Those Special Times with Sick Kids

Writer Marcos McPeek Villatoro considers the special bonding that takes place between parents and their children when the kids are home sick.

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Here in Los Angeles, novelist Marcos McPeek Villatoro has also been hoping for a happy and health new year for his family. Recently, he had the experience of looking after his son on a sick day.


It's winter, that most wonderful time of the year when--you guessed it--we get to hang out with our kids and check their temperatures, wipe their runny noses. Pick your ailment--flu, allergy reactions, weird 24-hour viruses--they hit suddenly, and you've got to make a sudden decision: Who's gonna stay home and nurse the kid? I'm a writer. While my wife goes out to her new job at a marshmallow factory--don't ask--I stay home and make up stories or write commentaries. So it's a no-brainer. `Honey, Daddy will be here all day to take care of you.'

It's not so bad as the kids have gotten older. You wouldn't know Emily was around when she's sick. She retreats behind a book or her drawing tablet all day. David has his PlayStation; Raquel creates a Mt. Sinai of dolls on her bed. Then there's Ben; he's the youngest. `Dad, I'm a little hungry, but I want to throw up, too.' This when I'm just about to write a sentence about my main character getting into a car with a cold-blooded killer; the sentence dissolves under the interruption. Do I give Ben toast or a garbage can?

The whole day is like this. I may be at home to write, but I haven't gotten beyond my character opening the car door. `Dad, may I please watch "SpongeBob SquarePants"? Dad, where's the garbage can? Dad, for homework, I have to write a sonnet. What rhymes with toilet?' I answer: `"SpongeBob?" Yes. Garbage can? Right here. Toilet? Boil it.' He leaves happy; I get to work.

Ten minutes later, here he comes, dragging his blanket behind him, sniffling all the way. I abandon the typewriter, push my chair too hard against the desk. `What?' I almost say, but I'm so glad I don't. He has no question, just a nine-year-old statement. `This is so much fun, just you and me in the house.' He hugs me tight like he's been wanting to for a while. His fever's almost gone. I can feel its departure on his forehead, something I won't feel tomorrow when he's in school and I am back at work.

CHIDEYA: Marcos McPeek Villatoro is a writer living in Los Angeles. His latest book is called "A Venom Beneath the Skin."

NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Farai Chideya.

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