Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Coughing Up Ethics

I woke up today to the sound of Zack coughing. Not just clear a tickle from his throat coughing, but a fairly gross, hoarse voice cough. I hate when my kids get sick, but not for the altruistic reason of how much pain they must be in. No. As always, it's about me. (At least I'm honest about my self-centeredness.)

Specifically in this case, the question is how much do I have to cancel. Or, what places can I get away with taking a sick kid. The fact that he's in a great mood, not outwardly sick or miserable makes it worse. If he was feverish and laying on the couch, it's obvious I couldn't take him anywhere. I do have some amount of compassion, after all. But when he's bouncing around the house, perfectly healthy except for coughing about once every 30 minutes, it muddies the waters for me.

I think this is a question that every parent faces. You can't go into complete lockdown for every sniffle. And obviously you're going to stay home if the kid is too weak to get off the couch. But the inbetween illnesses? Is it a matter of how important the activity is, that determines whether bringing an infectious child is worth it? Or do you only keep them home if you'd be faced with public scrutiny by other adults for taking your kid out in that condition?

Accidental public exposure is a different matter, I think. Every parent has a story of underestimating a child's sickness and sending them off to school, only to have them throw up during Social Studies. (Or, in Brad's case, having his ear drum burst and pus leak out of his ear during preschool. Fun times.) Those things, I firmly believe, you can't avoid. But you can avoid spreading around your grimy germs when it's obvious like a cough.

So, pop quiz. Which activities would you cancel for a coughing child, who is otherwise in perfect shape? And would your answer change on day 5 of the cough, when you've been stuck at home for so long that you forget how to start your car?

- day care at the gym
- grocery shopping
- preschool
- attend a birthday party
- family vacation
- clothing store
- piano lesson
- church nursery
- outdoor playground
- fast-food playground
- friend's house

Here's the schedule I had in mind for today:

10:30 - gym
12 - Costco
4 - birthday party at Chuckie Cheese's

I'm going to cancel the gym, because there's a ton of kids there in tight quarters, including babies, and he could really spread the germs around with all the different toys he's touching. Plus, there are adults there who would know that I'm leaving a sick kid. I don't underestimate peer pressure.

I might take him to Costco, though, because he'll be confined to the cart, not around other kids, not likely to get anyone sick. And if he does get anyone sick, it's not like they could point the finger at my kid. Someone catching a cold from a random kid at Costco is just one of those things. (Don't judge me for this train of thinking - I have a feeling that I'm not the only one to think this way, just maybe the only one dumb enough to admit it.)

It's the birthday party at Chuckie Cheese's that has me on the fence. For one, we had to RSVP and it might cost the birthday mom money if we don't show up. Zack'll be disappointed if we don't go, but he's young enough to get over it. I personally hate missing fun things, and I also hate last minute cancellations when I'm throwing a party. Plus, and here's a big part of it, isn't a place like Chuckie Cheese's exactly the kind of place that's already swarming with germs? Aren't you not too surprised when your kid comes down with a cold a few days after a visit there (or any kid-centric place)? How many other kids are running around there with snotty noses and coughs and who knows what? Is there some assumed liability on the part of every other parent there, that they are knowingly taking their kid out in public where they might catch a cold?

Ryan's opinion was, dope him up on some cough syrup and hope he doesn't cough during the party. That way he still gets to go, and as long as he doesn't physically cough he's not spreading his disease. And at a current rate of one cough every 30 minutes, he should only cough a few times during a 1 1/2 hour party. But that might be pushing logic a little too far. Plus, writing a blog entry kind of takes away any perceived innocence on my part. Still, the cough syrup route might work. If only to dull my own sense of right and wrong.

**Post-Party Update: I decided to take Zack to the party, and wouldn't you know, he didn't cough the entire time we were there! I'm so glad I didn't keep him home. But you never know, do you?


rachel said...

Well, the worst part of this blog to me is that he probably got sick from my kid! Sorry!
I would skip places where little babies are (it is RSV season) and I would still go to the store, and I would also be on the fence about the party. (The selfish part of me wants Zack to go, so J has a ride!) Call Lauren, maybe? I faced this dilemma all week last week. My main rules are if there is a fever or puking, you stay home. Period. If it is a horrible constant cough, or croup, you stay home. The rest, well, it is just hard to say. Kids get 7-10 colds a year. That is normal.

josh said...

Your husband seems likea very wise man.

Ranisa said...

I would have taken my kids to all the things that you listed....unitl you mentioned the babies at the gym-good call. As far as the BD party I would call the mom in charge. Exposing them to babies is one thing but anyone who has school age kids are going to be exposed to what he has anyhow. Is he school aged? My kids are pretty sick before they stay home. They got it from school, so in my mind all the other kids where already exposed. If I had kept them home last year they would have missed half of the school year. AND on the back of the cough medice it states "call a doctor if cough persist more than 7 days"....no fever go go go. With the exception of babies.

I am sure people really really disagree with me. Sick and having a cold two different things.

Cash_Killa said...

I'd be careful what you post online, I hear Hamas is looking for a new biological weapon.

Luisa said...

As a piano teacher-- if your teacher has kids, then skip it if they're sounding bad. The last two weeks I've had kids come who sound horrible and feel horrible. I'm worried about my kids getting sick because my baby is in there with us. After lessons I lysol the piano. I'm on the normal/paranoid side of things so if my child has a cough- no nursery.