I Can't Remember The Last Time I Was Fully Healthy. I Blame My Kids.
You could see it rolling in like a seaside thunderstorm. One afternoon, my oldest son came home from nursery, flopped onto the sofa, hardly touched his dinner and barely made it through bathtime before falling asleep. The next morning he was warmer than usual to the touch. That night, as he rolled over under his duvet to tell me that he loved me, he opened his mouth and coughed, and I felt flecks of saliva spatter against my face. At that point, what happened next was inevitable.
My son is ill. His brother is ill. Their mother is ill. And I am ill. The four of us are a shuffling, shaking, sporadically loose-boweled germ cloud. We cannot between us figure out if we are too hot or too cold. Our windows rattle to the sound of our chesty hacking. We’re going through Calpol like a long-distance trucker goes through diesel. We’re resigned to the fact that we have simply become host vessels for a violent array of bogies. If money was no object, we’d burn our house and everything in it and simply start again somewhere more sterile.
And this would be bad, were it not for the fact that it happens all the time. This might be the fifth time this year that we’ve all been simultaneously poorly. It might be the sixth. I’ve lost count. There is a good chance, and I’m not exaggerating here, that I cannot remember the last time I was fully healthy.
This is the thing they never tell you about kids. Yes, they’re magical and wonderful and you love them with every atom of your being. But at the same time, they’re also gross little fucking Petri dishes who exist exclusively to contaminate you with every single low-level viral infection known to man.
It wasn’t always like this. I used to be the picture of hearty wellness. I haven’t made a GP appointment in almost 20 years, because I’ve always been able to bound through life dodging bacteria like Keanu Reeves dodging bullets in The Matrix. Still, to this day, I’m always the last one to succumb to the contagion du jour, struggling along like an Iwo Jima soldier with the bodies of weaker men in my wake.
But, still, it always floors me in the end. And I can’t be too smug about never seeing a doctor, because I’m constantly at the GP surgery now, arriving with a child under each arm, the pair of them leaving competing snail-trails of snot on the floor as I traipse them through the waiting area. Our doctor knows our names by sight now. He knows what I do for a living. I suspect that I’m one weird rash away from being invited to his daughter’s wedding. And it’s not like I really need to see him anyway, because the treatment is always exactly the same. Calpol and fluids and rest, prescribed so routinely that I am now only able to hear those words to the tune of Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Calpol-and-fluids-and-rest. Calpol-and-fluids-and-rest. Calpol Calpol Calpol Calpol, Calpol-and-fluids-and-rest.
And I know exactly who to blame for all this, too. It’s your children. It’s their fault. They started this by going to nursery and sneezing into the toybox. Or licking a plastic horse for a laugh. Or cleaning out their nostrils with the narrow end of a teaspoon when nobody was looking. Your child is a phlegm-stuffed grenade, exploding in plain sight and taking out my kids in the process. It doesn’t even matter if our children go to the same nursery, because all nurseries are like this. I used to work in a nursery in South Korea and it was exactly the same there; a roiling non-stop back and forth of competing maladies that would start small and then grow into an avalanche big enough to take out all the adults. A nursery is nothing if not a pulsating epicenter of illness.
A 2005 study determined that children who attend nursery are three to four times more likely to have a respiratory infection than a child who stays at home, and these infections are likely to infect the other members of their family. However, as much as I hate to say it as I sit here with a blocked nose and sore teeth and no real sense of smell or taste, but this is probably a good thing.
Because the study also found that being exposed to so many germs at such a young age is a decent way of stimulating a child’s immune system. It might be hard to watch them suffer through lots of colds and sniffles now, but it could ultimately improve their chances of becoming healthy adults in the long-run.
Until they have kids themselves, that is, because then they’ll end up just as tired and clammy and feverish as I am right now. Jesus Christ, kids are gross.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.