Patient Zero

There’s been a lot of finger-pointing in politics lately, a lot of “I’ll tell you who’s responsible for our national problems . . .” but these people are amateurs at pinning blame compared to us moms when there’s a virus going around.

viruses are so pretty

Other people’s kids are the problem.  They foster these nasty, debilitating viruses and then create situations where they’re in the same room as your child and pass them on.  Evil, right?   Some of them even cough and blow their noses.  They might as well be pointing a virus-filled ray-gun at your child.

Your own kid is the innocent victim, the one who happily skipped off to a playdate healthy and whole, and who casually mentions when she comes back that her friend said her throat hurt.  When your precious darling comes down with a bad cold twenty-four hours later, you know who to blame: that reckless shrew of a friend.

(Of course, when Precious Darling has her own playdate that second day–because she doesn’t want to cancel it and why should she?  It’s just a little sore throat–and then gets really sick a few hours later, you don’t feel guilty.   I mean, it wasn’t her virus that she passed on to her friend–it was playdate number one’s virus.)

I was recently on vacation at a hotel where several members of my extended family got felled by a particularly nasty stomach virus.  My sister started talking to another mother on our floor, who told her that her son had also gotten the stomach flu, but then made it clear he wasn’t to blame for bringing it there. That honor belonged to another little boy who had the stomach flu a couple of days before everyone else got it and whose mother let him wander around the lounge area when he was clearly still contagious.  When we discussed it later, the decision was unanimous: we could all blame that original, unknown family for making us all sick.

A couple of months ago, my husband and I watched the movie Contagion and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was total wish-fulfillment.  Not because–spoiler alert–there’s a brilliant, unselfish scientist who figures out a way to eradicate this new pandemic.  No. The great satisfaction of the movie is that they ultimately–another spoiler alert but it doesn’t really spoil anything for you but still if you don’t like to know any details about movies before seeing them you should probably skip the rest of this paragraph and actually if you are like that I hope you stopped reading a sentence ago because that earlier thing was really more of a spoiler–trace the disease to a single Patient Zero and figure out exactly when and how she was the first human to be exposed to this particular virus.

How satisfying is that?  We know exactly who to blame for getting the virus and spreading it.  There’s no “she must have gotten it from someone else herself.”  Nope.  First human to get it.  And then she ate from a bowl of peanuts at a bar.  She is so totally to blame.

It’s all we moms really want out of life: a scapegoat to blame for every illness our kids get.


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