Aidan was up coughing half the night.

Poor kid. He made it through winter with nothing more than sniffles and sneezes and then in the last two weeks has been slammed with a stomach bug, a fever, an ear infection and now this hacking cough that sounds suspiciously like a barking baby seal.

Aha, the tell-tale barking seal sounds, otherwise known as the croup.

We’ve been visited by this beast before and we know what to do: steam. There’s really not a whole helluva lot else you can do.

Last night I gave him dose after dose of homeopathic cough syrup, which had no effect, cranked the humidifier and put him to bed early. (I also gave him a bath and washed his hair, which would normally be a no-no when he’s sick, but he had his swimming lesson in the morning! So after a quick internal debate, I opted to get the chlorine off, even if it meant sending a coughing kid to bed with wet hair, and kicked myself as he shivered afterwards, his wet limbs covered in goosebumps.)

Between about midnight and 4am, Aidan woke himself—and us—up coughing too many times to count.

“Mommy, can you sing to me?” he’d say, as I sleepwalked into his room. “Can you read me a story?”

Each time I’d stagger in, he’d be guzzling water, coughing up a lung, searching for Kitty, grinning at me.

Between about 3 and 4:00, none of us slept, as he was coughed almost non-stop. I gave him more useless cough syrup, suggested more water, checked the humidifier (still steaming away). Harlan had had enough of my hippie mama remedies and went downstairs to fetch the Tylenol, which he thought might help him sleep, and a cough drop from my nightstand. It was neon blue and Aidan liked it for about three seconds.

“It’s minty,” he said, “too minty,” and spit it out.

I found a pack of honey-flavored ones and he liked the idea of that, but only managed to hold it in his gooey finger and lick it for a few seconds before declaring it “too minty,” too, and dumping it in a bowl I gave him to keep by his bed, in case he wanted it later.

I climbed in bed with him for a while, but he was too obsessed with stroking my face and telling me how beautiful I am and how much he loves me to sleep (motherhood rocks!), so I gave him a big shmoogle (just made that up, it’s a rapturous hybrid hug/kiss/cuddle) and fell exhausted back into my own bed, where I wrapped my arms around tired hubby and almost passed out until the cat started bellowing. Harlan went down and threw a glass of water in his face—his latest trick for getting him to behave, which works for a minute. Then the cat forgets all about it by 4:30 the next morning, when he starts his morose serenade all over again.

Harlan texted me this morning to make sure I’d given Aidan a cough drop to take to school with him. I told him Aidan doesn’t understand cough drops.

The rest of the conversation went like this:

“Fine…but it helped last night.”

“No! He kicked it for awhile and put it in a bowl by his bed,” and then: “Licked.”

“But his coughing stopped right away after he tried it,” he said.

“I think it was the Tylenol,” I said.

“Don’t be so anti cough drop. Embrace Western medicine.”

Last night I did finally embrace the Western medicine called Tylenol and I believe it’s what allowed him to sleep. That said, it’s easier to get me to cave at 4:00 in the morning. Basically I’m reluctant to put any type of medication into my son that they don’t sell at Cambridge Naturals. (I went there today to get a new brand of homeopathic cough syrup). That is, unless he’s in pain. When my baby is really hurting, my hippie mama morality flies out the window and it’s antibiotics all the way for the ear infection, Tylenol for fevers and even a cough drop for croup if we can keep it in his mouth for long enough to do the trick.

I ran into a new friend at the gym today—very cool dancer/filmmaker mom I met on the soccer field who moved here from Brooklyn—and she suggested Benadryl. I have a bottle on hand in case of bee stings. But I suppose if the coughing got bad enough and I was delirious enough, I would give it a shot.

But that’s only if Plan A doesn’t work:

Tonight we blast the hot shower and hang out in the steamy bathroom. I can see us now, sweaty, on the floor, joking around, maybe playing Uno. Then, counter-intuitively, once we’re dried off and bundled up, we step out into the cool night air and take big gulps of it.

These were the suggestions of Aidan’s school nurse and they’re the kind of cures this hippie mama tends to prefer.

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