Right after New Year’s Day, we four hearty souls flew to Orlando to visit my mother, stepfather and aunt.
Actually, only one of us was hearty. I was grouchy and still worn out from Christmas. The kids simply had no choice and we’re resisting all efforts to help with packing and organizing. And, really, I can’t speak for my husband. He was maybe hearty-ish? Resigned? Willing to schlep so that he could squeeze in a round of January golf?
So let’s just say that we went. Forget the hearty part.
We flew out of Albany about 30 seconds before the airport was closed due to snow. We flew back directly into the teeth of a polar vortex. In between, though, there was sunshine.
The trip down was mostly uneventful. While we were two hours late in taking off, we made it. A rental car was acquired. Luggage picked up. But the Boy seemed a little off. Because of the delay, we were in the air at lunchtime and had to stave off hunger with oat bars and apples, which are a lovely snack but not a meal. We grabbed quick slices of pizza after deplaning, otherwise the trek to luggage would have been a nightmare.
For me, at least. The kids might have been able to soldier on but I’d reached that stage where I was both hungry and angry. I didn’t even want to be around myself like that.
The Boy is a pizza lover. Anytime. Anywhere. Any outlet. It’s one of the few foods we know he’ll eat without much question. But he took one small nibble off of the very end of his slice and stopped.
How weird, I thought. Maybe he’s still just tired from getting up at 4 a.m. to catch the flight?
When we got to the room itself, he simply crawled into the bed, curled up into a Boy-shaped ball, and fell asleep. Which was finally what made us feel his forehead and discover that he had a fever.
It’s bad enough when an adult is sick during a vacation. But when it’s a kid and you have been talking about trips to Epcot and Universal Studios, the whole circumstance is just fraught.
Especially when the healthy kid starts suggesting that the sick kid got sick simply to screw up the healthy kid’s good time.
My mom offered to sit with him while the rest of us went on theme park adventures — and we were torn. While it wouldn’t have been ideal for my husband or I to get whatever illness this was, it would be highly not good for my mother to get it. She can’t bounce back nearly as quickly as we can.
Also, once we got some ibuprofen into him, he was fine. More than fine, really, and bouncing around the place.
When the drugs wore off, the fever and lethargy came back. There was clearly something going on in the Boy biome but it didn’t involve the leakage of any bodily fluids or visible injuries. It didn’t seem to rise to the level of a trip to urgent care. Still, so many horrible stories start with “well, he had a fever but seemed otherwise OK.”
We hemmed. We hawed. We decided to leave any decisions until the morning and went to bed.
He was feverish after eight hours sleep. There was more hemming and more hawing. The Tween made it clear that she believed he was just faking. I explained that it’s hard to fake a fever, especially when you haven’t been out of each other’s sight. She counter-argued that she just knew he’d found a way because he’s like that.
That’s about when the drugs kicked in and the Boy was ready to go. We packed up snacks, water and ibuprofen. We instituted a strict hand-washing policy. If it went all pear-shaped, we warned the small people, we would simply leave the park.
(On that last bit, I tried to not think about how freaking expensive it was just to get into the park and how leaving would feel like a waste of cash. While I can be sensible, the thought was there.)
We made it much longer than I would have anticipated and were driven back to the hotel by the wind chill (the northern winter weather followed us south), not by exhaustion.
Most of our trip wasn’t about amusement parks, however, and we had a lovely time with family. We kept up the hand washing. The Boy lounged a lot and never really got any sicker or any more well. January golf was played.
When we arrived at the airport for our return flight, the Boy seemed peppy, despite not having had any fever-reducing medicine. I felt his head. No fever.
Near as I can figure, it’s Florida that makes him sick. Or vacations. Or maybe he found a way to fake it, just to irritate his sister.
Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of “Sweater Quest.” Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.