Sick Days

She stumbles out to the dimly lit kitchen just a little after six this morning.

“My throat is sore,” she says to me with a wince, “like it’s bleeding or something.”

And I know what she means. Like neon flashing, I know the signs. No need for swabs or lab tests today, I know her strep is back, that maybe it never left, that the eighth empty bottle of antibiotics, the one I just pitched in the trash the other day, proved ineffective at kicking this infection that’s plagued her all winter long.

Sick Days

I fetch her a blue popsicle and promise watermelon sherbet for breakfast. But the novelty, like her body’s resistance, has worn off. So I tuck her back in bed and call the school. I text her teacher and explain, again, why she won’t be in class. I text another friend and cancel the hike we’re supposed to take. I ask a friend to help with childcare, another one to pray.

I spend my morning with one eye on my daughter, another on the clock. Every minute takes an hour as I wait for the specialist to call me back. Meanwhile, two other kids clamor for my attention. One needs her school assignments and wonders why she can’t have ice cream for breakfast. The other is potty-training and wants to play in the sandbox in his underpants.

Somehow I make it to lunch time without killing anyone.

Just after two o’clock, the phone call comes that I’ve been waiting for, but there’s protocol to follow, the secretary says, a waiting list to be seen, and my best course of action is to take her to the same-day clinic, the same clinic we’ve been to five times in the last four months with the same complaint and outcome.

They know us here on a first-name basis, no need to flash them my insurance card when she and I walk through the door. They know why we’re here, again. Between mine and theirs, the small waiting room is thick with pity.

Surprisingly, the rapid strep test is negative, something else might be going on. It could be the flu that’s making her throw up in the bathroom down the hall.

“But to be safe, we’ll send it to the lab and see if the culture grows overnight,” says the sympathetic physician’s assistant.

So it’s more waiting, more popsicles and gifted Rita’s ice (thanks to another friend), more damp washclothes on fevered foreheads and kisses of reassurance that she’ll be feeling better very soon. And I hate it. I mean, I love the snuggles, but for the love of Clorox Wipes, I hate it when my kids are sick. It has to be a universal dread among mothers.

It could be the powerlessness we feel. The inability to make things right again. Or maybe it’s the loss of control. The disruption of our daily routines and the fear of what it might bring.

For me, it’s this uncomfortable sensation of being suspended, like everything is up in the air, including me, and nobody will let me down. I’m not afraid of heights; in fact, I’m a sucker for a good, long run on a zip-line. But what goes up must eventually come down, and when circumstances seem to mess with simple laws of physics, it’s just, I don’t know, unnerving.

But I remember reading it this morning before she stumbled into the kitchen:

What does it matter if external circumstances are hard? Why should they not be! If we give way to self-pity and indulge in the luxury of misery, we banish God’s riches from our own lives and hinder others from entering into His provision. – Oswald Chambers

In other words…

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

That’s what her teacher always says. When handing out cupcakes or pencils or prizes to the kids in her class, this is what she has them repeat. And I love it. I’ve used this mantra many times myself since I first heard her say it almost nine months ago.

I say it to myself now, and the next day, when the test comes back positive, when appointments are made, new antibiotics are ordered, and tonsils are read their last rights. I take to heart its wisdom and the email from a sage counselor and friend that reminds me God knows my need, He hasn’t lost track of things. That His grace abounds, but it’s my responsibility to let it be manifested in me.

She’s sleeping now. Color’s returning to her cheeks. She might want eggs for breakfast tomorrow, or maybe she’ll need another popsicle. Blue or purple or maybe green. But whatever she gets, I know she won’t get upset.

{This post inspired by Simple Stories: An Invitation to Old-Fashioned Blogging}


  1. Hmmmm! Reminds me of a dear little girl, 30 or so years ago, so frail and petite, who snored like an old man because of those monsterous tonsils! How does the saying go “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?” When will the tonsils be laid to rest so you ladies can get some rest?

  2. Lovely writing!
    Hope your daughter is feeling better soon!

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