Last night we brought out the sick tent.
My kids each have their own — just a standard child’s play tent that sometimes serves a special purpose. I had a sick tent when I was little, too — a seemingly small piece of childhood that actually looms large in my memories.
I remember my mom setting it out on the carpeted living room floor, the TV close by so I could peek my head out to watch my favorite movies and cartoons. Mom rubbed Vicks on my chest and let the humidifier run inside the tent, its flimsy frame and wispy flap holding the vapors inside just perfectly. The smell of menthol ointment takes me back there, even now — not to the feeling of sickness, but to the comfort of being cared for.
I wanted to share this with my children. Being sick is miserable for kids, and not being able to take it away is miserable for those of us who love them. But if there’s something they can look forward to — some small comfort that helps them feel extra safe and warm and loved — well, that makes all the difference.
That comfort might look like a miniature tent full of stuffed animals, pillows, snacks, and an elephant-shaped humidifier. Or maybe it’s snuggling on the couch to Cocomelon, a kid-sized heating pad easing the aches and pains of a tiny tummy. Or it’s chicken noodle soup and saltine crackers and reruns of The Price is Right (because some things should never change).
Last night, my daughter was soothed with the help of a little pink tent on a couch. But the tent itself isn’t what matters. What matters is the consistency of the feeling of being safe and warm and loved. Children are going to cherish the experiences they associate with that feeling.
So as long as they have you — the one who’d do anything to make everything better — they have all they truly need.