Nobody likes to be sick, and especially nobody likes children to be sick. But if you are a child, today is a much better time than 50 years ago to face a mild illness. I don’t mean because of all the new vaccines—I actually look back with some fondness on the days of chicken pox, measles, and German measles. (I missed out on that other great disease of early childhood, mumps, despite repeated visits to my friend when she was afflicted.) Nor do I mean the obvious improvements in the treatment of many diseases, and in emergency medicine, not that I’m not grateful for them.
What I’m thankful for is that we have outgrown the sick-children-must-stay-in-bed philosophy. Bed is fine when you’re too miserable to do anything else, but in the 50’s and 60’s bed rest was still considered an important part of the cure, and often imposed long after the child would have been much better off up and about.
I don’t remember my own confinements lasting overly long, perhaps because I enjoyed the opportunity to be the center of attention, to be served meals in bed, to read as much as I wanted to, to have my parents sit with me and play games—I particularly remember a car/plane/boat race across the U.S. game on a tray that I never tired of—and to have my mother at my beck and call, at the sound of a bell, a buzzer, or a flashing light—whatever fun device my dad and I had concocted to get her attention.
But I’m not certain Porter’s relationship with his mother every completely recovered from the well-meant instructions from their doctor to keep him in bed for half his kindergarten year because he had been diagnosed with mononucleosis.
I am grateful that doctors today seem happy to assume that if a child feels like staying in bed, that’s probably what he needs, and if he feels like getting up, that’s a good sign he’s ready for more activity.
But I have very fond memories of that race game.