It was a day like any other. Me dragging two little tykes into the car, trying to get them to daycare before half the town noticed I was late to work — again. Threats, bribery, empty promises… nothing was beneath me that warm summer day.
And by the time I had unloaded each kid into their respective classroom; backpacks, lunchboxes, loveys, and baseball caps in tow. I felt the small twinge of victory as I walked out the daycare center door to my car, as I did every day after drop off.
Breath of relief. The day was mine.
Well, not exactly. I was on my way to work, but even a small office space can feel freeing after a wild morning with kids. Parents understand.
An hour into my work day, I get the dreaded call from daycare. PS – a call from daycare is NEVER good. I love my kids’ daycare; don’t get me wrong. But they never call me at 10 a.m. to tell my what a good boy my son has been, or how well my toddler ate his lunch. Nope, doesn’t happen.
“I think your son has Hand, Foot, and Mouth Virus.” The words echoed in my ears. Until now, I’ve only heard of this disgusting virus through friends, and nightmare tales from the crypt. It’s worse than chicken pox… I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy… All things I’ve heard from acquaintances about the evil HFM. Even my mom referred to it as Hand, Hoof and Mouth virus, mixing it up with Mad Cow Disease — yes, the deadly bovine disease that kills thousands of cows at a time. Christ, what are we about to get ourselves into?
I burst through those daycare classroom doors like I was ready to pull my son out of a burning building. If I had a superhero cape on, I would have looked LEGIT. But as I scanned the room, looking for a kid whose face was peeling off at the cheeks, I spotted my little one staring at me blankly.
Completely clear skinned as far as I could see, and smiling with glee at the early pick up, my son looked like the poster child of health. But rules are rules, so home we went.
It was only upon the first diaper change that I saw it. Little white dots, like pimples waiting to be popped. Slowly, ever so slowly, they increased and spread like loitering teens at a free tattoo festival. By the end of the day there were blisters on his hands, feet and privates.
My son had a mild case and by some miracle my other child didn’t get it. Even though those two little hooligans tried to spread it — oh yes, they tried. Sharing sippie cups when I turned my back, wrestling each other, sneezing on each other with gusto. They were determined to pass this damn thing along.
So while we were blessed to have this sickly virus inflict minimum wrath, my kids and I were damned to the ultimate punishment in parenting: we were confined to the house. In summertime, the mecca of birthday parties and swim lessons and play dates. With one kid perfectly healthy and ready to tackle the world and the other kid who wanted to be healthy and couldn’t understand what all the fuss is about. For a week.
Try telling a three year old he cant go to the dinosaur exhibit like you promised because his baby brother has “sicky hands” for a week, and you’ll know what purgatory feels like.
Today, if you say those three ugly words together — hand, foot, mouth — I will shudder and break eye contact. I will run to the nearest sink and wash my hands raw. Because this virus is not only ugly, it’s cruel. It comes back for seconds, it takes out entire classrooms at a time, and it leaves scars. It keeps kids and parents confined to the ugly, whitewashed walls of their homes, far from work (sorry boss), fun events, and the nearest grocery store to replenish the wine supply.
I wish everyone health, abundance, happiness and longevity. But if I could only pick one thing, I wish you never have to face the wrath of Hand, Hoof — opps, I mean Foot — and Mouth Virus.