My family has had one illness after another for the last month. We were sick during visits from grandparents over the holidays. We were sick all of winter break. We were sick for New Year’s. And we have been sick as school has started again. Just as I would nurse one child to health, another child would sniffle or lay on the couch with fever. In the midst of this, I fell ill with a horrible flu that made me wish I could just stay in bed for over a week. (Of course, I couldn’t.) Just as I started to recover, my husband got a stomach flu that brought him to his knees. Just as he was feeling better (not great, but better) and we were sure that had to be it… my oldest son got a fever and ear ache. And as I am typing this, I can hear one of my sons coughing in the other room. We are still in it. And it is exhausting.
But, there are gifts hidden in this. Yes, even in this. I just need to find them.
One mother that has also gone through her share of illness this season observed that her son’s flu allowed her to “baby” him in a way that he has needed (and she needed, too) since her second child was born. She wrote:
I can’t always fix his hurt feelings and sense of being overshadowed by her, but I can cuddle and coddle and carry him when he is sick. Now to just figure out how to do it when he is well.
It is true. Illness gives us the opportunity to care for our children in a way that is usually reserved for newborn babes. It gives us permission to slow down, simplify and do less. Less housework, less school, less errands, less activities… And more cuddling, more stories, more care giving, more time at home… Truly a gift.
For me, this has also been a great time for reflection. Doing less outside my home has offered me the opportunity to consider more and more what I want for my family. Winter time, and particularly the time right around New Year’s, is an important time for me to contemplate decisions, habits and goals. This time being homebound has given me amble opportunity to observe my children and consider what I find truly important for our family.
Illnesses also can bring the message that it is time to, as one friend put it, “cleanse, refine, not take on too much, find joy despite adversity.” Our body can sometimes be all too clear when we are not taking care of ourselves. So, how do I bring about health to myself and my family?
Do less, Sleep more
It is easy for our “to do” list to get completely overwhelming. It can seem there are not enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. And so, we try to create more hours in the day. We squeeze in work here and there. We stay up later and later. And, in order to do all of this, we give up sleep. Our days become breathless and our stress level goes up. We find ourselves with less patience, less creativity, and less joy. But, when illness hits, we hopefully stop. We discover which of the things on our list must be done, which can be postponed and which we never really had to do. Of course, we can also try to push through our illness and still get all our work done. But, this usually just compounds our illness and stress until our body forces us to rest. It can be a gift for us to step back from all we try to do regularly and discover what is truly essential and important.
Eat less sugar, Eat more garlic
One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to regain control of my addiction to sugar. Sugar is definitely my drug of choice. In moments of stress or exhaustion, I reach for chocolate. I am not one of those people who can moderate or just give it up completely. But, I can commit to giving it up 6 days each week. And then I give myself one cheat day to have whatever I want. But, because of all these colds and flus, I have had far less cravings. So, a big gift has been that I didn’t have any sugar for the first two weeks of the New Year. It has helped reduce my overall desire for sugar and has made it a lot easier to keep my addiction in check.
I have also focused on making sure my family is eating more healthy foods since we have been sick so long. Some days it has been less about what is healthy and more about what is easy to digest. But, I have also made a huge pot of homemade chicken soup with garlic. I have created a monthly calendar of healthy dinners so that meal planning is easier and I can be sure to have necessary ingredients available. I also take into account which nights I work later, which days we have extra activities and special occasions. It has made meals easier – and hopefully will also make them healthier and cheaper.
Drink less wine, Drink more tea
As much as I love a glass of wine at night, I have had no desire for it since all these colds and flus have entered our home. Instead, I have been drinking a lot more tea. Our favorite is Gypsy Cold Care (or the Just for Kids version for the little ones) with apple cider vinegar and honey. But, when I was just well enough to go out to our local restaurant, Prima Bistro, I also enjoyed their drink “Some Like It Hot” — bourbon, ginger, lemon, honey and a pinch of cayenne served hot. Here’s a recipe for a similar drink with whiskey. Makes me want one right now. But, really, the point is to limit the temporary fix of alcohol and focus on more overall health building tonics.
Feel less frustrated, Find more gifts
It is easy for me to start feeling overwhelmed with all the illnesses we are dealing with this season. I start to have crazy thoughts of never leaving the house again, so we can avoid catching that next cold. Then, I start to have crazy thoughts because we have been cooped up at home for so long. The reality is you can not protect yourself and your children from ever getting sick. And, while I really do want a long road of health in front of me and my family, it is true that these coughs and sneezes and fevers and other symptoms I would rather just keep to myself have also brought with them gifts. Now I just need to find ways to remember to hold on to these gifts as we start to breathe easy here again.