Monday, October 24, 2005

Really Sick Child

As some of you may know from a previous article I wrote on having a 'sick' child at home all day - - normally they're all annoyingly chirpy and jumping on the lounge suite by 10:30am thus making it a very, very l-o-n-g day ahead for the parent.

I mention this fact so that my own cruel behaviour towards my six year old daughter Sapphire this morning will be forgiven, or at the very least, understood. Not only had we just had two weeks of idyllic school holidays (for her) but we'd also taken the first week off term four to go to Melbourne with Love Chunks. Therefore, when Sapphire threw up her minutes-old milo cereal all over the kitchen floor, I was annoyed rather than concerned for her welfare. Granted she did look pale, but hey, we're both blondes: we should look pale. Also in true Sapphire style, she immediately displayed her 'Better Out Than In' post-vomit persona and immediately started chattering away about what she'd like this week's 'Show and Tell' topic to be about. My annoyance then changed to relief: she's OK enough to go to school.

Don't get me wrong; she's a lovely child and every day I am still dazzled at my first sight of her, but after being her most constant companion/chef/taxi/diary planner/disciplinarian/groomer/housekeeper for the past three weeks I needed a break. We meandered slowly along the three blocks to her school, we kissed each other goodbye and I ambled back home via the letter box.

The sun was trying to make its presence felt amongst the rain clouds and I was about to get into my gear to take Milly and myself for a run (no, really) when the school rang, asking me to collect Sapphire from the sick bay. "Oh gosh darnit, and to think that I was about to go for a 6km run in the drizzle." Other silly thoughts flew out of my head when I clapped eyes on her - tiny, grey-faced and miserable; her large blue eyes staring forlornly at me. She then said those horrible words that no mother wants to hear, let alone in front of Jane from the front office: "I told you I was too sick to go to school Mum." Bam! that one got me right in the heart and I could also feel daggers in my back because Jane was standing directly behind me and looking rather fierce.

Minutes later, we were home with Sapphire on the lounge watching Harry Potter 2 on DVD. This wasn't so bad after all. She was happily in Hogwarts-land; I was catching up on sorting through a weeks' mail and Milly was curled up in her beanbag. All quite nice really----- BLEUGH!

Oh dear. It was then I realised that Sapphire's ability to projectile vomit as a small baby had suddenly rediscovered itself.

"Um, OK, um, what should we do first - I know - step out of your clothes - no, don't worry about the mess on the floor, just step the other way. I'll get you some clean pyjamas to put on and I'll throw a blanket over the other lounge for you to lie on while I get some water and disinfectant to clean all this up. NO MILLY - go away! Don't eat Sapphire's sick!"

The room now reeking of pine-o-cleen and damp sponge and the washing machine grinding away in the laundry, Sapphire told me that she was hungry. Fair enough, I thought. She's a 'Better Out Than In' girl, so it's no wonder she's peckish with a now-empty stomach. "Would you like to eat the recess I packed in your lunchbox?" She nodded, knowing full well it was three gourmet chocolate chip cookies. The rosy flush was back in her cheeks and she started to wander around the room playing with her toys.

As I was loading the clean clothes, blankets and towel into the dryer, I heard those other words that Mums of the world dread: "M-u-m I'm going to be sick again!" Too late. My mad rush into the living room saw me doing a wild split on the floor as I slid in Sapphire's sick.

"Mummy I'm so sorry," she croaked, looking worse than ever.
"Oh that's OK love," I replied, "At least it's only on the floorboards and, well, my feet." More paper towels were used to collect up the chunkier bits before the disinfectant and water came out and my shoes were plonked in a bucket of napisan.

"Would you like me to put some music on? No? Would you like to watch another movie? No? Well I'm sorry, but there's absolutely NO WAY I'm going to let you surf the Barbie website on my laptop...... I know you'll try and get your sick into the bucket this time, but it hasn't been successful as yet, so there'll be no touching anything technical today. OK?" Sapphire nodded sadly and sank down on the lounge, no energy left to argue as she normally would.
"I'll just sit here Mum. I don't want any noise like music or TV." Now there was something that a Mum doesn't hear from her child every day.

An hour later she was asking for lunch. It seemed like a safe enough bet seeing as she hadn't thrown up for an hour and said she was starving. "How about some rice crackers?" She nibbled at them enthusiastically and was just about to reach for her glass of water when - BLEUGH! - Bugger it. All over the other lounge. Well, the two blankets, sheets and pillows. And her pyjamas. "Oh love, I'm so sorry you're sick; you don't have to cry about the mess. You'll get it in the bucket the next time you try. Not that I want you to be sick a next time, but you know what I mean...... yes, we'll just peel off your clothes and I'll bundle them in with the blankets and stuff and put them in the washing machine." Geez, I didn't have any more blankets to protect the lounges with, so I hoped that Milly wouldn't mind me using her bath towels as protection.

As Sapphire dozed, I quickly ate my reheated leftovers for lunch in the dining room, hoping that the smell wouldn't wake her or cause her to vomit. The room now smelled of pine, damp sponge, wet dog and, unfortunately, vomit. I thought I'd cleaned it all up, but obviously there was a rogue patch I couldn't see but could certainly smell.

We read stories in the afternoon, mostly involving princesses, at her request. We patted the dog, watched ABC kids and called her best friend when she'd got home after school. Three hours had passed, the longest gaps between pukes. The water she drank stayed down and again she told me that she was hungry. Vegemite on toast was prepared, which she ate with obvious enjoyment. Love Chunks phoned from Melbourne, to say a general g'day and to see how we were. "I'm feeling much better now Daddy and------" she threw the phone to me and - BLEUGH! - had a lovely projectile puke over the second lounge's third lot of protective blankets.

For the first time that day, some tears started to flow. She was obviously feeling completely wretched, yet had spent the day in good spirits without even a hint of a whinge. "Ah don't worry about the lounge, I can clean it all up later. I'd rather be hugging you right now." And I said what we all say - and feel - when our children are sick: "If I had the power to take this away from you and have it myself, I would." Do you know what she said back? She said, "No Mum, you get sick too many times with your migraines. I don't mind being sick today instead of you." Bam! - again, a shot straight through the heart. How many adults would have enough wit and empathy to say something that nice in such a situation?

It didn't end there. She gratefully sank into bed (yes, her mattress and pillow had been covered in her old cot blankets) at 7:30pm, leaving me to do the dishes and finish up the laundry. I hoped that she would get a full nights' sleep. Alas, this hasn't been the case so far. She woke up in a sweat, crying from a nightmare she'd had at 9pm. I risked giving her some Panadol, and wet a flannel and dabbed it on her face to cool her down. "Thanks for caring about me Mum", she whispered. Bam! Who knew it would be so bittersweet?

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