I knew we were in trouble yesterday, when a trip to the local swimming pool resulted in a very upset little girl, who just wanted to stand in the shower with her armbands- and not get into the pool, or go and get something to eat. I did find it quite amusing when she commented that the lady in the communal shower had hairy knickers on…and tried desperately hard not to look at the hanging tangle of grey pubic hair, that was hanging down from said womans swimming costume.
But I digress. By teatime, Rachel was burning up, and sleepy.
Now thismay seem like a minor concern- but when you have a little un with a high temperature- scare stories of febrile convulsions and dehydration run side by side, with nightmares about having to physically have your child restrained while you adminster a syringe full of foul tasting calpol/nurofen syrup, and media scare stories about Swine Flu, which you know shouldnt cause panic, but do.
But these concerns about your childs possible welfare, pale in comparison to the knowledge that you will spend the next 12 hours finding more and more inventive ways of adminstering medicine, and that the the chance of sleep for the next 24 hours is slim to none, and slim just left town.
It would help if I hadnt been a food nazi, obsessed with dental hygeine- and Rachel didnt think that fruit juice, pop, and flavoured milks, were the work of the devil. THese sugary nutritionally inadequate solutions, allow you to hide medicine in the guise of a treat and remove any necessity of brute force, instead of a distraught child, shocked at the tactics their parents employ- I assume you get a grateful child, who thinks being ill is a marvellous excuse for sweets.
By the time we got to 9pm, and Rachel was running a temp of 39(verging on A+E time). Any attempts at getting this ghastly syrup down her were met with the kind of distress which resulted in bedclothes covered in sticky syrup, and her temperature further rising, due to the outright anguish at the thought of mummy trying to get her to take this stuff.
I had tried putting the medicine into grapes, and stitching them up, a la John Carter in ER. I had made an ice cube tray filled with jelly, with a spoonful of nurofen in with it…I had mixed it with milk, water, and tried holding her down, and forcing it into the side of her mouth. The problem with brute force, is that you actually need two people- one to restrain the child and the other to shoot the medicine into the side and back of the mouth- to prevent rejection. I had tried outright bribery, cajoling, and tried to pull on the early sense of peer pressure, by saying that her friend Finn LOVED medicine. I had offered her some rather dubious mint flavoured childrens paracetamol donated by a neighbour.
Problem with Rachel, is that she is smart. She was slightly perturbed by the fact that the jelly was in ice cube form, and immediately realised that red jelly was not supposed to taste of orange nurofen- and refused. The grape was half bitten and shot across the room immediately. And getting an octopus into a pillow case would have been easier than holding her down.
So we were left with the old staples of a cool flannel sponging her down. When I am ill, and am running a temperature, I pretty much always have the chills- the same applies to Rachel. Attempts at opening windows(highly ineffective in July), using thinner covers, and wiping her down- were met with cries that she was cold.
By midnight she thought she had been in bed for days, and that it was clearly time to get up. And so we set into the pattern for the rest of the night. I dont often complain about living on my own. I love it generally, I love having my own house, I like not being accountable to anyone else. The nights when your child is ill, however, are a different matter.
The nights stretch long, and by the time Rachel was sleeping in 20 minute bursts- common sense told me that getting some sleep was also a very good idea. The problem is that you lie there waiting for her to wake up, and as soon as you begin to drift off, she wakes again. What the baby books dont tell you, is that by the time this has been repeated six or seven times, you begin to get tired and snappy. As someone who has suffered insomnia, I know that the surest fire way of getting tired, is to be told you cant go to sleep.
When you are married- regardless of what kind of cretin you are married to, there is an adult in the house who you can be snappy to. Because the temptation is to get tired and snappy at Rachel, and it really doesnt matter how you look at it- snapping at a two year old for being poorly, is really not on. I think this is where the image of the serene, calm, Florence Nightingale figure comes in- because by 5am- this is the facade that you are adopting- to cover the fact that your entire body just wants to go to sleep, and actually the crying is beginning to grate, and you have that kind of tiredness where you can almost feel yourself sinking into your bed, even though it is a floor away.
Rachel and I both settled by 5ish, and here is where the ultimate irony of childrens illness comes in. RAchel woke at 6.30, feeling fine, although still hot- and not understanding why I didnt want to play. She now morally objects to the insinuation that she may be ill, and this may be a good reason not to go to the park, and the library. She has assured me that if she was ill, she would take medicine, and as she is not having medicine, she is clearly not ill…
On the upside, we get to doss around the house in our pyjamas, eating sandwiches, and nibbling fruit, while Charlie and Lola plays on a loop. And Rachel gets to adminster her own medical treatment to the line up of dolls and teddies, who being poked and prodded, and forced to take her own version of medicine. Judging by her bedside manner- she should be really grateful that my impression of Florence Nightingale is slightly more compassionate and less gruesome than hers.