Lazy mothering

I once had a neighbor whose children didn’t like to take medicine, so she forced it down. If they threw up, she gave it again “so they would learn.” It didn’t matter whether it was a life-saving medication or a painkiller. Apart from my oldest, who stopped screaming at the excitement of seeing a bottle of Acamol, my kids also hate taking medicine. So I don’t give it to them. When I take them to the doctor it’s usually to rule out something more serious, and we escape without prescriptions. Well, we get the prescriptions and I don’t fill them. I’d like to take credit for my kids’ overall good health (bli ayin hara), by breastfeeding and generally healthy living, but genetics remains the most likely explanation. I let my kids do all the things that supposedly make them sick, at least according to the Jewish mothers around here. At any rate among six kids antibiotics were required in one case of pneumonia, one or two cases of bronchitis, one newborn with viral meningitis that required intravenous antibiotics (and a 4-day hospital stay) until bacterial meningitis was ruled out, one or two cases of strep, a mysterious purple rash covering about 30% of a two-year-old’s skin, and one incorrectly diagnosed ear infection that disappeared before the first dose had time to take effect.The bronchitis and pneumonia also required “inhalatzia,” or a ventilator.

Other than that my kids’ illnesses generally consist mainly of fever (bli ayin hara). I keep an eye on them and only go to the doctor if it takes a turn for the worse. When my then 7yo daughter contracted a mild fever beginning on a Monday, she otherwise seemed well. On Friday at about 11:30 AM, while she lay down with her head on my lap, my inner voice said, “This child is sick.” (My outer voice was probably thinking about my Shabbat menu.) I called the doctor, who agreed to wait for us (most offices close at 12:00 on Fridays). He diagnosed pneumonia. He said that had I taken her in earlier, he would probably not have found anything. I still feel guilty despite avoiding an ER visit or worse.

All in all, I look forward to my kids’ minor illnesses. They tend to sleep off the fever while I enjoy a bit of vacation. I can usually cancel my plans for the day. If they complain a lot I offer Acamol (paracetamol; the equivalent of Tylenol), which they refuse. With any luck they stop complaining and go to sleep. My pediatrician friend agrees that Acamol isn’t necessary when fever is the only symptom. I hate forcing my kids to do anything and I have spent years honing my parenting skills to avoid it. With my kids and fevers no skills are necessary — lazy mothering carries the day.

Wishing a refuah shlemah (full recovery) to all who are sick.

My 3yo just told me that she’s wearing “cold” pajamas–you know, the opposite of warm ones. Unfortunately, lazy mothering didn’t get her to sleep before 11:00.

Inspired by Just Making It Up as I Go


  1. WaysofZion says

    Good for you! we also don’t like taking or giving our kids un needed medication. Personally, I think you’re a better mother for it.

  2. My cousin and I once had a conversation where we both guiltily admitted to enjoying our kids’ minor illnesses for the break they afford. My toddler is currently suffering a minor cold and is sleeping in his crib. Hence, I am reading blogs and posting comments! Thanks for the break, sweetie!
    Am I mean or what?

  3. mominisrael says

    WoZ–it helps that the neighbors are likely to call the authorities when your kids ahve to take them.
    Frumhouse–hope your son is feeling well soon, at least after a reasonable interval.

  4. I would think you are putting your kids in danger by giving them another dose when they threw it up. I know when my oldest used to get sick and throw up the pedialite the doctors would tell me not to worry, some was still being absorbed. Well, you can’t OD on pedilite too easily, but medicine. . .oy.
    Fortunately sickness isn’t too common around here. I credit it to nursing and no daycare and nursery for young ones.

  5. Actually, it depends how high the fever is. If your child has a medium fever, it’s fine to just let them sweat it out as long as they drink enough. If the fever is really high (42C or so), you risk brain damage if you don’t bring it down. If a young child actively refuses the medicine at that point, it’s probably worth using a suppository.
    At the very least, give them a lukewarm bath to bring down the temperature.
    Older kids (even 2 or 3) will often understand that they’re really miserable and will do whatever will make them feel better.

  6. mominisrael says

    Hi Leah,
    My kids never had a fever that high and if they did I would take them to the emergency room, after giving them Acamol (which I doubt they would object to with that kind of fever). My friend is an ER ped, and she said the only risk of not bringing down fever is convulsions on the first day. I will ask her again.

  7. If they’ve never had a fever that high, consider yourself blessed. My sister’s had her kids run fevers so high that she took the thermometer away before the numbers could get any scarier.
    It’s true that if your child is running a regular fever, there’s no need to force medicine down their throat. The body can heal itself. The acamol might make them feel better, but it won’t cure the illness. That’s something only time, cuddles, and lots of fluids can do. (at least if it’s viral)