Midnight Triage Parenting

It was 12:58am when I heard the knock on my bedroom door. I can tell you this with certainty, because I had to hit the “home” button on my phone so I could have a modicum of light as I navigated the dog-filled carpet from my bed to the door. (Only one dog was nearly stepped on.) It was a rushed walk, as my 10-year-old had informed me through the closed-door that his stomach hurt and he thought he was going to throw up. His younger brother had a bout of tummy unease over the weekend, so this was a legit concern.

As I opened my bedroom door, I found my middle child laying in the fetal position, rocking on the floor. “My stomach hurts. My stomach hurts!” He was wailing. I got him up and told him to head to the bathroom. I feared I knew the next act in this nausea play.

And that’s when I noticed my oldest child’s bedroom door was also open. She looked at me from her bed and cried, “Mom, I don’t feel good. I have ninety-six nine.”

What? My midnight brain has no idea what this means. I have to ask her to explain.

“Ninety six nine!” she sobbed, “on the thermometer! I have a fever!”

Oh. 96.9. Okay, brain, let’s do math in the middle of the night, shall we?(I feel like midnight mental math should be deserving of a cookie or at least a sticker or something.) The average body temperature of a human is 98.6, meaning she does not have a fever.

Here comes the midnight triage parenting. I imagine this scenario is a lot like those scenes in the old TV show, MASH. (Awesome show, by the way, I totally loved it. And, a former boss once referred to me as “Radar,” which I definitely took as a compliment.) In MASH, when a chopper would arrive full of injured soldiers, the doctors and nurses had to decide – who needs the most help at that very moment?

So, there I stood at – let’s go with 1:00 am, since it probably took about two minutes to climb over the dogs, open the door, make out what my child was moaning on the floor and head down the hall. It’s 1:00am and I have not one but two kids now telling me “I don’t feel good!” You know what case made it to the top? The potential vomiter. My 10-year-old son was told to head to the bathroom, while my 14-year-old daughter was told to go to bed. I told her (I hope compassionately) that she did not have a fever and that sleep was her best option. And yes I meant it. And yes, she had to go to bed.

Then, I turned my attention to the 10-year-old, got him calmed down, and what felt like nine years later, back in bed. At that point, I was wide awake. Just me and my mom guilt.

I should have tried to treat my daughter, too.

I should have been nicer. What did I say?

I should have patted her head and told her she’d feel better soon.

I should have offered her a cool rag for her head.

So, instead of slipping back to sleep, I laid there thinking of all the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. And then… I tried to shift my thinking to the fact that I needed to count my blessings. My youngest was feeling better, my middle one was falling asleep and my oldest appeared to already be asleep. And, we can check “first back to school illness” off our list.

When it’s midnight and you’ve just woken up by a sick child, you are forced to make decisions. Those decisions grow exponentially with the number of kids that are awake and needing your attention. And boy can those midnight decisions be difficult!

What about you? What do you do during Midnight Triage Parenting? How do you handle it when more than one is sick?