Raising Driftless Kids

Ainsley Anderson

Well, hello flu season. With a sneeze and a cough and, well, we don’t need to go into any further detail on germ dispersal, flu season has hit. Of course, there are multiple strains of “ick” going around the area schools, leaving students, teachers, staff and parents ill.
In fact, my writing this article was interrupted for 12 hours by the vomit-induced cries of a 3-year-old. Parenting is glamorous. It’s also a balancing act. I am returning to full-time work away from my children for the first time in nine years. Considering my children are 10, 7 and 3, I’ve had a pretty good run that has included cobbling together some soul-satisfying nonprofit work, running my own business, and returning to school to finish my master’s degree. It’s spoiled me a bit. Now I’m at the end of my master’s degree in Education (and my initial teaching license), which means this semester I am student teaching full time. It’s a big change; and starting this change in the throws of flu season is a hard-hitter.
My children know that I’m pretty harsh when they’re sick. I mean, I’m loving and nurturing, but I also make sure that they are doing what’s best for their bodies when they’re sick: hydrate and sleep. They’d probably love it if I’d let them sofa-surf their sick days, binging on cartoons. Nope. They sleep. Or, they are told to sleep, which actually almost always results in their sneaking books to read while pretending to sleep or “trying” to sleep. What’s a parent to do? My sick kid isn’t quite tired enough to sleep, so I guess I just allow the reading. Aw, shucks. But, if we’re going to be real here, I have to admit there’s generally a little cartoon-watching allowed. Snuggling is also encouraged. I have photographic evidence of my children snuggling each other and watching cartoons when one of them was sick — it’s adorable.
I’m grateful for a cooperating teacher who gets how difficult it is to work full time with small children, especially when they are sick. I am grateful to have my mom close at hand for child care. I’m grateful to have a husband and partner who is available to pick up sick kids, take them to doctor appointments, who’s super-supportive in this transition from full-time mom to full-time mom + full-time teacher. I honestly don’t know what I’d do in a different situation. I’m not sure how families do it; and I certainly understand why some children end up at school in less-than-perfect health. So many families just don’t have another choice.
So, the mom in me will continue to push hand-washing, hydration and sleep. The teacher in me will be grateful for kiddos who would rather read than sleep when they’re sick. The realist in me will totally indulge in some cartoon-watching and snuggles when any one of us is sick. Because, let’s be honest, there’s nothing wrong with a little break every now and then. Here’s to a swift and gentle flu season, friends.

Ainsley Rowe Anderson is a mom of three whose roots run deep in the Driftless Area mineral districts of Wisconsin and Illinois. She is finishing her master’s degree in Education and shares her thoughts on raising children in the Driftless in this space on a rotating basis with other columnists focused on education and kids.