February, VABruary, Same Same

“Sunshine isn’t good for your health. You know what you should do? Take it easy. Move to Sweden. Relax and enjoy the freezing weather and the crushing darkness that wants to eat your soul.”

Said no doctor ever.

In February, Sweden is usually wet and still dark, though she’s starting to get more sunshine. Definitely more than January. My theory is the germs know this, too. Because they come out in force. An elite assault squadron of viruses. To mingle. And mingle they do, especially around school-aged children, and in particular, my school-aged children. Murphy’s Law apparently has sub-laws and one of those is if germs are looking for incubators, they will always find my children.

And what do my children do? They share, like the good kids they are. While they are jumping around playing dragons with sweaty foreheads, sniffling every seven seconds, but somehow still fit enough to torch the most defensible castle this side of the pond, I walk outside and the freezing air climbs down my throat. After less than a minute it feels like someone has shoved their hand inside my chest, grabbed each of my lungs and is squeezing the life out of them, and just before I start hacking, I wonder if sharing isn’t a bit overrated.

In the states, we would have used our combined sick/vacation time to take care of the kids. Ten days divided between sick and vacation time when you have small children is nothing short of ridiculous and borders on violating some constitutional or human rights fine print. I feel for my fellow Americans.

Thankfully, though, we don’t live in the states anymore.

Sweden has something called VAB — Vård av barn (care of children) — where the government pays the caregiver to stay home with his or her sick child (if you have a job). Great system. And February is unofficially known as Vabruary due to the number of VAB days taken. They’ve even turned it into a verb — vabba.

To recap, you have an entire country whose people get sick so much during one particular month they’ve invented new words for the language. And this is where I live =). (For the record, I like where I live, but I get to complain about being sick just like all the other folks who were born and raised here).

Every day this month someone in our family has been sick. Which explains the lack of activity here on the blog. I’m a bit bummed about it, too. I had posts planned to highlight semlor — one of the yummier aspects of Swedish life, how my son gives me Valentine’s Day cards that say ‘from Elvira’ (not his name), and of course, more Thursday Thoughts inspirations/prompts. All of which either have missed their time and must wait for next year, or have been pushed back on the schedule.

Sometimes I look into the future, when the kids are grown and the germs have moved on to other families and I wonder if I’ll know what to do. How will we handle an entire sick-free month? Will we wander around with phantom symptoms because we’ve been conditioned to the colds, stuffy noses, strep throats, bronchitis, and other sicknesses all these years? God, I hope not. I hope I dance around with a caramel latte in my hand, happy and grateful we’re on the other side of the sick years.

Someone once told me we would see relief when both kids are over 8 years old. Just a few more years to go . . .

Published by casblomberg

Cas Blomberg is a native-English speaking writer who lives in Stockholm, Sweden.