Monday, September 12, 2005

Rest, recuperation and reflection

Having a sick child makes your heart hurt.

Well, at least until 10.30am when they're suddenly all better and jumping up and down on the kitchen bench begging you to give them one of the muffins you're making for the school market. You say, "No, you're sick today and if you're hungry, I'll peel you an apple."
"Awwww Muuuum!", moans the sick child, leaning sulkily over the counter before "AH CHOO!" sneezing right into the muffin mix.

Our six year old has had the remnants of a cold for the past three weeks or so with the snotty, nasally, chesty cough lingering longer than B-grade starlet at a Motley Crue reunion. However last night the cough intensified further, making sleep very difficult for her. And for us. In the morning, the coughing continued, and her wan little face pleadingly said it all: I must stay home from school today. In case I still didn't pick up the message, she sadly whispers, "I'm sick, Mum. I have to stay home from school today," adding a couple of barking coughs for extra emphasis.

I feel suspicious, mean, hard-hearted, concerned and loving all at once - is that possible? Yes. I know she's got a lingering cough; I know that she'd like to have a day off; I know that she's not exactly dying and would be fine at school. However I also know that she's got dark circles under her eyes and I know how tiring it is to be coughing all the time.

I felt her forehead (as if I have any clue as to temperature settings or illness factors) and gave her a hug. "OK love, you'd better stay home with me today and------"
"Woo Hoo, Mum! Now can we set up the marble run outside under the trampoline so that I can get the dog to chase me up to it and then do a headstand over to------"
"No, no, a thousand times no. If you are home from school, it is because you are sick and need to be warm, need to rest and need to be quiet. Understand?"
Sighing deeply: "Y-e-s M-u-m." Brightening a little: "So what can I do today?"
"Well," I considered, "You can go back to bed and rest for a while, you can lie on the sofa and watch a bit of TV or you can do some drawing at your desk."

TV on the lounge won out. Somehow three pillows, her baby pink blankie, a stuffed velvet dog and two barbies were secreted out with her. 'Arthur' was on, her favourite show run by ABC kids. She and I had only been watching it on and off for the past three years before we visited his website and found out that he was supposed to be an aardvark - we'd both thought he'd been a guinea pig all this time.

"What would you like for breakfast?"
No answer.
"Did you hear me? What would you like for breakfast?"
Still no answer.
"Look, I'm going to turn off the telly if you----"
Rapidly: "I'll have toast with vegemite please Mum and a glass of milo."

An hour of languidly eating breakfast and playing with her toys saw the remainder of the kids' shows on ABC finished, replaced by current affairs bulletins.
"What can we do now Mum?"
"You can go to bed and rest, or read a book or do some drawing."
Drawing won over this time. "Hey Mum, I'm going to write a book. How do you spell the word 'Humiliating'?"
"H, U, M, I, L ----- hang on, why do you want to call your book that?"
"Oh it sounds good and I hear my teacher say it all the time."

It's now morning tea time, and I'm sitting on the sofa, trying to enjoy my coffee whitened with soy milk (my lactose-free month) and hoping like hell that the 20 minutes of oven time will eradicate any germs previously sneezed all over the muffins. The sick child is alternately sipping her fruit juice, taking photographs of the bookshelves with her digital camera and making toy people out of bog rolls and cream container tops.

"How about I do some charades for you to guess Mum?"
"Oh why not?" I say resignedly. I guess she's already had a good laugh this morning by watching me through the lounge room window giving Milly the dog a bath. That is, after I found her cowering under the outdoor setting, gave chase, gracelessly caught her in an unflattering upside down bum-lock and flung her quivering body into the baby bath. My sick girl tapped on the glass and gave me an encouraging wave as I went outside a second time to hang out the clothes, only to find that I was in the firing line of a rosella in the towering gum tree. "Mum, you've got bird poop all down your back," she yelled helpfully.

"What am I Mum, you've got to guess."
"Um, a horse? A caterpillar? A princess? No? Why don't you just tell me?"
Rolling her eyes: "Mum I was being Lizzie MacGuire."
"But you don't even know who Lizzie MacGuire is---"
"Yes, I do, Sarina at school knows all about her and has her very own Lizzie backpack covered in stickers that she got in her showbag at the show last week, you know, the show that you didn't take me to because you said we went last year and it was too noisy and expensive and there's nothing very nice to eat there and......."
Who am I to argue. I am merely grateful that I only have to act out a dog, going shopping and making a telephone call before she tires of the game and ferrets out her Etch-a-Sketch.

I might as well starting putting together tonight's coconut chicken curry and cook up a load of dog food, or 'Milly Mince' as our house calls it. There was a rat-a-tata-tap on my lower back as I was bending down in the corner cupboard to find two stock pots. "Mum? What can I do now?"
A movie. Thank goodness for DVDs. My guilt about using the goggle box for entertainment evaporated about one month after my daughter could walk, out talk and out energise me.

As the modern version of 'Peter Pan' played, I cooked. "Mmm Mum, that smells delicious! Is that what we're having for tea tonight?" she called from the lounge.
"Er no, that's dog mince, but I'm sure Milly'll be pleased enough with it."

Lunchtime found us both sipping last night's leftover minestrone on the lounge with the pink baby blankie on our laps. I was just in time to see Wendy give Peter a kiss and for him to instantly reanimate himself and defeat Captain Cook.
"Was that like it was when you and Daddy kissed?"
"Sure, yep, absolutely." Please don't stay on this track, dear child.
"What about when you had your baby, I mean - me?"
Oh lord, please not now. "Yeah yeah, it's all good. Now be careful eating that, we don't want your blanket all dirty. I'll just go and hang out that other load of washing....."

The credits rolled and the inevitable "What can I do now, Mum?" question was raised.
"Would you like to have a play on the computer for a while?"
"Yes please!"

Fifteen minutes and half a ream of paper later: "Sweetheart, I want you to stop printing now, you've got enough copies of Jakers and Mixy to keep you colouring in for an eternity. Just play the online games and I'll turn off the printer."
"But I don't want to play games Mum."
I was getting terse now. "Then get off and colour them in!"
"But I don't feel like doing any colouring in, I feel like----"
"THAT'S IT! Get off that computer and into your room! You are going to have a rest!"

Five minutes of hearing her sobbing reminded me of what controlled crying was like about five-and-a-half years ago. I gave in, and went in to see her. "I'm not tired Mum, I don't want to have a rest."
"OK, but you need to realise that you have to have a quiet day because you are sick."
"Yes Mum. Would you like to play a game of 'Trouble' with me?"
For those of you unfamiliar with Trouble, it's about as annoying for a migraine-sufferer like myself to play as it would be for Cher to attend an over-eighty singles' night.

When Love Chunks came home, we were cuddled on the lounge, reading 'Hippo Potto and Mouse'. The house was warm, smelled cosily of curry and clean dog.
"So how have you two been today at home? Are you feeling OK?" he said, as he ruffled our little girl's hair.
"Yeah, I'm good."
LC turned to me. "What about you, how is she - will she be ready for school tomorrow?"
"Oh deary me, yes indeedy. Now could you please run her a bubble bath to play in for at least until she wrinkles up like a prune even though she's done nothing to get herself dirty enough for one? I'm going to go into our room with this weeks' 'Who' magazine for half an hour lie down......"

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