Nov 2, 2009
05:56 PM

Two Words: Flu and FAFSA

Two Words: Flu and FAFSA

Photo: Mark Ryan/istock

Two Words: Flu and FAFSA.

The free application for federal student aid seems so distant when your biological clock goes off, but you can’t get far from these two constants once you’ve got a kid.

Currently we’re sandwiched between both. Our oldest son started his senior year with swine flu, missing the entire first week and getting academically behind from the get go. Our daughter saved her week of influenza for the middle of October (miraculously missing it the first go-round thanks to my strenuous efforts at isolating our son, who was only allowed out of his room after a sponge bath with antibacterial wipes). Our youngest son will no doubt get it during Thanksgiving break (right about when we arrive at the grandparents’ house) or maybe at his big brother’s eighteenth birthday party. Whenever it arrives, it won’t be convenient.

Neither was his suddenly hurling into the bathroom sink just before we were out the door to school this morning… 

There is this naïve belief in the pre-parenting community that once your children are in school and/or daycare, your time becomes your own during many hours of the day. Obviously, during that time you will be earning money to support the offspring, doing errands to feed or clothe the offspring and think of them with fondness and/or irritation many times during the day, but the supposition is that you will have them off your hands.

This is a false assumption. Because you can’t drop them off or palm them off on anyone when they’re sick (or if you do, there is a special hell I’d like to send you to for infecting my kids), so for every time they’re sick, you (or another adult willing to sacrifice their immune system) are out of work, kept from errands and otherwise isolated with a whiny individual for an extended period.

This is not supposed to happen if you keep your kids out of daycare when they’re little—ours were at home with me, yet they managed their fourteen-colds-a-year quota with sniffles to spare, plus a smattering of asthmatic pneumonia, balanitis, psittacosis and an E-coli bout, that scared us to death—though it is surprisingly bonding to hold a toddler through the 24-hour flu.

You’ll also hear that once they’re school age, the number of colds per annum will drop as their immunity goes up; not so much. Their variety of malaise will merely shift from ear infections to mono, from bronchitis to strep throat. You’ll still be snagged by sick days, but maybe more resentful since your teenager caught something while having more fun than you’ve had lately.

To keep from going insane during the isolation, I keep a list of easy-to-accomplish tasks to take on between bringing juice boxes or handfuls of pharmaceuticals to the sicko. Dusting, sweeping, cleaning out the pantry, pre-planning the next big birthday, doing all the holiday gift-buying online or cleaning out your email inbox can perk you up, right when you’re bemoaning your lack of productivity and freaking out about it. Or there is always Benadryl for junior and working from home.

Just kidding.

The FAFSA form, on the other hand, seems like it should be mentioned in the “What to Expect…” books or discussed during family planning. No kidding.   

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