It’s Only Ebola: Adventures in Parenting Traumatized Children


“I have to smell you!” Carl wails from the other side of the bathroom door. “Just let me smell you! Just one time! I’m worried, Mama. Please!!!” He is insistent as he pounds on the door. He has a disproportionate amount if strength for a 9-year-old little boy. His 8-year-old sister Mary is crying in my husbands arms. Our 14-year-old is intently plugged into his iPod, and ignoring his environment completely. This is his most common signal of distress.

Luke, my amazingly talented super-hero hubby, is attempting to convince this large audience if distressed chickens that mommy is fine. He is insisting he can put them to bed and that they will still see me tomorrow. From where I sit, it sounds like he is making very good points about his bedtime abilities. For instance, he has just pointed out that he is, in fact, still standing upright. This puts him in the unique position of being the only adult currently in the house with this ability. He is literally the last man standing! One would think that this alone would qualify him for bedtime duties. According to our chickens, however, nothing can be accomplished until I have been smelled.

I am lying prone on the bathroom floor with my feverish face pressed against the cool tiles of the floor. My hair is stuck to my head in sweaty clumps and my skin has taken on a rather disturbing greenish tinge. As an elementary school teacher I have the woeful propensity to contract the stomach bug at least once a year. This may be the worst one I’ve ever had. I lost count of how many times I’ve vomited. I can’t even be more than a few feet away from the toilet. I have a cup of ice chips and a blanket with my on the floor because I am alternately freezing and then sweating. I do not want my little chickens to see me like this. I’m afraid they will be so worried about me that they will not go to bed. My chickens, however, have other ideas. They adamantly feel the need to smell me. I’m pretty sure I smell strongly like puke.

I open the door a bit and sort of lurch into a sitting position. Little Carl rushes over to me and shoves his face I to my neck and hair. And then he takes a giant whiff. Yup, I’ve just been snorted by my son. Will he gag? Will he balk at my yellowish greenish skin? Will he see my scary bed-hair and decide I’m unfit as a human, let alone one that is his mother?

He breathes a HUGE sigh of relief and walks off as if nothing weird has just happened. “It’s ok, guys.” Carl smiles down the hallway at the others. “She’s not drunk. It’s probably just Ebola.”  “Oh,” says little Mary nonchalantly, “That’s no big deal then. Daddy can put us to bed.” And just like that, they go back to playing with Legos and watching TV. Meanwhile, I was stuck with the Ebola.

Their trauma history was triggered but they got past it. Maybe their bio-mom spent a lot of time throwing up in the bathroom after drinking. Who knows. What could have been an epic full-scale chicken panic turned out to be no big deal. Luke successfully put everyone to bed without a fuss. What was there to fuss about? After all, it’s only Ebola!


If you’ve ever considered fostering or adopting, I encourage you to start your own adventure!

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.


7 thoughts on “It’s Only Ebola: Adventures in Parenting Traumatized Children

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