Hold out your clenched hand in front of you. Release your first, second and third fingers. Got it? Three, that’s what you can see, THREE.
THAT is the amount of times that I have suffered a tummy upset at the hands of a 3 and 5 year old in the last six weeks. THREE TIMES in the last FORTY-TWO DAYS. I am sick of being sick.
I guess it’s my own fault for giving birth to a child who has been known to lick chocolate off the floor of a Pizza Express, plus I’m one of those fairly laissez-faire mothers when it comes to germs. I like to think a fair amount of mud and day-to-day muck is character, or at least immune system-building (there’s definitely something to the three second rule…), though I am obviously a stickler for after-loo handwashing.
And so we don’t usually get more than your average illnesses in this house. There’s the odd sniffle and funny tummy, a couple of headaches and feeling under the weather. Standard.
Apart from, it would seem, March and April. March and April have been so bad that I’m thinking about making my children live in sterile bubbles, walking around with bleach bottles strapped to me or, worst of all, removing the three second rule. March and April have kicked us hard. Mostly in our digestive systems.
Take this weekend for example. We had an amazing Saturday exploring London, then big plans for the zoo with friends on Sunday (and I had the minor task of writing a 1,000 word report to fit in there somewhere). Instead, on Sunday, my favourite day of the week, I woke up, fed everyone breakfast and then had such dire stomach cramps that I thought I was going to die. Or even worse – give birth again.
I’m not even kidding. Elfie saw me doubled up in pain clutching my tummy and requested “a baby girl to play with, please mummy!”
I got into bed – Elfie got in next to me and rubbed my back, the sweetheart – and groaned and groaned and groaned. It was the worst pain I’ve felt since labour, but almost worse because it came on so quickly and unexpectedly. It came in waves, just like labour, and made me want to throw up, just like labour.
It hurt so much that I was googling at different times, “what is more painful, gastroenteritis or labour?” and “do I have appendicitis?”. I hurt so much I couldn’t really read the answers.
So my poor children, who’d been promised a sunny Sunday at the zoo (I missed my friend’s husband making Charlie Brooker’s kids cry: GUTTED), got to spend their morning tending to their mother who may or may not (but probably not, you know, as I’m fine now) have appendicitis. Elfie brought me the sick bowl, stroked my hair and told me how much she loved me. Hux watched Thunderbirds on his iPad and got dressed but forgot his underwear.
It got me thinking just how exhausting these little childhood illnesses are – whether it’s us or them experiencing it. When you’re a working adult you have a couple of blips a year I reckon, hangovers notwithstanding. You’re poorly, you take a day or two out of the office, you’re better. Yet it’s so much harder with children.
For a start, I think any parent will agree that seeing your child ill is just the worst. You’d do anything to take their pain away, put yourself in their position instead. But you can’t, so you settle for hugs on the sofa, lashings of love and the swift removal of the sick bowl.
It’s an exhausting process; the poorly five year old is more demanding than anyone I have ever nurtured before. She lies dramatically on the sofa like a Victoria woman with consumption, hand on brow, loud exclamations about the state of her head or tummy. I assume I’ll be able to work quietly in the other room while she’s glued to Paw Patrol or Horrid Henry, but NO! I’m responsible for the regular deployment of drinks, snacks, water and cuddles.
I also need to take the poorly five year old’s temperature at least once an hour, because she won’t be able to dramatically exclaim how ill she is without scientific proof. She’ll be disappointed if it dips below the magic number of 38.5 because that means no more over the top shrieks, and even worse, no more Calpol (or Crack for Kids, as I like to call it).
Once the five year old has been packed off to school (after waiting the required 48 hour period since the last vomiting episode, natch) you breathe a sigh of relief – it’s time to get back to normal, to catch up on the three days of work and Netflix you missed out while you were endlessly washing sheets and sick bowl.
BUT NO. Your body has other ideas. It’s time for YOU to lay back on the sofa, hand on brow, weeping while your stomach churns. It’s your turn to be nurtured back to health by someone who responds to your ever need and tenderly drip-feeds you Calpol.
Haha, only kidding. You’ll feel like shit but it’s still business as usual.
I tell you, doing the school run last month as I heaved into the sick bowl between my legs was definitely a parenting highlight. That was the time all three of us came down with a simultaneous sick bug so I was mopping the brows of two kids as well as myself. PURE JOY.
Anyway. We’re out the other end of the most recent bout, which – thank god, basically. Nothing makes you more grateful for your health than a week in a house with a sick bug that won’t shift.
Now all I need to do is catch up on the 25 hours of work I’ve lost in the last 7 days. Let’s say it again: PURE JOY.
Let’s hear it for our health. And our ability to keep food down.