Dear Mom Mom,
What can one do when you have two children (first grade and middle school) and you get to the highly anticipated visit to see cousin who lives 3 hours away and has the lead in her middle school musical, and during the middle of the second act it becomes apparent that the first grader you have brought three hours in the van is feverish. He makes it through the show but has now exposed that entire side of the family to whatever virus he has. Can’t drive home at that hour so you give him fever reducer and put him to bed in the grandparents’ house and the next morning, no fever and he looks like he had never been sick, bouncing all over the place. I left town the next morning.
The problem I am faced with is that for the next week and a half I am going to be given a run down of all the people in that side of the family that he has gotten sick. Do I just avoid all communication with that side of the family until they aren’t playing the stupid blame game and have forgotten who brought the plague to town? I don’t think they mean ill intent but I always feel horrible. I never would have intentionally infected an entire city if I had known ahead of time. But this same group of people would have been equally upset if I had known ahead of time and had canceled, because I do cancel a lot. The trips three hours away happen only about 4-6 times a year and the kids love their cousins.
Typhoid Mary’s Mom
Dear Typhoid Mary’s Mom:
I read your email several times, and each time I was reminded of two quotes by two wise women:
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. — Eleanor Roosevelt
Strep happens. — Mom Mom
I really can’t see how you did anything wrong. You may be a very powerful woman, but you cannot control the emergence or spreading of the world’s viruses and bacteria. Nothing in your email led me to believe you had any idea your child was sick, and once you did discover that, you left immediately. Plenty of people would have stayed if their child was feeling well the next day (hello!), but you went that extra mile in consideration. What else could have you done? Family is very important, and it’s great that you are willing to drive so far to support a cousin and promote these relationships for your kids. Your intentions are good, and you can hold your head high.
I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind would “blame” you for getting their children sick, intentionally or unintentionally, and therefore I would not avoid any phone contact or go into hiding. If anything, I would own it, saying something like, “I sure hope no one got sick from our brief visit. Fortunately it was a quick virus and our son bounced back immediately!”
Back in the playgroup days, there were two types of parents: The Crazy Bubble Parents and the normal ones. I am guessing maybe some of your relatives are the Crazy Bubble Parents? If I let our playgroup hostess know one of my kids had the sniffles or a lingering cough, the normal parents would say, “Eh, send ’em over if they’re feeling up to it! What can you do? Germs are everywhere. I might as well not go to Target if I care about germs touching me.” And the Crazy Bubble Parents would say, “Oh, I am so sorry Logan can’t come to our house. We’ll miss him at playgroup. I hope you called the doctor about that cold!”
You sound like a considerate person with good intentions who tries her best, and maybe you should explore why you are allowing these particular family members (or any people, period) make you feel bad when things turn out less than perfect. You wouldn’t want your children to feel this way, and you shouldn’t feel this way either.