Colds. Custody. Confusion! I Didn’t Want My Son To Get Tested for Covid. His Father Did.
Like almost everything else in these uncertain times, even the “common cold” can’t just be “common.”
A week last Wednesday, Holt, my 8-year-old son in third grade, came home from school with a stuffy nose and very slight dry cough. My immediate reaction was the same as it was Pre-Covid; “Wonderful. Now the entire house is going to get a cold. We’ll all fall down, one by one, like dominos. Everyone up your Vitamin C! Dirty Kleenexes in the garbage!” It was not on my mind to get him tested for Covid.
My son didn’t have a fever, always my first concern. Maybe he looked a little pale and tired, but he wasn’t lethargic. I gave him kid’s cough syrup. He slept through the night beside me. I wasn’t overly concerned.
I kept Holt home from school the following day “out of an abundance of caution,” a phrase uttered by the staff of a President, who I refuse to name, after he was sent to the hospital.
I worried if a teacher saw my son wipe his nose, or let out one cough, they would send him home anyway, which would be fair.
Since my son had cold symptoms over a week ago, the rules have changed yet again, confusing parents — at least this parent — even more. What we hear from schools doesn’t always align with public health authorities, other schools, parents, news outlets or friends who are doctors. I’ve never felt so clueless over a cold.
I’ve read parents were to blame for long lineups at testing centres, after taking their children because of cold symptoms. Well, we’re not fucking doctors. It’s understandable many parent’s immediate reaction would be to get their kids tested.
What we were told this week would have kept hundreds of worried parents out of testing line ups. I think. Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not.
At present, although I know this can change in an hour, by midnight or in two days – according to the revised guidelines, children in Ontario with even one symptom should stay home for 24 hours from the onset of symptoms, and if improving, they can return, no test needed.
If your child is getting worse or suffers from two or more symptoms — the list has changed — you should self isolate, talk to your doctor and get tested. It does still seem “they” want you to get tested, probably out of an abundance of caution. Who wants to be the doctor who says, “Meh. No test needed for your child,” only to find out a few days later that, “Yes. The test was most definitely needed!”
And why did the government take certain symptoms off the list? Please don’t send your kid to school with pink eye, which is no longer on the list, so why do I have it in my head that pink eye IS a symptom of Covid? Or it was? Wasn’t abdominal pain a symptom? But no longer is? What happened to rashes?
My head spins. Who, at this point, am I even listening to? Education Minister Stephen Lecce? The amazing staff at my daughter’s private school, which include top-notch doctors? The email from my son’s principle? Christine Elliott? Dr. Theresa Tam? The dude who delivers my mail?
My motherly instinct, which should not be discounted, said my son had a cold. Yet I monitored him with the $90 thermometer I bought, every twenty minutes, frantically waiting for his next cough (that didn’t come for hours.)
There was nothing to suggest this was serious – no fever, he could breathe fine, no sore throat, the odd hack, and yet the decision to not take him to get tested became so big in my mind, you would have thought I had been asked to make a decision to end somebody’s life.
I thought it was better NOT to take my son. I thought waiting in a lineup with strangers, being tested for various reasons, whose “bubble” I have not seen, was a huge risk. This cold had me on pins and needles, my mind constantly changing from, “Should I take him?” vs. “What if he catches something much worse?”
That Friday, he still had a stuffy nose, but no cough, no runny nose or fever. I kept him home: better safe than sorry. I wanted him home, anyway, to monitor.
Pre-Covid, if my kids had a cold, it was, at worst, an inconvenience with a last-minute run to double up on medicines, soups, and liquids.
Now? I was checking my son, with temperature tests every twenty minutes asking; “Does your throat hurt?” “Can you breathe in and out for me please?” “Do you feel like puking?” “Can you taste your chocolate milk?” I went from working mother to teacher for a hot minute, to camp counsellor during the summer, to now expected to have some medical degree?
I had to text his father since it was his weekend with our son. “I am keeping Holt home today. He has a little cough. But noticeable enough. So you can pick him up here at 3 p.m. He will be ready,” I wrote.
A part of me was on high alert. I could feel myself spiralling; “What if his minimal symptoms take a turn for the worse and he’s not with me?”
My son’s father texted, “Did you take his temp? Cough is a symptom of Covid – a little worrisome, no?” Was this the first time my ex had read anything about Covid? I became even more worried.
I hated watching my son go off. I wanted to monitor him myself. I knew two things for certain: His father and I would disagree on treating our son’s health and that my parenting would be “questioned.”
In one argument, I asked my ex if he had heard of Dr. Fauci or Dr. Tam. He thought they were friends of mine. I wish I could have said, “I work at a parenting website! It’s my job to be as up to date on the latest Covid stories in school-age children! So, yes I know more than you!”
Alas, we needed to make Holt’s health a priority, so we had to engage, though we were barely on speaking terms. Our son’s cold, I feared, would turn into a custody issue. I wasn’t entirely wrong.
His next text? “He might have to quarantine at your house or mine.” All this before even seeing our son. My son’s father e-mailed our son’s doctor. This minimal cold was adding more pressure, chaos and arguments.
Make no mistake; I don’t think my son’s father was unreasonable in calling the doctor. I did, however, take issue with the way he was jumping to the immediate conclusion our son had Covid and would have to “stay with one of us.”
Throughout this pandemic, I have no idea who enters my son’s father’s house and likewise. We have two very different “bubbles” like most divorced parents.
“Please keep a close eye on Holt over the next couple days. I would suggest you go buy some cough/fever medicine for him. And also buy a thermometer. Just so you’ll always have kid’s medicine on hand,” I texted my ex. And later; “Please keep me posted about Holt. Just a quick text letting me know he’s okay later tonight. Or tomorrow morning at latest.”
According to my son’s father, the doctor said we either have to put our son into quarantine for 14 days or take him for a Covid test. Honestly? If my son’s doctor had said this, in my non-medical opinion, she was acting with an “abundance of caution” and a bit reckless. Why not see if his minimal symptoms got better, before throwing him into a contagious line-up; one, mind you, that, optically, goes against everything we’ve been told to help stop the spread.
I had no clue if the people in line were wearing masks, before they arrived or why they were there. Had they practised physical distancing? Driving by certain testing line ups, it sure didn’t look like everyone was keeping two metres apart.
“Out of an abundance of caution, my son’s father wanted our son to get tested for Covid. Out of an abundance of caution, I did not.”
I knew I wouldn’t win. Holt’s father was going to take our son to get tested. By that point, I was so emotionally drained from continually questioning myself, I was relieved someone else made the decision for me.
As expected, came the subtle parenting dig. “We are going now, he should have been taken earlier this week, as soon as he started coughing but it is what it is,” my ex texted.
Like all the other times, I had to shut that down. “Don’t you dare say I’ve done something wrong. Don’t go there. We need to concentrate on Holt. Let me know the results.”
The rules for testing had just changed too. His father registered online and a doctor called back directing him to a centre. I still thought, “It’s just a cold!” But, admittedly, I did wonder, “Could he have it?” How could I not? I’m not a fucking doctor. But I am a mother.
Holt’s father said he “would rather know what’s going on than sit around.” And, candidly, his argument was as valid a reason to take him for a test as was my valid reasons for not taking him.
My son got tested on a Saturday and would stay with his father until the results came in.
Meanwhile, I prayed my son would test negative, that his father would keep a close eye, that his sisters wouldn’t get symptoms. I even prayed there wouldn’t be a battle if our son did have to isolate. I would want him with me. His father, I’m guessing, would want him not to be with me.
Four days later, the results came back. My son tested negative. By then, my son’s symptoms disappeared completely. Off he went back to school, symptom-free, negative, yet now I’m stressed he could have caught something by being in that testing line. Has anyone caught Covid after being in a testing line?
How can I, or anyone who has been tested, answer one of the required pre-screening school questions; “Has your child been identified as in close contact with someone?” While Holt was not “technically” identified, could we still rule that out now entirely after being in a Covid testing two-hour line? Where are the damn rules on what to do after you test negative? As far as I’m aware, my son has no symptoms, got tested, thus, under the new guidelines, is fine to go to school.
The stress level of having a child who has cold symptoms is so much higher than the stress of home-schooling. Frankly, I didn’t even think kids would last more than a week back, without their schools being shut down. I’m happy to be proved wrong. So far.
One year ago, this would have been a cold, nothing more, nothing less. I could sleep throughout the night, without worrying my child’s cold deteriorating to a point they may need an oxygen tank.
Remember those “Another kid in your child’s class has lice” notes? They seem like old-fashioned love letters, in the age of Covid, don’t they?