The Pox of Chicken

By Susan Kawa

I'm not a chickenpox expert, but you think I might have caught on to my daughter's polka-dotted-ness before I sent her off to school last Tuesday. My only excuse is to refer to my general hectic morning schedule. Or possibly, my husband switched me to decaf without warning.

At any rate, her teacher was kind enough to point out the obvious, without any of the expected editorial comments, such as "What? Are you a COMPLETE moron?" I always liked her.

I've actually been looking forward to the chickenpox, if you can believe it. No, not for ME - I had them when I was 10. I just wanted to avoid subjecting my kids to the vaccine they've been pushing at the pediatrician's office. Seriously, it's more pressure than Amway. Not that I'm a hugely religious person or anything, but I happen to trust the God-given immunity more than what the medical community happens to be touting this year. They say this particular vaccine probably (probably!) lasts a good 20-years or so - just in time to conveniently cause some REAL damage! JMO.

Chickenpox usually isn't such a bad deal. Lasts about a week, during which you get to cancel all your appointments and skip work, a kid gets a lot of attention, and you get to really shake down which over-the-counter anti-itch medications actually work at least half as well as they claim (none.) Which is kind of a good thing to know.

Once in a while, particularly in kids with immune disorders, chickenpox is bad news. But for my ordinary, healthy, energetic little heathens, I had no reason to fear this minor disease. I figured it might even slow them down a bit too. A few days of rest never hurt anybody.

Abby had what I'd consider your basic garden-variety average case of chickenpox, with one deviation: she actually had MORE energy than usual. Granted she spent a lot of that energy scratching herself in the privates, but not nearly enough to slow her down. It was exhausting.

In fact, I'm thinking of submitting a request to the AMA to change the name "Chickenpox" to "Chutes and Ladders." I don't think I have to explain this one to anybody with a 3-year-old. But besides that, as much as we tried, connecting the dots never once produced a picture of a chicken. Or any other fowl, for that matter. It's a dumb name.

Now she's in the delicious phase where the last of the pustules (don't you just LOVE that word? Pustules.) are scabbing over (another nice word. Scabbing. Chickenpox has a lot of gross words associated with it.) At any rate, she'll be good to go by next Tuesday, except that she'll still LOOK hideous. Which is why it's KIDS who get this illness. No adult in her right mind would be seen in public during this scab stage. Kids don't care.

And any day now, we get to go round two with Max. Incubation for chickenpox runs between 7 and 21 days, which means they really have no idea how long the incubation is, except that just when you think you're home free - that's usually when it hits. And (get this) it's most contagious one or two days before the first lesions appear. Which is why the single most reliable factor in determining the onset of the pox is birthday parties. The day after the kid attends a party is the day he/she is most likely to develop chickenpox. This is a disease meant to be shared, I guess. Though when I called the nurse and asked whether this was an occasion to bring Abby in, she nearly put out my eardrum with the ensuing "NO!" I guess she's not so confident about that vaccine, either.

Anyhow for the next 2 to 4 weeks you can probably find me here at home. Typing with one hand, and playing "Chutes and Ladders" with the other. I am the "Pox Momma."

Susan Kawa is a wife, mother, and freelance writer. More of her essays can be read at

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