Friday, October 23, 2009

Is there a doctor in the house?

Were it not for that pesky little thing called illness, Atticus would make a great doctor.

He's got the mind for it, no doubt. He's analytical. Loves solving puzzles. Carries a virtual encyclopedia of very specific information around in his head. Is able to conjure just the right bit of trivial knowledge at just the right time to connect whatever dots appear before him. Can master any topic that catches his fancy to a degree I find almost startling.

One little problem: he's a germophobe.

Atticus is terrified--we're talking paralyzed--by the thought of sickness in almost any form. I am married to a slightly-reformed hypochondriac, so it's easy to look into the eyes of this next generation and see where this is going. Atticus hates colds, sniffles, fevers, diarrhea, wooziness, aches, pains, coughing ... you name it. He will do almost anything to avoid falling prey to some wayward germ. Mr. Blandings used to be fairly similar; if living with me hadn't cured him, or if raising a brood of children prone to wiping their noses on your sleeve as they passed by weren't enough, he's now traveled to enough countries where hygiene practices are somewhat different than they are in the U.S. to learn that living life in fear of microbes is really no way to go about having a good time.

But Atticus hasn't learned this lesson yet. He's still knee-deep in the germ-aversion stage of life. He can tell you the precise difference between a virus and a bacteria, as well as the differences in the way the human body works to fight off each type of invader. It's not a lack of knowledge that makes him wary. Rather, it's the having the knowledge that has made my son prone to smiling and nodding at visitors rather than hugging or (heaven forbid!) shaking hands.

Among the concessions we make to Atticus and his proclivities:

*Do not even think of asking to sip out of the glass Atticus is using. If you somehow manage to do so and he realizes it, he will turn purple, haul it to the sink, wash his hands, and get himself another glass. Post haste.

*Do not cough near Atticus. A stifled, face-in-elbow cough may be good enough for the average guy, but Atticus will still cringe, duck his head and refuse to breathe the air surrounding you for the next two minutes.

*Do not touch Atticus after changing a baby's diaper without washing your hands thoroughly. Hand sanitizer is o.k., but real soap and water, he informs us, are preferred when dealing with fecal materials. (Yes, he says "fecal.")

*Do not even think of dispensing any kind of medicine/pharmaceutical/etc. for ingestion unless you're ready to tell Atticus what it is, what it does, how it works, and why he should take it. All nonregulated substances are viewed with absolute suspicion on his behalf; you should see what I had to go through to get him to give in on Airborne.

Thankfully, my son doesn't seem to suffer from a deeper mental disturbance. He can go about in public without flinching through every cough and sniffle emitted. He can touch grocery cart handles, enjoy the toys at museums, etc., without calculating how many wee beasties are now frolicking on his fingertips.

But he will make a beeline for me as soon as he's ready to complete his activities, and patiently ask for a nice spritzing of Germ-X.

I don't mind. Really, I don't. I chalk it up to heredity, quirkiness, and the odd bit of paranoia that might someday fade. Because really, it's not that big of a deal.

Except, of course, when it is. Like today: Oli is on day 2 of what the doctors are telling us is a swine flu infection. He's feverish, disoriented, and sleeping on the couch. Which, Atticus tells me, is not such a good idea.

"He'd be more comfortable in bed," he informed me this morning, clicking his tongue in obvious disapproval.

"My bed?" I asked, wondering how I could possibly keep an eye on him all the way upstairs, sequestered on the bottom bunk in the farthest bedroom from the stairs. My room, at least, is at the top of the stairs, within shouting distance.

Aticus looked appalled. He made a strangling noise in his throat before he answered.

"Uh, no. His bed. Do you want your bed crawling with germs? Your pillow? Have you seen the amount of mucous coming from his nose?"

Please note the verbiage here: "mucous coming from his nose." Please tell me if you have a 9 year-old who substitutes "mucous coming from his nose" for the giggle-worthy term "snot." It will make me feel so much better as a mother.

Anyhow, I assured Atticus that not only was Oli staying on the couch, he was perfectly comfortable. Or at least, as comfortable as one can be with a soaring fever and the aches and pains of influenza. I dismissed him with a hug and a reminder that he was in fine health, and had nothing to fear. Atticus shrugged, then cut a very large path around the sleeping boy, lest an overzealous virus track him down and force its way down his throat.

My brilliant, odd duck little son. I do wonder, sometimes what life will hold for him. But whatever it is, wherever it is ... I do hope it's sterile. And mucous-free.


Karen (KayKay) said...

I think that he sounds wonderful! He reminds me of my youngest, she is now 15 and has learned to hide her quirkiness a little. Oh, it's still there, but she just brings it out for her family and best friends. Maybe he'll go into medical research - discover a cure for those flu germs or something.

ThyHandHathProvided said...

A boy after my own heart...

Benny said...

How can I not laugh at such a description of Atticus? That boy cracks me up. I think God knew the best way to mellow that boy out in the germ department was to surround him with so many siblings that he couldn't possibly avoid contact with foreign germs - especially those mucous righ toddler forms of siblings. ;o) Trial by fire. He'll be just fine! ;o)


Beth said...

I have never heard anyone use the term "wee beasties" until I met my husband... and you are the only other person I have heard use the term ;-) Too, funny. Your son sounds brilliant. "Fecal material" cracked me up.