My birthday is in early December. Early December also plays host, annually, to a nasty bout of the stomach flu that circulates in these parts. I don’t know what it is — the changing temperatures, perhaps, and darker days that have you stuck inside more. There are Christmas parties which encourage mingling, and people travel around Thanksgiving, thus moving germs faster than they would on their own. Whatever it is, I’ve begun to think of norovirus as the universe’s little birthday gift to me.
The other night, all three kids succumbed. The 5-year-old woke up around 1:30, and came into our room to announce that he’d thrown up (“I was just having a happy dream and kersplash it came out!” he told us the next morning). We moved him to the extra bed in his little brother’s room. Then the 3-year-old woke up within the hour vomiting. He was moved to a clean spot in the guest room. Then the baby started howling around 3:30. I let her cry for a bit (she sometimes cries in her sleep and comforts herself) but she wasn’t shutting up. So I went in to find her quite in need of a diaper change. I got her cleaned up and settled and an hour later she was crying again. She needed another diaper change, this time necessitating a full-on pajama change too. Let’s just say the washing machine was running most of the day and at least one teddy bear will never be the same.
So it wasn’t an incredibly productive day. But in my sixth December of life with little ones, I’ve come to see that the stomach flu is, as Donald Rumsfeld might call it, a known unknown. Most likely, it will strike. So am I prepared to deal with it? There are ways to accommodate known unknowns. I can have back-up sitters in case a regular childcare arrangement falls through. I can build in buffer days to big projects — particularly in December — so that a loss of one isn’t tragic. In my own particular situation, I can build in open hours into a schedule that can be used to nap, or go to the doctor or pharmacy if necessary. If not necessary, I can use them for those high-value things that I probably don’t spend enough time on: marketing, brainstorming, etc.
Everyone now seems to be feeling better, with fingers crossed for better days the rest of the week. How do you prepare for known unknowns?