Advice Columns

Sniffly son suspected of spreading sickness

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I joined a local mothers’ club when my son (now 16 months old) was 3 months old, and formed a new play group with a few other women and their children. We take turns hosting the weekly meeting in our homes and providing lunch for the group. Sometimes I wonder if I would have made friends with any of these ladies otherwise. We are thrown together because our children are of similar ages, but this fact alone is not enough to overcome all differences. The other mothers are driving me crazy blaming all of their children’s illnesses on my son. I grew up with allergies, and if I thought every runny/stuffy nose portended illness, I would never leave the house. Also, I have read that exposure to colds at this age helps kids build immunity so they don’t get sick as often when they start going to school. I don’t bring him to the group if he truly seems sick (fever, listlessness, etc.) I am starting to think that the socialization isn’t worth the stress, and while my child enjoys the meetings, I doubt he would actually miss them at this age, especially if I substituted another interesting activity.
The below note was my husband’s idea: “All: Mike has allergies. Perhaps sometimes he also has mild colds. I say mild, because he doesn’t get fevers, and Dave and I never have any symptoms that point to it being something contagious. “That being said, Mike does go to day care and may pick up things there. He goes to the playroom at the gym and plays with other kids that we know. From what we have read and what our doctor says, we think it is important for young children to get exposed to lots of other kids, as it helps them develop a strong immune system, so we are not going to change. “Mike sleeps about 10 hours a night and only naps after a lot of activity, so he does not seem to be hampered by his regular runny nose. If he had a fever or showed other signs of actually fighting some sort of infection, we would act appropriately. “Obviously, this is not compatible with the play group, so Mike will be dropping out. We don’t want Mike to suffer with sickness and would be upset to see him hurting. The only times he has seemed ill was when he had strep (and we caught that before he had symptoms) and when he was teething, and we stayed out of play group those weeks.”
What do you think? Is there any way I can quit play group while politely letting them know I think they are overreacting? GENTLE READER:

It is an exercise in futility to tell parents not to worry about their children’s health – or what does and does not constitute an overreaction.

Furthermore, Miss Manners observes that your husband’s note shows concern only for your own child and the reasons to keep him home (including teething, which surely is not transmittable), and declares that your attitude toward immunity and communicable diseases is the correct one. Other parents may feel otherwise — and can certainly find doctors and studies to corroborate.

Quitting play group is not a problem; you can merely say your son has other activities. Using the opportunity to chastise the other mothers would be creating a problem.

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