You children make me sick

I used to be healthy. Healthy Phil they used to call me. I worked my fingers to the bone for more than a decade without taking a single day of sick leave (except for all those finger reconstructions). Illness sailed past me, like an attorney on an autobahn. It didn’t even glance at me in its rear view mirror. I went for so long without getting sick that I was seriously starting to consider the possibility that I might have super powers.

But life had a nasty surprise in store for Healthy Phil. If I did have super powers, I was about to meet my kryptonite. And guess what, everybody. My kryptonite calls me Daddy.

As a father of two, my health has taken a downturn. Illness finds me regularly now, like an attorney with a restraining order. This might be a coincidence. It might be a natural part of aging. There might be any number of factors contributing to the decline of my general health. But if it’s OK with you, I’m just gonna blame my kids.

Children pick up infections like minor characters in a zombie movie. Their immune systems are vulnerable. Their willpower is weak. This wouldn’t be a problem if I could stay two metres away from them at all times, like I do with the rest of society. But that’s an unrealistic goal for a parent. As much as I might like to, there are times when I just can’t avoid coming into physical contact with my kids. I want what’s best for them, after all, and studies have consistently demonstrated that children are more likely to develop social and emotional issues later in life if their parents only ever handled them with barbecue tongs.

So my children pick up infections and pass them on to me, which is actually quite amazing now that I think about it. I spend my life stewing in air-conditioned offices, touching unsanitised door handles and toilet seats, and submerging myself daily in the giant communal petri-dish that is public transport, and I get through it all without feeling the slightest bit unwell. Then a goodnight kiss from a one year old with the sniffles fells me.

I sometimes wonder if germs might actually benefit from having a child to infect before they move on to its parents. Taking on a child’s underdeveloped immune system might be like a light pre-match warm up for a germ – enough stimulation to get it all loose and limber but not enough exertion to tire it out. So when it steps up a couple of weight divisions to take on the parent’s immune system in the headline bout, it’s fighting fit and raring to go.

I think kids do more than just pass on infections and provide training facilities for germs, though. Kids also wear their parents down, making them more susceptible to attack. My infant son has implemented a routine – which I never agreed to, by the way – that involves him waking up a couple of times each night and demanding to be fed. As a result, my wife and I rarely get more than two or three hours at a time of unbroken sleep. If you’re not a parent and yet that scenario still sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve heard about interrogators and unscrupulous prison wardens using the same technique to break their prisoners. They used it on Sylvester Stallone in Lock Up. He was never the same again.

Lack of sleep, increased financial burdens, previously unfathomable feelings of responsibility. Trace amounts of crayon in your breakfast cereal, reading “The Cat In The Hat Comes Back” before you go to bed every night for a month, doing the Hokey Pokey over and over again until you can barely put it in and out, let alone shake it all about. It all adds up to an incredible amount of pressure on your mind, body and soul. It’s no wonder the germs and viruses just stroll right in. The cracks in my constituútion must be wide enough to pilot a viral 747 through.

But I know it won’t be like this forever. My kids will eventually move out of home and then everything will be back to normal. Commencing January 21st, 2035 (yes, kids, I’ve set a date), my immune system will begin to flourish, my general health will start to improve, and then one day – one glorious day – when all the lingering effects of parenthood have been well and truly flushed out of my system, I’ll finally get my freeze breath and x-ray vision back.

2 Responses to 'You children make me sick'

  1. Glenn Murray says:

    Hey mate. Sooooo true. They’re dirty little rats, kids.

  2. penny says:

    Best one yet!

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