It's been a long time since I spent a restless night with a sick child and a lot has changed since the last time.
The upside is that my babies can now tell me where it hurts.
The downside is that voice is used more to whine than to communicate helpful information.
Nikki fought a high fever and general misery Wednesday night. Gone is my baby who just wanted to cuddle when she wasn't feeling well. In exchange, I get constant moaning and a new phrase: "I don't like it."
It's a phrase my sick one used a lot to refer to medicine, a bath, a cool washcloth and the couch.
To her, the only acceptable cure was nonstop cartoons and a spot on my lap -- not on the couch, not in bed -- but in a chair where I find it nearly impossible to sleep.
I was happy to oblige. After all, there are few things more upsetting to a parent than a sick child. I was willing to do anything within my power to make her more comfortable.
Unfortunately, I don't have the power to force television executives to air commercial-free cartoons -- and that's all Nikki wanted.
I flipped to Cartoon Network, the only source I know for animation at 2 a.m. Nikki curled comfortably in my lap until a commercial came on.
That seemed to spark a rising of pain, because she'd wail, both hurting and angry, as if I had changed the channel.
It got worse the later it got, because the cartoons got less child-oriented and more adult-oriented. At one point white type flashed across a black screen, "This content not suitable for children under 14."
What! This was a children's channel!
Katie, caving to peer pressure, joined the festivities with some whining of her own. Evidently, and I wasn't able to confirm this, but her toys kept jumping off the floor and attacking her on the couch (when one child is sick, the other suffers from a lack of attention, which seems more intense when they see a sibling getting so much of mommy's time. The result, generally, is two whiny children).
Anyway, I got both girls into my bed (and the dog, which wasn't fun for me, but offered Nikki a measure of comfort).
It was a desperate attempt to get any amount of sleep as each glance at the clock brought me closer to dawn.
It was a poor decision. Katie kicked and Nikki cried.
No one slept.
The next night, there was more sleeping and less crying, but the illness had progressed -- how do I put this tastefully -- to a more physical manifestation.
Sleep time became clean up time. There really wasn't any choice, though I was so tired by then that I considered letting it go.
Nikki helped my decision. Evidently, just the sight infuriated her, and she pointed and cried until all traces of her sickness were wiped away.
By morning, her symptoms began to abate.
It's not often I can't wait to get to work, but I was thrilled that day.
I needed a break.
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.