Chicken nuggets, medicine and cartoons

By Jason A. Smith


Well, it had to happen sometime, I suppose.

My child got sick recently at school and had to come home early. It was the first time this school year, so this was new territory for me, in a way.

Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a shock when I got the call from the school office, letting me know she wasn’t feeling well. I had been hearing a lot lately about various sicknesses going around. I just knew she wouldn’t be happy about the possibility of having to stay home. She loves school so much, and she loves learning new things.

Little did I know, at the time, that I’d be the one learning a lot in the days that would follow.

When I arrived at her school and saw her in the office, it was evident that she wasn’t at her best on this Monday morning. I had been informed that she had a 100-degree fever. Her bright smile and the bounce in her step had been replaced by a tired expression and a slower walk than usual.

Still, it wasn’t long before she’d be the one keeping me smiling, instead of the other way around. As we were leaving the school, she leapt off the sidewalk curb on her way to my truck, just like she always does.

For whatever reason, that image stuck out to me. I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a whiner when I’m sick. All I could think at the time was that if it were me, I’d be trying to garner as much sympathy as I could. Clearly, this was not a trait that my child inherited from me.

At any rate, we got home, and she immediately took a nap. When she woke up – after Mommy told me what medicine to give her -- I asked how she was feeling. She quickly smiled and responded, “Great!”

Apparently, not even the flu – her eventual diagnosis – would keep this girl down for long. Once again, my inner whiner marveled at her outlook on life.

Her fever soon got up to 102.7, and it became clear that she’d be staying at home with me the next day. I wasn’t looking forward to telling her this, but she handled it much better than I expected.

Rather than being upset that she’d be missing school, she told me, “My wish came true that I’d get to stay home with you Tuesday!”

Over the next couple days, like an excellent young patient, she maintained a steady diet that included peanut butter sandwiches, chicken nuggets, medicine and cartoons on Netflix. She and I spent a lot of time snuggling, laughing, playing and being goofy together – moments I’m just sappy enough to appreciate.

I think my favorite moment from the whole episode, though, came when she specifically asked to hear “our” song – a country tune called “Love of My Life.” I first sang it to her in the hospital just after she was born, and I’ve continued to do so anytime she requests it.

But this time, amid all her coughing and sickness, my little girl added a new twist to our song. She actually started singing along with it herself. I couldn’t help smiling as I heard her mimicking the twang in the singer’s voice.

That smile grew even larger when she told me the song wasn’t just my song for her. It was hers for me as well.

When I first found out my daughter was sick, I wasn’t looking forward to being the only one around to watch her while Mommy was at work.

What I didn’t count on, however, was her ability to take care of me at the same time.

The next time she gets sick, I think I’ll be more prepared. I know what medicine to give her, she’s already mastered the art of navigating Netflix, and our song is only as far away as my cell phone. I think we’ll be OK.

Besides, she’s already told me I make the best peanut butter sandwiches on earth.

Jason has worked in newspapers since 2005, spending the majority of that time in Henry County. He lives in Covington with his wife and daughter.