The Immunity Challenge

While I can admit I've finally grown accustomed to country living, there are still certain things I miss about city life. Mostly the cliches that people who live as far as Idaho have heard of, like being able to get a gallon of milk at three am, the first-rate culture and the world class cuisine. You know the rest. But as a parent, I have to come clean about something: I don't miss the germs. I don't long for the days that a trip to my Manhattan cubicle meant being exposed to the virus of the week, the one that even folks in Queens were catching. I couldn't afford it then, but I definitely can't afford it now. Holding on to the lukewarm metal pole on the D train takes on a whole new meaning when you're chiefly responsible for keeping a family of five alive.

For some reason, I thought that moving to a rural area would somehow grant our kids instant immunity from a multitude of contagious diseases. But just because the sweetly-scented, mountain air we've got up here could put Glade out of business doesn't mean there's nothing floating in it. It's gorgeous country, but we're not exempt from the less idyllic aspects of everyday life. I guess that explains why the coxsackie virus, also known as the lovely hand-foot-mouth disease, is also the name of a real town just several miles up the road. I'm not even going there.

And I'm not sure what the city preschoolers are into, but amongst the preschool set up here, sickness is tres chic. My almost kindergartner is quick to let me know this through her regular updates: "Ella has an ear infection! She has this fabulous pink medicine for it that she gets to bring to school." Even if I remind her that ear infections aren't fun, she persists, starry-eyed: "Okay. Can we paint my room that pink medicine color?" With her pointed, red carpet-style reportage of the pint-sized, A-List infirmed, my girl's well on her way to becoming the next Tanika Ray. She even has the nerve to get upset when she's not invited to the hottest chicken-pox party (I'm not offended in the least).

I guess it doesn't help that my husband's career requires regular exposure to coughing college students who survive on Lucky Charms cereal and cigarettes (Dear student: Being nineteen and having your own apartment does not mean you have common sense). Last week, when he was forced to cancel class because he was laid up with strep throat, tonsils the size of red globe grapes, I ran around like a nut, trying to figure out how I could possibly prevent the rest of the house from coming down with it too. And how I could possibly even know if the twins had sore throats when the only language they're fluent in is Toddlerese? Somehow, my honey's illness passed and the remaining eight tonsils in the house were left unscathed. But soon everyone except mommy had a runny nose and our youngest daughter had some suspicious looking goop coming out of her bloodshot eyes. Great.

One of the realities of being a mom of three kids is accepting the fact that quite often, for months at a time, somebody is always going to sick. The only upside to this phemonena is that I've developed an accute awareness as to which symptoms to ignore and which are actually worth interrupting our pediatrician for while he's at home on the couch, watching Lost. On the pediatric terror alert scale, I decided the pink eye was probably somewhere around yellow. I knew that meant a trip to the doctor was required. While coercing my baby girl to stay in my lap as her twin brother pointed and cracked up at the doctor's Disney tie (what can I say, the boy's got good taste), we learned that not only did she in fact have pinkeye, but she also had her first ear infection.

Even though I wasn't glad to hear it, I was rather impressed that it took almost two years for the first ear infection to catch up with her. Still, I left that office feeling somewhat defeated, convinced that even if I spent the next sixteen plus years wiping down counters with tea tree oil and Mrs. Meyers Clean Day (the harsher stuff scares me), someone in our house would always be ill. All the echinacea in the world couldn't help us.

Sure, it's great to live like Swiss Family Robinson (minus the actual Swiss part of course), but that doesn't mean we upstate people are immune from real life. I don't miss packing into suffocating elevators and and impromptu trips to ebola-ridden public bathrooms, but my family still gets sick. I won't give up though. I'm not about to stop making sure they get their fresh air, their 5 a Day and whatever else seems to work (plus, I love the fact that the staff at our small town health food store treats me like Norm from Cheers and provides first rate customer service, so I'll keep going back for more home remedies). I'm determined to conquer each ailment as it comes and hopefully the warmer months will provide a nice respite from the nasty winter and colds we endure. I'll just keep a travel-sized version of hand sanitizer in the cup holder on the jogger stroller (and in the diaper bag and the glove compartment). That should do it.

On Friday my posts also appear as an online column for Time Out New York Kids. Visit them at Time Out New York Kids for more city-specific parenting tips and diversions. The regular column will be called Not the Nanny, which pretty much answers the crazy looks I sometimes receive when I'm out and about with my rosy-cheeked son.