I was walking into CVS recently with my boys when my four year old son grabbed my hand and asked me what we were getting at the store. He really wanted to know what HE was getting at the store. Stickers? Candy? A Toy Story birthday card that sings “You Got a Friend in Me”? When I told him that I needed to pick up my medicine, he pulled my arm to stop me from walking any further and yelled, “why, mommy?? YOU’RE NOT SICK!” I looked around at all of the people that I thought for sure were staring at us now and replied, “um, ok, well, I’ll tell you why I need medicine when we leave the store.” Well, he’s a four year old and he’s persistent. He wasn’t about to leave that store until he got an answer and I knew that I didn’t have the time to even think about how to explain how a little bug, called a tick, put his germs in mommy and how mommy didn’t look sick but felt sick inside and that my germ was called “Lyme Disease” and it was hard to get rid of…sometimes. I also knew that I needed to explain it in a way that would not frighten him. He’s a city kid and is already terrified of flies and spiders. The last thing he needs to hear is another frightening story about bugs with GERMS that make you sick!
I walked up to the pharmacy and told the pharmacist that I was picking up my medication and Rylan tugged on my shirt and yelled again, “but, mommy! You’re NOT sick! You don’t need medicine!” I turned to him and said that we would talk about it as soon as we were done, but he continued to inform me that I was not sick. All I could think of while Rylan was yelling at me and while Finn was happily pulling every piece of candy off the shelf in front of him was, how should I tell Rylan about Lyme disease and this woman thinks I’m an addict. I come here twice a month to refill several different types of medication and now my son is telling her that I’m not sick. I’m so embarrassed. And, why do they display this darn candy so close to the floor? I couldn’t even make eye contact with the woman who handed me my medication which probably made me look even more suspicious and I quickly picked up the candy and got out of there. What am I, 12? I’m a grown adult picking up my medication, prescribed to me, and I get so flustered at my son’s insistence that I’m not sick!
On the walk home, I thought very long and hard about how I was going to explain everything to him. I never talked to him much about it before because I didn’t want my illness to affect him in any way. And, I didn’t want him to be afraid to do the things I once did freely. I also didn’t think he would really understand, but I’m beginning to realize he is a lot smarter than I give him credit for. A few weeks before the incident at CVS, my husband asked me if I wanted some ice cream and Rylan replied, “no, she can’t, daddy. She has Lyme disease.” My husband and I looked at each other, stunned that Rylan knew what I had and why I couldn’t eat ice cream.
So, my four year old boy and I sat on the couch and had the talk.
“Mommy, did a bug get in your stomach and make you sick? Why are you still sick?”
“No, honey. I had a bug, called a tick, bite me. He was on me for a long time so I couldn’t take him off before he put his germs in me. His germs are called Lyme disease”
“Mommy, can lady bugs give you germs or Lyme disease?”
“No, sweety. Do you know why we do “tick checks” every day? So, that we can take the ticks off of you before they put the germs in you. Only mommy and daddy can take the ticks off.”
“Can bees and ants give you germs?”
“I don’t think so. But, the tick that bit me made me very sick. I feel better now, but I need to take medicine a little bit longer so that we can make sure that we get all of the germs out.”
“Will I get sick if a tick bites me?”
“Honey, I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen so don’t you worry. If you do get sick, we will make sure you get better. You don’t have to be afraid of bugs. Only the ones that sting, like bees. Mommy will look out for the ticks for you.”
“And, will you get better?”
“Yes, honey. I’m feeling better everyday.”
Our talk went better than I expected and Rylan understands why his mommy takes medicine and that I’m getting better every day. And, now we can pick up my medication without causing a commotion at CVS. :-) Score!