Sweet tea for a sweetie

I’ve discovered something going on in my own home, among my own children, which I’d never realized. A lesson that is shocking and which I certainly didn’t realize I was imparting to my children.

Tea is what you drink when you’re sick.

I’ve mentioned before that every generation has its own idea of what you drink when you’re sick, and probably even every family. I’ve mentioned before that my kids will grow up associating sick days with Gatorade.

I grew up with the notion (I thought) that ginger ale was what you had when you were sick. I also remember my dad giving me Alka Seltzer in a very tall glass (I wasn’t allowed to use those usually) when I was small. My husband, by contrast, says they got Coke with the bubbles stirred out of it.

Yesterday, my two year old got a stomach bug, and last night, Kiddo#3 proved what a generous soul his brother is, in that his brother shared the bug with him. (I don’t know if this precipitates another Health Fail. I hope not.)

This morning as I checked my email, Kiddo#3 showed up, bleary-eyed, in the kitchen doorway, and said, “Can I have some tea?”

I turned on the kettle, got out the decaf tea (Kiddo#3 exists in a natural state of motion that most of us would associate with twelve cups of coffee; he doesn’t need help) and got his mug, his spoon (they must eat their tea rather than sipping it. I believe that’s because it makes a tremendous mess that way) and then showed him how to steep it. I added sugar. I asked if he wanted milk, and he looked rather serious as he said, “Yes, I do.”

That’s when I realized: my kiddos don’t think of Gatorade as sick-food. It’s tea. Sore throat? Tea. Fever? Tea. Tummy bug? Tea with lots of sugar once you think you can handle something.

Ten years ago, after I’d gotten the diagnosis that Emily Rose was going to die shortly after birth, I got an email from my mom to make sure I was eating. I wrote back that the only thing I wanted was “really sweet tea.” She replied, “Go ahead. Really sweet tea is fine.”

And there you have it. I passed along an association I wasn’t even aware I had, a legacy my kids won’t question until thirty years from now when they have sick children and weblogs of their own.


  1. cricketB

    Tea. Love it.

    I came home with a cold from kindergarten one time. Mom had a client over (she ran a typing business) who came from Czechoslovakia (okay, I admit, sometimes spell-check and recommend is nice) and he recommended tea with honey. I was riding my kid brother’s trike around the basement within an hour. When Mom had mono, the grandmotherly Dutch woman who did our weekly cleaning would stop mid-afternoon and make a cup of tea for everyone — half milk, half-sugar, half-tea for me. (Yes, that doesn’t add up.)

    At school, I used it to keep me at my desk late at night, until I realized the caffeine would hit at that nasty hour when it’s too late to get any more sleep. Now I crave it just before I get sick.

    1. philangelus

      The “half sugar” would mean to me “put half as much sugar as you normally do” but I can see other readings.

      My MIL swears that “tea with honey and lemon” will cure just about anything. It doesn’t do much for me, though. 🙁

      Speaking of craving things just before you get sick (nice to have a warning system!) I don’t like raw tomatoes, but on Wednesday I was draggy and tired and when I saw the tomatoes in the fridge, I wanted them. Totally bizarre–just tomatoes sliced, salted, oreganoed, and with a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of that. But tomatoes have vitamin C, and maybe my body needed that? I felt better on Thursday, just in time for Kiddo4 to get sick.

  2. dana

    Sickness in my childhood was met with a large tablespoon of castor oil, followed by a saltine cracker (to soak up the residue on my tongue) followed by a sip, and only a sip, of Coke.

    To this day, I cannot drink a Coke while eating a saltine cracker or I can TASTE castor oil!

    I even had to switch from saltines to Ritz!

    1. philangelus

      Wow! Yeah, those taste associations can be so powerful, can’t they? Do you find you avoid Coke in general because of that? Can you drink Pepsi without the saltine?

  3. Marie

    I did not yet read your blog when you wrote the post about blue gatorade. We call blue gatorade “Romulan ale”.

    1. philangelus

      That is AWESOME! I’ll have to pass that along to my Patient Husband.

  4. Shauna Viele

    I’m an avid coffee drinker, but when I’m not feeling up to par, I go with tea. When I was young, my mother was a firm believer that when you were sick, you shouldn’t have anything greasy, so I always got tea and dry toast (no butter). My daughters, however, request 7up–sprite is ok, but they want 7up when they have upset tummies.
    I personally can’t stand gatorade, it makes me more nauseous than I was before!