Story hour saga. Plus more mommy guilt: there's lots to go around!
On my on-line support group/message board, there has been some discussion about the latest case of deadly E-coli infections contracted at petting zoos. Quite a few of the first commenters were in the "hell, no, keep those things away from my immunosuppressed kiddo!" camp, and, as I've done countless times before, I squirmed a bit wondering if I was being a bit irresponsible when I let Annika go to every single animal-petting-opportunity that arose last summer. And let's not even talk about the petting zoo at our local zoo, which Annika went to at least twice each week. But always, always, with one of us following her around with a bottle of Purell. Thankfully, some other parents piped up to say that their kids were also addicted to the petting zoo experience, and that they even had their transplant team's blessing. I haven't actually asked our transplant team about this, but I certainly know what they would say. Our team is adamant that our kids should try to lead normal lives. Every time I have asked about something (doing gymnastics with an enlarged spleen, going into a McDonald's playland, etc.), they have always replied back with their mantra: "The only restriction we put on post-transplant kids is that they should not be in close quarters with someone who is sick, and to be especially careful of chicken pox and measles. Otherwise, just wash hands, wash hands, and wash hands some more." That's it. It seems like that should be a pretty simple rule to follow, but life, of course, is always making things more difficult than they should be. Keeping Anni away from kids who are sick is a mammoth undertaking. Kids are always sick in these winter months. And with the new asthma epidemic underway in these parts, it makes it even harder to know when a cough is a cough or just a cough. So when our little neighbor came over to play with Annika with a bit of a cough, I wasn't quite sure what to do. Anni hadn't seen her older hero/playmate for 2 weeks, and she was more than ecstatic to see her. On the one hand, I trusted that her parents would not send her over sick. After all, they knew Anni had just gotten out of the hospital for one of those all-kids-get-it kind of illnesses. But, still, it was a definite cough. On the other hand, she was amazingly good about always coughing right into the crook of her arm (the new preferred method) and we were playing outside rather than in the house. In the end, I decided just to fall backwards in one of those everyday living type of trust exercises, and hope that all would be well. And it was. I do have to say, though, that there are some weird social conventions about illness out there. Here's one: when Anni went to her swim lesson this week, there was another little girl getting changed with her mom in the locker room. Again, a juicy cough was coming from this little angel. Everytime I saw her chest rise with that big intake of breath before she would let one loose, my spine would give a little jerk as I tried to move my girls out of range. And every time she coughed, the mom looked at her and said, "Well, Bless You!" as if she were surprised every time - as if it were a sneeze and this was the properly polite thing to say. But of course, my mommy voice is screaming (inside, of course), "Tell her to cover her mouth. Please, please, please!" But, no, just those cute little bless you's. We work so hard at teaching our kids to be polite members of society, but teaching them to keep their germs to themselves is fairly low on the list of politeness points. Of all the very many potty books I bought when trying to convince Annika that all the cool kids loved to use the potty, only one mentioned anything about washing hands after using the toilet. One! But we're still sending Annika out into that big world. She went with her preschool class to the zoo today, and they got to touch some of the zoo animals as part of their special class. Before they went into the classroom, her teacher showed me the big jug of hand sanitizer she had brought, even before I asked her about it. I do like that woman. After their class, the kids got to run around the zoo together. Frankie and I came back to join the class on their "free zoo" time. With all her preschool friends there, Anni was very excited. But when it came time to choose someone to hold hands with as they headed off to see the animals, Annika chose to hold Frankie's hand. Even when the rest of the class was running far ahead of them, Annika tried to get Frankie to walk a little faster on her tubby little loveable stubs, but she never let go of her hand, and never left her behind.