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What Would You Do?

A reader wrote to me recently asking for
advice on this one question:

What do you do when you and a good friend with babies the same age
as yours have differing ideas on child-raising? Specifically, on
when it’s ok to take a sick child into a social situation?

This mommy is having a frustrating time finding a way to stay
involved in play groups and mommy circles, since her friend insists
on bringing her sick child to every meeting. She’s been
making polite excuses for missing various functions, but knows it
will soon need to be decided on more concretely. And before you
ask, yes, she’s tried direct confrontation; there’ve
been days when the two of them have had a play date set up, the
other mommy’s called and informed my reader that her
baby’s sick, my reader’s asked her not to come, and she
shows up anyway.

So this poor girlfriend wrote asking for advice on how to handle
the whole thing. Not wanting to simply throw my opinion in her
face, I sent the question out to my best friends, my Mommy Focus
Group, to get their responses.

The overwhelming response? Glad we’re not in her shoes.

Look, we’ve all had sick babies and
toddlers. We all are starved for adult interaction and we all
(admit it!) at least consider dragging our projectile-vomiting
child to a play group simply to get out of the house. But by and
large, we know we’re not supposed to, and keep our sick kids
at home. Because we all hope that other mommies will do the same
when the germy shoe is on their foot.

I think many people define “contagious” differently:
for some people, green mucous means stay at home, while clear runny
nose means it’s fine (for the record – it’s not
fine. Ask your doctor if you don’t believe me.) For other
people, a low fever is fine if the child’s not droopy, but a
high fever or droopiness is cause to stay home. Then there are
people like me – those that quarantine our children at the
first sign of a cough or sniffle so that other mommies won’t
have to endure a week of sleepless nights. In fact, I’ve
written an entry on this already – click href="ttp://www.1mother2another.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=341&Itemid=46">
to see it again.

If I show up at the church nursery and I see runny noses or
hackers, I won’t leave Maddie in it. Period. The
inconvenience of missing church is nothing compared to the
inconvenience of missing my sleep the next five nights. You decide
for yourself where your comfort zone is, and I’ve been told
that the more kids you have the bigger your comfort zone since
it’s even harder to keep germs out of the house with multiple

Everyone in my Focus Group sympathized with my reader,
acknowledging that it’s a sticky situation to be in. My
friend href="http://leavened.blogspot.com">Graham offered great
advice –

“My take (which is admittedly male) is to be straightforward,
while as gentle as possible. I think that involves asking genuine
questions to find out why she brings her sick kids everywhere, how
she perceives others, and how she perceives herself and (afterward,
and depending on the answers to those questions) making clear and
direct statements of your own wishes, with substantiating
reasoning. And, sadly, since this has happened repeatedly, it might
need to be ended with a conditional statement: "If this happens
again, I'll have to ______."

After reading this, I thought, “Gee, this sounds familiar.
Where have I heard this line of approach before? Oh, yes, in every
book I’ve read on disciplining a toddler.” Find out the
logic behind it, explain your wishes, and lay out the consequences
for not following those wishes.

This is harder with a grown-up than with a toddler mistreating an
Elmo doll, but it’s the best advice I can offer as well. I
think, reader, you’ll have to decide what your priorities are
– staying in a play group, or assiduously avoiding germs. If
it’s the former, you’ll have to accept the fact that
your child will probably fall sick periodically, and you’ll
live through it. If it’s the latter, you may want to seek out
other play group options. Which is crappy advice, I know, since you
were in the play group first.

My girlfriend Abby – who runs like a madwoman away from germs
since she’s got two asthmatic boys requiring breathing
treatments every time they’re sick – also suggested
trying to get a bit of corporate support. Her mommy group, for
example, has a document handed out to all new moms that outlines
what’s acceptable and what’s not health-wise. Our
church nursery has “sick baby” rules posted as well.

No one is perfect: one of my girlfriends just wrote an embarrassed
apology to me, saying she’d left her child in the nursery
with Maddie on Sunday only to have him come home and throw up that
afternoon. She was hoping Maddie wouldn’t get sick. While I
appreciate the heads up, there’s a huge difference here
– she didn’t leave a knowingly sick child in the
situation. Kids will get sick, and they’ll pass it on.
It’s our intention in trying to prevent that which counts.

So I’m throwing this wide – do you have any words of
wisdom? Do you think we’re being too harsh, and should tell
the reader to just deal with the sickness? What would you do?


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