17 Things I’ve learned about Flu Season as a Parent

I was sitting in my living room one night last month when I realized it was upon us again. My 6-year-old was on the sofa; she’d been throwing up most of the day. My 8-year-old was in his room; he just started throwing up. As for the toddler, she started two nights ago.

It was January — the peak of flu season — and this particular weekend had apparently amounted to some sort of non-stop throw-up hell. Since becoming a parent, it’s been like this every year, and I’ve learned a lot of things I’d rather not have known in the process.

Including, but not limited to…

1. An 8-year-old boy’s puke is somehow way nastier than a 6-year-old girl’s puke.

And realizing this makes baby puke almost cute. (Almost.)

2. Tending to the round-the-clock cycle of sick can sometimes feel like an acid trip.

After spending several long nights in a row up with sick kids — when you’re feverish and beyond exhausted yourself — there’s a moment where suddenly, nothing makes sense, and yet everything makes sense. Even stupid, plotless, kids’ shows. (Yeah… the train moves in a circle. I get it now.)

3. If you could choose between letting a child throw up on your clothing or your furniture, choose clothing — every time.

Because it’s way easier to do laundry than use an upholstery shampooer.

4. Your house will become a literal den of filth.

If the kids get sick first, it’s only a matter of time before my wife and I are next… This, I’ve always been certain, would be the absolute worst time for a surprise visit from the Department of Human Services, because they’d find two feverish and smelly adults sprawled out on the living room floor wishing they were dead. Not to mention three nearly naked children more or less fending for themselves inside a filthy home.

During such times, my motto becomes “If you can reach it, you can eat it. Now leave me alone.

5. In January, dried snot is the new black.

Now you know.

6. Throw up can go unnoticed in the back of a minivan for several days.

Just take my word for it.

7. Even the expensive diapers don’t catch everything.

And oh, what they don’t catch …

8. A baby puking in your mouth is not nearly as bad as it sounds.

Sadly, most parents already know this.

9. Teaching a young kid to take “small sips” is about as easy as teaching a goldfish to take small sips.

Totally fruitless.

10. At some point during flu season, Web MD will have you convinced your child is dying.

My advice: Avoid any unnecessary Googling if you can help it.

11. One of the proudest days for every parent is when their child has the good sense and coordination to throw up in a bowl.

Now that’s a special kind of pride.

12. Being able to make it to the toilet in time happens around the age of 6.

Sometimes later. The bottom line: It never happens soon enough.

13. Around March, I reach a stage where I no longer ask what smells.


14. You’ll never look at a plastic bowl the same way again.

If you’re ever eating at a friend’s home and they serve you something from a large plastic bowl, just know this: Chances are, their kids have thrown up in that bowl at least once before.

Bon appétit.

15. It’s normal to secretly hate whoever got sick first (child or partner).

Hey, they started it.

16. You will never know laundry like puke laundry.

When my children wet the bed, I can clean them off with wet wipes, throw down a few clean blankets, and wash the sheets in the morning. This is not the case with throw up. Children puking in the night means laundry. Lots of laundry. Two-o’clock-in-the-morning laundry. And me gagging, with watery tears on my face. In short, 2 a.m. laundry is why I want a vasectomy.

17. But despite all of the grossness, that sick kid of yours will somehow seem pretty darn cute.

My 8-year-old currently won’t let me hug him in public, but last time he got sick, he snuggled up against me on the sofa and acted like he really needed me for the first time in a while. And for just a moment, it felt like he was a little boy again. This almost made all the boogers and puke worth it.

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