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A Family That's Sick Together Stays Together


The mass, simultaneous felling of a household by one minuscule virus is an adventure in family togetherness not to be missed. There is coughing, sneezing and wheezing all over one another. There is choral whining and bickering.

There are chills (so bad that my daughter thought we were having an earthquake) and spills (which occur when you have a child drink "plenty of fluids").

The experience--started by a little bug brought home from preschool by my 2 1/2-year-old son--gives rise to Murphy's little-known 10 Universal Laws of Flu and Cold Season, Family Division:

1. Just when the kids are getting sick, you'll realize that you have used up the last of 48 boxes of tissues you bought two years ago at the Price Club.

2. You'll flee your petri dish of a house to see the doctor, only to wait an hour in a windowless room. The only magazines will be copies of Glamour, Countryside and Highlights from 1992.

3. You'll wonder when 2,000 square feet came to seem so small and marvel at how coughs resonate through the house.

4. No cough syrup flavor yet devised by people in lab coats will appeal to a picky 5-year-old. (We bribed our daughter to drink her "berry-flavored" remedy. Sorry, Dr. Spock.)

5. One child, having drunk "plenty of fluids," will throw up on the other's special blankie.

6. One child will wipe his/her nose on your necktie.

7. The pages about colds and flu in the family medical manual will be ripped out or have crayon rainbows colored all over them.

8. Reversing conventional medical wisdom, the preschooler who already sleeps less than you do will start keeping even later hours. You will nod off during meetings and at red lights.

9. A childless colleague will tell you he hasn't missed a day of work because of illness since 1978.

10. At least one child will complain about having to miss a favorite activity at school. ("But today we get to cook! ") You will promise to bake cookies later. You will come to regret this.

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