What About When You Have a Sick Toddler & Christmas Isn’t Magical?

Kristine Sostar McLellan

Christmas is a very special time online.

But in reality, sometimes, it just doesn't get gift wrapped and delivered the way you hoped. Two days before Christmas we noticed that Rowan was getting a little whiny. A surefire sign, as any parents knows, that your kid is getting sick.

And this is coming off what feels like two straight months of fevers and viral rashes; and hospital visits where you feel kind of stupid for being there but also your kid has an insane fever and the nurse line told you to go; and working from home while warming up milk and wiping a snotty nose and inevitably making up lost work in the evening before the sick and needy wake ups begin to rudely punctuate the night.

No. Please, no. Please don't be getting sick again.

But after two nights of terrible sleep the most magical day of the year arrived and with it brought an overheated, upset, exhausted and sick toddler (and yes, at 3am you do your best to remind yourself to be grateful that you are holding your sweet little one, able to make them feel so much better just by being there, but also you're tired and that's starting to sound like bullshit).

Still, we put on her little dress and snapped a bow into her wispy baby hairs, and she proceeded to halfheartedly pull gift wrap off of a big box after watching us mime the gesture 30 times.

She got some great stuff and even had moments of happiness and excitement when she realized something good was in that box, but a quick glance at her tired eyes made it clear she just needed to sleep again.

So in between grandparent stops, we put her down for another nap. Making us very late, of course. As we rushed around our house trying to get everything together for the next part of the day, my husband and I kept assuring each other that Row would wake feeling better than ever. She had to, I mean, it's Christmas.

But instead, with her little body writhing, she woke with what seemed to be excruciating stomach pain. It's very hard to see your kid sick and in pain, and I was genuinely heartbroken that this day wasn't a magical one for her.

But the thing is, she doesn't even know it's Christmas. She is 16 months old and all she knows is that she has two parents who will do anything to help her.

She has two parents who will find somewhere open on Christmas to get baby Advil because we know she responds better to that than children's Tylenol, and of course we only have tons of that around.

And when she was finally comfortable enough to sleep - for a few short hours anyway - she had two parents who didn't think to get groceries because they were supposed to be at a family Christmas dinner, so instead ended up spending an hour trying to find somewhere- anywhere! - to get anything to eat.

It was a little lonely. We watched a so-so Netflix movie and ate takeout that was just okay. Far from the most magical experience, it was the first Christmas of my life that wasn't spent with family right through to Boxing Day. 

So maybe it's a little trivial to hang this much up on a holiday, but you really do imagine the best for your kids.

But this is just what being a parent is. Sometimes the best you can give them is your undivided attention while they cry and, as though they have been choreographing their timing, wipe their nose right on your sweater seconds before you get the tissue to their face. 

So I'll say it, all those beautiful and happy posts about Christmas this year did leave me feeling a little jealous. Yes, I know you all had mess just out of frame and that maybe you even fought with that dumb uncle you can't stand, but you weren't showing me that.

So while I hope you had a merrier Christmas than us, if yours was more reminiscent of ours, I feel you. Our best photo from the day is of Rowan getting sick cuddles from her Dad, which, okay, is kind of great.

Leave a comment