If you’ve never had to take care of a child in the usual throes of typical illnesses, you may want to skip this post. Because I may mention a couple of nasty words, like diarrhea and vomit. And here’s the thing I’m learning after writing for so long about the stuff of living in family: some of the best meditations for parents derive from experiences involving either diarrhea or vomit, or both. This isn’t one of those, but it leads to one. Here’s the back drop:
So, last night I get home and the middle child (age 12) who has been battling sniffles for a few days, comes to me with a really red honker (from blowing her nose repeatedly) and pulls me aside, austensibly to whisper. “Since I got home from school, I’ve been kinda having, you know, diarrhea.” How many times, I ask her? We take her temp, no fever. (I wish I’d kept it quiet, because as soon as her father heard what she had he launched into the Diarrhea song from the Steve Martin movie, Parenthood — when you’re sliding into home and your pants are full of foam, diarrhea, diarrhea—which I cannot get out of my head, still.)
I make dinner. We sit as a family to eat, though all she has is applesauce and orange juice, and I’m fine with that. Oldest child (age 14) has one of her “I don’t like the meat … don’t give me any veggies” tantrums (which leaves her with baked potato and sourdough bread for dinner …. hmmmm). Youngest child (age 9) picks at dinner, but does finish most of everything, saying “I’m HUN-grrry.” Yay. One in three, not bad.
After dinner, I’m cleaning up what didn’t get cleaned up so Oldest can make the brownies for her demonstration speech the next day (today). I hear someone in the bathroom (on the other side of the kitchen wall), flushing repeatedly, and pulling at the toilet paper repeatedly. Middle Child? I call, and she does not answer. I finish washing the soapy thing I’m washing, dry my hands and head back there to make sure Middle Child is fine. But it isn’t her. It is Youngest, who dashed past me so quickly I didn’t see her. It gets gross here, I won’t tell you, but it got mostly cleaned up.
Oldest makes brownies. Youngest and Middle Child report no further outbreaks of the diarrhea and eventually go to bed.
Unfortunately for all involved, no snow day or delay was called this a.m. and though I was intending to put Youngest in the before school program so I could make my day of meetings at work, but after the diarrhea last night, decided I would play the morning by ear. Middle Child reported no further outbreaks, but her red nose and constant blowing dictated a day at home for her. No problem. A 12 year old can stay home most of the day alone if all she has is a cold.
So, I finally get into the shower, with Oldest on the bus with her brownies and brownie fixin’s; Middle Child in jammies and happily reading on the couch; and youngest instructed to come in and use the bathroom as soon as she hears the water running for my shower. She does; she leaves; I hear Middle Child and instruct her to text her older sister to tell her her father will pick her up after drama tryouts at 4:00. Then, I’m standing there with a head full of lather when both Middle Child and Youngest show up at the door yelling “Oldest just threw up!”
What? Thankfully, their father was still outside shovelling. Go tell dad to get her and that I’ll stay home.
Long story less long: Oldest is now in bed, sleeping; Middle Child still on couch reading; Youngest at school, though I’m here til noon, waiting to see if that school calls and reports another outbreak of the dreaded diarrhea (though I did load her bagel with lots of cream cheese this a.m.). And all of my meetings have been pushed back to the afternoon.
And my husband reports, quietly, what I’m feeling: my stomach feels slightly … yuck. But only slightly. Please, God, keep it slightly.
Tis the season. And these are minor ailments which require only minor adjustments to a schedule that can be flexible as it needs to be. At least, today.
All is well and all will be well. Even when it is not, it is. Because how can it not be? You keep moving through the yuck, doing the cleanup that is required, feeling the tugging at your tummy that indicates things may not be entirely well within you, but you have to do stuff. Daily.
Still, I sit here, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for that third shoe to drop. Until then, however, all is well and all will be well ….