Sick Days

I got to stay home with my two kids today because both of them are running fevers. Since my wife and I are both teachers, we usually take turns with staying at home. I don’t normally teach on Mondays and I use that day each week for working on my own scholarship. Therefore, it was obvious that I would be the one staying home with the kids.

My daughter was up early and raring to go. So, two hours before daylight I took her downstairs to watch Sesame Street. My wife wakes up at about six and is out of the house by seven. My son got up at the same time she did, so I knew that the day would be long.

After making breakfast I got the chance to send a few emails. I put both kids in front of the television and tried to work on revising an article that is due on December 15, or 3 days from now. It was only by chance that I got to write about 400 words before they needed my attention. I shut the computer down and turned off my cell. What happened next was a combination of magic and a demonstration of Herculean patience. Let’s start with the magic.

I consider myself someone who cannot do one thing at a time. In fact, I always have several projects going at once. When I shut everything off I had the feeling that I would find myself climbing the walls in a half hour. Nothing could be further from the truth. It has been years since I took a full day off. I had forgotten how slow time moves when you have a sick day. I was able to play games with both kids, have a morning and afternoon snack, put my daughter down for a nap, and watch two movies with my son. It was a truly a magical day. We built castles out of blocks, Sesame Street characters out of Legos, and played dinosaurs by lamplight in the later afternoon.

Despite the fantastic time, there were meltdowns and temper tantrums. And there were the attitudes of my children. Staying home all day with two kids is a skill that is beyond me. As much as I enjoyed myself, I knew that it was only for one day. I cannot imagine doing this full time. This is work. What I do at the university is fun, stressful at times, but fun. Sometimes I don’t think that I was cut out to be a father—at least not the kind of father I want to be. I’m incredibly selfish, self-centered, and possessive of my private time. I don’t even join colleagues for lunch because I need the time alone to recover from teaching. But I try to do as best as I can, and with all of the problems we had today, it was, in the end, one of the best days I’ve ever had.

As I am writing this now I am conscious of the fact that the essay I am working on still needs revision and I need to prep for classes tomorrow, prepare for two meetings (which I have not done) and grade a stack of papers. I should be doing that instead of this, but I can’t seem to find the motivation to face the urgency.
Sick days are like that. They should put our lives in perspective and show us what really matters. Perhaps we should all take a sick day and slow down, if only for a day. I did start reading War and Peace while my daughter was sleeping and my son was watching a movie. I got to page five and saw that I only had 1356 pages left to go and panicked. When my wife came home I told her about our day. She said, “You picked today of all days to start reading War and Peace?” Yes, yes I did.


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