This past weekend Kale had to get a COVID test. In my gut I felt very strongly that he was fine, that it was a standard-issue cold like they always get when school goes back in, but because I had answered yes to at least two symptoms on the list we are meant to check our kids against every morning, a test was recommended. Before I relate our experience here, I’ll just say up front that results were negative and he has a good ol’ cold and is disgusting and snotty.
I booked online for later that same day, and we began our family’s isolation. I let a few friends know what was going on; I felt it best to tell people I had seen for distanced drinks the night before or parents of the kids that Kale spends time with. One of our friends is going through some bigger health challenges at the moment, and is awaiting an important surgery, and she, especially, needed to know that our sons had hung out together at school and outside of school when Kale was likely infectious.
Because Kale is the age he is, he was eligible for the “gargle and swish” test rather than the “brain-scraper”, which was a relief (though some friends report their kids prefer the nasal swab). It took place at the drive-up testing site nearest us. But gargling, like a lot of things, is a learned skill. We’ve never had occasion to teach him how to ensure the liquid in his mouth doesn’t go down his throat while still managing to push air out. We practiced at home with salty water before going. The actual testing was completely uneventful; Kale said it wasn’t a big deal.
Related: pill-taking is also a learned skill. Kale has never swallowed a pill and is now old/heavy enough that he needs to take three of the children’s chewable Advil for fever or headache. So I wanted to see how he’d do with a single Advil gelcap. It was… a mess. Coughing, spluttering and gagging.
A friend shared some great advice about teaching pill-taking: start with a chocolate chip in a spoonful of yogurt so that they get used to the action of swallowing without chewing. Then move up to a chocolate chip with water or milk. Don’t have them tilt their head back too far as that actually makes it more difficult. Once they’ve mastered that, move up to a TicTac as is more closely mimics the shape and feel of a tablet. From there, you can try a small vitamin supplement. This is a hugely important skill I hadn’t ever considered, and the time to find out your child didn’t magically develop it is not when they should be taking a pill to help them feel better.
We were told the test results would be available in 24-48 hours and that we’d get a call if it was positive. No call would come if negative, but there is a number you can call and you can sign up for test results via text message. You are asked to consent to sharing the info with their doctor and their school, and then you wait.
While we weren’t planning any family meals, I did had plans all weekend to work my second job and felt sheepish sending my friend – the business owner – a text to tell them what was going on. She managed to cover all of my shifts but it still felt weird to say that I was self-isolating due to my kid’s symptoms.
Things I Found Interesting About This Process # 1: We were told that so long as we were asymptomatic and felt well, Ross and I were free to go about our lives and weren’t required to self-isolate. This seems counter-intuitive to what we are hearing about on the news and in the media and also seems to contradict what many workers are experiencing. Anecdotally, I have a few contacts in my network who have told me that they were told by their employer they were not welcome back without proof of a negative test result, which is also inexplicably difficult to obtain. The COVID results phone line won’t email you the results, and the texting system doesn’t seem to be working great – five days later I’ve still not received a text message. Further, my child can’t have a My-eHealth account (our provincial online lab results site) until he’s 16. So the only way to get proof would be pay your doctor to write you a note when they get a copy of the results, I guess?
Things I Found Interesting About This Process # 2: How awful I felt that I had to call in ‘sick’ to my other job. We have become so conditioned to working through illness, heading into our workplace even when we’re coughing and sneezing, that when faced with having to let them know that my kid was unwell and that I felt a moral responsibility to stay home until I knew if he had COVID I felt terrible. I felt like I was a huge inconvenience, a total failure as a parent (what the hell?), and a generally awful person that couldn’t “pull my weight”.
I admit that, when in my first managerial role, I actively bullied someone into coming into work when she was sick where she promptly infected two coworkers with MONO (Jesus Christ, what a shitty young adult I was), all because I didn’t want to have to “deal” with “covering your fucking shifts”.
The part where I’m connecting dots together now is that for all of my shitty behaviour when I was 19, I know without a doubt this is not a unique experience. I have had dozens of bosses and supervisors over the years that demanded sick notes I had to sit in busy walk-in clinics and pay for, that bullied me and badgered me into coming in when I wasn’t well, and that made me drag my sick ass into work so that I could be the Typhoid Mary of whatever shitty-ass minimum wage retail or service job I held. This is the reality for the service and retail sector here and this is not fair. There’s some rumblings about sick pay coverage in the country, but it’s mostly a COVID response and guess what… of course you need a fucking doctor’s note.
Things I Found Interesting About This Process # 3: Kids are so resilient. Kale was a sick, snotty mess and was cheerfully going along with this process. He admitted to me when I finally got the results that he had been very nervous. I recently read in an essay (thanks for sharing it Tara, it really resonated with me) that this was a great time to dig in and teach resiliency skills to our kids. And maybe for some people this also means co-creating those skills. Because even though I feel like a resilient person, sometimes lately I feel shaky, like I’m not the rock I always knew myself to be, and that I need to be kind to myself and acknowledge when I need support, too. And together we can create the resiliency we need to get through this.