Let me be very clear. I do not ever want my kids to be sick. We’ve had run-o-the-mill childhood sickness and we’ve had serious sickness—I don’t like either kind. I would wish only good health, happiness, sunshine, and lollipops for my children and the children of the world. And we are fortunate and grateful to have excellent health care and, generally, very good health.
That being said…there is sometimes an upside to illness. That upside is that everything must stop, at least temporarily. We call them in absent to school, reschedule the work meetings, cancel the birthday party and soccer practice…. When we are sick, we are forced to take to our bed/couch and just get well. And read!
We have had some great reading times while sick. Sometimes we remember certain books by the illness, in fact. “Remember when we read ________________ when I had _______________?” one of the kids will say.
This gives me just a bit of joy, I must admit. The frightening asthma-induced hospital stays are softened by the memory of the James Herriot animal stories we read there. I remember more fondly the Horrific Family-wide Stomach Flu of 2004 when I remember #1 Son reading Thomas the Tank Engine stories to his sister, a collection I’d read to him when he had chicken pox a few years before. My daughter’s first asthma flare is linked to Pippi Longstocking in my memory and hers. The medicine she was on made her every bit as wild as Pippi and she would only sit still and let her lungs calm down if we read her the antics of Pippilotta Provisiona Garbedina Dandeliona Ephraim’s Daughter Longstockingose. (Interestingly, Astrid Lindgren wrote this story for her daughter, Karin, who was home sick from school.)
What we’ve found is that sickness presents an opportunity of sorts. The doctor says, “Keep her home for at least the week….” And I think, “A week…we could read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series in a week!” I hear a suspicious rattle in someone’s lungs and I add Go to library…. to the To-Do List in case we are suddenly convalescing. Heaven forbid we be caught at home wheezing with nothing new to read.
Both kids had strep throat once during the elementary years. (I know, we’re lucky). I read each of them the Ribsy books by Beverly Cleary during that twenty-four hours we waited for the antibiotic to kick-in so they could swallow again. This tells me they each had strep for the first time in that first to second grade time period— the household’s medical records and reading records are combined in a file deep in the recesses of my brain.
We read The Barefoot Book of Pirates during The Cold That Would Not Leave Us and Winnie-the-Pooh during a bout of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth disease. One particularly unhealthy spring, we read the Teddy Robinson Storybook exclusively at the asthma doctor’s office—I just kept it in my purse and we pulled it out every time we went there. Love those books with self-contained chapters/stories.
Once, we tried to read every single picture book in the house during a Virus From Hell. Fortunately, the virus left before we’d finished, which says more about the number of picture books we have than the length of that protracted virus. And during Sleeping Sickness (this is my name for it, not the actual disease caused by the bite of a tsetse fly) we read Shel Silverstein because everyone (including me) fell asleep if we tried to read anything longer than a poem.
In short, sickness at our house is treated as an opportunity for a reading marathon. What’s your favorite fevered reading memory?
Photo Credit: Katherine Warde