returned from our little trip within New England. It had been a much-needed change of scenery and I had been super picky about the details of our trip. We would only go to a place where cases weren’t rising and stay at a Motel so we didn’t need to be indoors to get to our room.
While there we spent most of our time outdoors, but I kept questioning every choice we had made. We went on a harbor nature boat tour (1/3 occupancy of a boat out at sea, that should have been safe). We of course got some food and saw people while we are out on the bike paths and hikes, but was anyone too close to us for an extended period of time?
And suddenly the panicked part of my brain then screamed at me, “Didn’t I see a license plate from Alabama and Utah in the parking lot at one point? Had someone brought COVID to New England and we brought it home to our community?”
I then started tallying all of the people we had seen in the last 14 days – we had worn masks all the time and kept our distance, but who was to say that we had been careful enough. Oh no, I had gone grocery shopping, and the kids had seen a few friends outside. Did we forget to wash our hands and change our masks?
As we sat down to dinner, my daughter then started asking about how likely it is that you have go to the hospital or that you will die from COVID – and then my little one started crying, running off screaming, “Thanks for putting that idea in my mind!”
It was a family-wide, emotional spiral. He went off to be by himself. I then tried to explain the relatively small risks for kids that actually do get COVID, followed by stressing the idea that asking those questions, in his presence and while he was sick, was a great way to make him worry, too. She cried and apologized and then said she was just worried (and honestly, so was I), but when you are little you just can’t think about how a question like that can impact others.
I snuggled him extra that night (resigned that if he had it, I already had it too or would really soon), gave him ibuprofen, and read him stories until he fell asleep. I bounced out of bed the next morning to get us signed up on the walk-in list of the local urgent care and then waited for the text to say we should come in.
We all got tested and a few blessed hours later the results were in – we were all negative.
And after all this I can’t help but wonder, is this the panic I will feel each time my kids get sick this year? Will there be no playdates without COVID tests? How often will the school mandate we get them to return our kids to school? And just because I saw enough symptoms on the list and got all of us tested, will other parents be as careful? I don’t want to live in a bubble, but I hate the worry. However, sadly, I think this is just how this year will go.