Wednesday, 3 October 2012


My son has officially been in daycare for a month now. Daycare has brought many wonderful things into our lives – new friends, a great setting for fun and education, an explosion of new vocabulary words and a newfound sense of independence for my son. It has also brought the inevitable plethora of germs and viruses to our home.

I debated whether I should even bother writing about this subject, because it’s so over-discussed. Everyone knows that once your child starts spending long hours in close proximity with many other children, they’ll be sharing more than crayons and toys. I have witnessed many colleagues over the years go through the first six months to a year of non-stop illnesses. I fully knew what to expect. Do we really need to talk about this more? Then I figured, why not – it’s always good for an interesting debate and most people can relate.

Last week, I made a Facebook comment about how the daycare virus spree has begun in earnest and one of my friends and readers replied wondering why parents send their kids in to daycare sick. While I agree that it’s not exactly a best practice, deep down I kind of feel like this phase is a rite of passage for my child’s immune system. Bring it on, I say. Let him get sick! The more germs he is exposed to now, the stronger his immune system will be later.

Obviously I’m not advocating for proactively bringing my child in sick when he should be staying home to rest, but the reality is that he will unavoidably pick up whatever is going around. Not to mention, the average virus lasts 7 – 10 days. Neither my husband nor I can afford to miss that many days away from work at a time, especially if he’s going to be going through the illness cycle repeatedly.

There are definitely instances where I don’t think he should go in, and I have already kept him home at least twice. He had an eye infection, for example. We kept him home but when it looked better the next day, he went back. Unfortunately, it worsened before it improved, and I had to go pick him up and do what I call the “daycare walk of shame.” You know, when they call you to pick up your sick child and you feel like the worst parent in the world for sending him in when you should have realized he wasn’t well enough to be there in the first place. Was it my proudest moment? No, I will admit it wasn’t.

Then there are the odd comments like “He was coughing a lot today….” As a parent, do I take that as a hint that he should be kept home, or do I say with a nervous laugh (as I did) “it’s just the tail end of his cold from last week…” then run along with my proverbial tail between my legs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to parade my kid around town as a walking germ haven in order to bolster his immune system. Believe me, we are fervent hand washers in my house. The second I bring him home at the end of the day, I strip him down and bathe him. He doesn’t wear the same clothes twice without washing them in between. He’s fully vaccinated. I’m doing my best here.

But let’s be realistic, it’s all part of life for young children to share germs the way they share cookies. Yes, I will do my best to exercise good parental judgement so as not to spread illnesses. But if the next six months to a year are not our healthiest as a family, I just have to suck it up and pop some extra Vitamin C. And pray to the daycare gods that there’s no outbreak of gastroenteritis this year!

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