I took my daughters to a new playgroup last week – it was miles away, it was a 20 minute walk from the tube and it poured with rain the whole way home at rush hour when we just about managed to squeeze on the Overground home, but it was fun and it passed an afternoon. As I sat back and watched Pearl methodically destroy everything in her path, there was only one tiny irritant nagging away in the background, and that was the angelic looking 18 month old with beautiful curls, denim dungarees and a hacking cough. I’ve thought about this boy a lot these past few days – he came to me in a moment of inspiration at 3am on Saturday morning as that same hacking cough reverberated through the baby monitor.
While I’m definitely not the mother who stays in at the first sign of illness and doesn’t go out again until harmony is restored months later – in fact it’s the best time to drag clammy, snotty children to playgroups as it means you can escape the house – it really is annoying when other parents do exactly this. It’s followed by a lull, than the inevitable runny nose and violent sneezes, which are only the gentle introduction to full blown fever, scorching temperatures and sad, high pitched little whining. All day. All night. And all the next day. And repeat, until you want to gnaw through your arm so it can stay comfortingly wrapped around them and you can get on with something else. Anything else.
It’s really hard when kids are ill – it’s hard seeing their desolate little faces, hard hearing them cry after a particularly brutal coughing fit and hard watching them desperately try to get comfortable and go to sleep but not manage it. It’s also hard hearing the constant whinging and being kept up by the relentless coughing, but really only a tiny part of me is irritated by this. About a tenth of me; the rest is pure sympathy. Well maybe two tenths. Or three. It’s all there in the middle of the night in that deathly pause between a cough and a wail, when you are on tenterhooks hoping it hasn’t woken them again, and then . .
Calpol is the answer. Long gone are the days when I nervously siphoned it into a baby’s mouth, confusedly aiming for the side as some virtual mums suggested, than panicking at the first gag and losing the nerve to give the rest. Now, our home is a junkie’s heaven, especially in the sickly winter months – syringes gather next to the bed, clump together in the bathroom, are strewn desperately around the lounge. Each one, picked up and pumped full in a moment of distress before being discarded for another sweaty cuddle. And, as this illness slowly passes and our happy baby returns to us, it’ll all be forgotten in a blur of sleep deprivation, piles of used tissues and a pervading aroma of Vicks. Until the next time, of course.