My thirteen year old daughter started coughing and sniffling last weekend. I bought orange juice to boost her Vitamin C intake -- my maternal fail-safe response. But on Tuesday night she fell asleep an hour and a half before she normally gets into bed as I watched the illuminated dome of Notre Dame on TV as reporters informed me there was a "probable" case in South Bend. The following morning she awoke exhausted as I watched parents at Chicago's Killmer Elementary School arrive to a closed school, due to another "probable"' case.
I kept my daughter home from school -- to rest, I told her. I knew that by the end of the day she would either feel better or we'd be heading to the doctor. She never had a fever and with a day of boring television shows and moving back and forth from the sofa to her bed, she felt better.
And when she returned to school -- happy and healthy-- a classmate covered her mouth when my daughter approached her.
The school's policy is to keep children home if they exhibit any of the symptoms of swine flu - or any flu. Makes sense. But the problem is, many parents don't do it and my daughter knows that.
And while she inherited my blue eyes, short stature and love of sushi, she also inherited my tendency to worry -- and at 13, she lets her mind wander. These days, it's heading right to Mexico -- a place we've visited on vacation where the memories include horseback riding through crystal blue water and white sand beaches, cheap trinkets and adventures with dolphins.
You can't keep teenagers off the internet or away from the TV, you don't monitor their playdates -- oh right, there are no playdates -- and you don't even know all their friends at school. So all you can do is arm them with accurate information and a boatload of promises.
I made sure she understood that the swine flu patients in the United States were treated and to date, the only fatality, was a little boy from Mexico. I promised her she would be OK. And then I told her to wash her hands again.
My thoughts are that with good sense and a bit of precaution, we are more likely to not get swine flu than we are to get it -- and that's what I told her. And even if I didn't believe it -- it would be my job not only to protect my daughter but to make her feel safe without either of taking undue risks. I think shutting off the TV may help as well.
I'll admit that two days ago when I picked up an avocado in the grocery store and the sticker said "Product of Mexico" I put it back. But today I went shopping again and I bought two.
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