STFU Parents: How Not To Talk About Your Kid’s Cold Or Flu On Facebook, Part III

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Now that we’ve officially hit ‘blizzard season’, aka ‘peak winter status,’ my newsfeed is full of stories about how to beat a cold or treat the flu. Every article dispenses tips and medicinal myth-busters, most of which involve tea, zinc, echinacea (“It doesn’t help!”), neti pots, and other standard remedies. But none of them mention the crucial piece of advice that I offer year-in and year-out, like your friendly Facebook overshare doctor, which is to keep your kid’s sickness to yourself. I’ve written three columns on this subject (nothing to sneeze at!), and yet I feel this is one of those hard lessons parents must re-learn every year. It’s understandable, too, given that parenting is twice as exhausting when you have a house full of sick kids (and/or adults), and loss of sleep is one of the surest complaint triggers for social media users. Similarly, it’s one of those seasonal gripes that friends can relate to as they’re simultaneously doing rounds in their own homes (this is probably also why so many parents still complain about fireworks on the Fourth of July — everyone’s experiencing them at the same time). So, I want to be as clear as healthy mucus by saying that I don’t begrudge parents for expressing frustration about their kids being sick. I just think there’s a “right” way to do it without exposing too much or going into any unnecessary details.


“Right vs. wrong” posting methods aside, there’s also an inherent double standard to parents’ reactions to their children getting sick. Ask any parents what their thoughts are on people bringing sick kids to birthday parties, and they’ll share a long list of judgments that simply amount to, “Don’t even think about it.” And yet, parents break their own rules all the time out of sheer convenience. Yeah, it sucks when others do it, but when *you’re* the one who has no choice but to bring a sick kid to school, you’d like it if other parents cut you some slack. Some parents are so ardent about not bringing sniffly kids out in public — even if they’re only on the fringes of being sick — they’ll go to great lengths to try to “track down” the origin of the illness. Rather than assume their previously-healthy child caught a cold because that’s what kids DO, they point fingers or play Dr. Detective. (Anyone remember this woman who blamed her kid’s cold on a stranger in the Santa line?) Or worse, they start imposing various rules wherever they go, preemptively blaming parents for future symptoms their kids haven’t even contracted yet, completely ruling out that every parent has unique goings-on in their life.

No one wants to get other kids sick (unless they’re loony chicken pox party attendees); it’s merely something that inevitably happens. I’m not suggesting that parents shouldn’t be responsible about where they take their sick kids (especially if they’re contagious), but some people are so paranoid, it’s as though they’ve convinced themselves they can single-handedly (after applying Purell) prevent germs from spreading. A reader sent in the below screenshot from a ‘mommy and me’ meet-up group, writing, “This is from the organizer; she is a total germaphobe and a control freak. She posted this at the start of flu season AND sent out an email to all of our members AND sends out reminder texts if she even thinks that your kid might be sick. I am starting to see this as a trend on FB as well — passive-aggressive posts about “germy” kids at playdates and daycare. Obviously, I don’t want my kid getting sick either, but c’mon…”


Okay, I can see where this woman is coming from, but parents have to make tough choices sometimes. Also, what’s the protocol for overly-cautious parents like this who give everyone else a migraine? Can there be rules enforced against that? Because this woman’s novel makes me want to go lie down with an ice pack on my face. That’s not to say there’s no merit to her argument, just that parents are going to do whatever the hell they want. And most of the time, that’s precisely what they do, regardless of others’ well-being. Hence, the aforementioned double-standard.


Hmmm. I’m pretty sure Jessica’s coworkers can understand the importance of being a mom *and* feel slightly (silently) uncomfortable about potentially putting their health in the hands of a sick little girl, pictured here with said hand in her mouth. But hey, who am I to criticize? I don’t work in Jessica’s office. What might be more concerning are the parents who — again, somewhat understandably — don’t alter their plans to bring their sick children in highly populated, public places, like, say, the grocery store. And could anything be worse than catering to a nauseous kid in an enclosed space that costs everyone hundreds of dollars to enter? Ugh. If there’s a guaranteed way to spread (or catch) sickly germs, it’s by boarding an airplane.


Yeesh. Godspeed, Lauren, and the rest of the passengers on Lauren’s flight who have to use the bathroom. I can’t advocate posting about this flight faux pas on Facebook, but it does reinforce that it’s only a matter of time before taking a sick child out of the house is unavoidable. Parents who complain about someone else’s kid infecting their own should remember that before they word-vomit all over Facebook.

Most importantly, though, when a child does catch a cold, flu, or stomach bug, try not to get into specifics. Don’t take photos or indulge in lengthy descriptions. It doesn’t make the child get well any faster, and it doesn’t engender more sympathy. It just makes people queasy (with the exception of parents who add their own sickness horror stories, which compounds the upchuck quotient). Let’s check out some examples of how NOT to talk about your kid’s cold or flu on Facebook. Again.

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