Ill II

I appear to be playing a game of pass the pathogen with my boy. After slipping him the common cold, which he re-imagined as throwing-up everywhere, he kindly handed it back to me as a cold, yes, but one with knives sticking out of it. At some point my wife joined-in but she didn’t quite get the rules and only savoured the horror for a day or two.

I, on the other proverbial, took possession of the malaise for a further week. Just as I was about to give it up we were awoken in the wee hours by a noise akin to Darth Vader attempting to shit away three cheese burritos and a litre of cookie-dough ice cream. On entering his room his little face was obscured by a veritable river of oily mucus that ran from his chin like busted guttering. The better half gathered him to her bosom where he was fed, but it was obvious from the horrific rasps that he was having problems breathing and eating simultaneously. Ten minutes later, at 3.25, he threw up all over the bed and us.

For the next three days he’d keep nothing down, just as you thought he’d turned a corner sick happened in a variety of disturbing situations. When he did finally keep something down the other end, which had been dormant throughout the sickness, kicked-off. If you’d told me a year ago that one day I’d be overjoyed to change an overflowing nappy would I’d have vehemently spurned you, that’s how much I hate seeing him puke.

Fortunately, he’d stopped throwing up before nursery day but downstairs it was business as usual. The evacuation he had after his breakfast, about fifteen minutes before I was due to drop him at nursery, was so bad he was transported to the bathroom on his changing mat and rolled into the bath still clothed.

The boy’s nursery is located in a notorious council estate in East London; it resembles a prison complete with buzzing security gates and razorwire. The estate in question is a lot calmer than it was a decade or so ago and the nursery itself rated ‘outstanding’ by people who rate such things, so this aspect of the grim weekly trek to drop him off isn’t an issue. My concerns revolve around, primarily, leaving him in the care of strangers, how much it costs for the privilege of doing so and the fact that the staff refer to him as ‘bubba’.

From what I can glean from Wikipedia (not that I’d trust that crap, especially after being commissioned to write an entry by my wife’s brother-in-law) and other slightly less salubrious sources, ‘bubba’ is an Americanism that derives from ‘brother’. Of course, a word can occupy two (or more) different meanings at once, so in addition to meaning ‘brother’ in the USA, the definition of ‘bubba’ in the UK is ‘baby’ whilst awkwardly retaining its American derivation. I’m sure some of the more rural parts of Norfolk and Gloucestershire think that’s fine, well I don’t. ‘Bubba’ gives me the bloody willies.

On the plus side, the word ‘bubba’ has helped taking the sting out of dropping him off at the nursery. By focusing on how much it annoys me I’m able to pass my son to a member of staff, turn away as if stopping myself from complaining about their referring to my little boy as ‘bubba’ and mentally pretend to ‘storm off’.

Now I’m down the corridor and on my way without having to turn back and get all upset as he watches his crazy dad preparing himself to return to his flat scattered with silent toys, small clothes and bits of shredded wheat that have become glued to the wall.

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Sick (as in ‘ill’ rather than ‘vom’. And Certainly not as in ‘radical, dude’)

It was inevitable that I’d get ill too, though I was convinced I’d gotten away with it. The bastard came on in the space of about five minutes as I was making breakfast on Saturday morning. By the time the toast popped up I could barely stand, it felt as if my bones had been exchanged for play dough and someone had injected builder’s caulk into my head. For the next five days my life existed in three places, on the sofa, in the bed and perched atop the privy, barking at the water. During one such moment I vaguely considered how I’d cope if I were a single parent. I was weaker than pimp’s promise and barely able to process thought, how do they do it? I toyed lazily with the idea before releasing that I was due for a taster and promptly forget all about it.

For the past eleven months the better half has been on maternity leave for fairly obvious reasons. Her return to work has been lingering on the horizon for so long it sort-of lost its reality. Since Christmas casual reminders that in so-and-so weeks she’d be returning to work didn’t really gel, so it came as somewhat of a shock when she suddenly left for the day leaving me in full charge of a small boy.

This wasn’t going to be the same as an evening session where the primary objective was to get him off to sleep so I could slip into a wine-box, this was all-day shit commencing at 7am when a small pair of hands repeatedly smacked my head. After a failed-attempt to pull off a lie-in/cuddle we got up at 7.30, where he was promptly changed and prepared for the carnage of feeding.

It used to be so much easier before solid food, for a start not having the required equipment (tits) all I could do was to make the bottle of formula for his evening feed. Feeding was a question of injecting his little head with milk, it was a clean, simple affair with no washing up to boot.

Now we have to contend with flying scraps of mashed-up stuff, this aspect is exacerbated by his limited tolerance of all that’s offered on the spoon. He wants the spoon, he wants the stuff on the spoon, just not at the same time. So the spoon is held aloft and waggled at the Lord as milk and yoghurt-soaked pieces of shredded wheat are gingerly picked from the little tray attached to his chair and fastidiously consumed. The piece of food goes in, then comes out before it’s retrieved, examined and the part that hasn’t detached returned to the mouth for further consideration. When he’s full he takes the food and hurls it at the wall or very deliberately drops it onto the floor, but only after he’s made eye contact with the person feeding him. The wicked smile that accompanies this act of defiance is one of the best things in the world.

What isn’t so good is his reaction when you leave him unattended for more than five seconds. We’ve an open plan kitchen/living area so for the most part this isn’t an issue, but trips to the bog are a mission requiring pre-planning. He’ll need picking up and strapping into his pram before being wheeled to the bog door so he can see you, without being witness to any details. And shouting “for god’s sake don’t look at me” assuages any fears that he’ll grow up to be one of those men that gets off on wearing adult nappies.

Even when I’m not being all ill its hard work looking after a baby (all day long) on your own, especially as he misses his mum. Not that I’ll have to do it often, Friday was the only full day I’d have been required to look after him and that’s the day he goes to nursery.

I’d been dreading the latter more than anything, and we did all we could to avoid it. The fact it’s only one day says something but how we feel about it but it simply has to be done in terms of our work requirements.

He had two days settling-in, the first with both of us present in the actual nursery, the second just me in a room by the nursery (so I was on hand if he kicked-off) and finally, the Friday, all day on his own. I had the grim task of taking him there and handing him over to a virtual stranger and walking back alone feeling both wrong and miserable. Despite having a ton of work to do I spent the whole day worrying about him, my mind creating ludicrous scenarios that, at least twice, had me reaching for the door to go and pick him up. Among a litany of things my imagination concocted -without any conscious effort on my part- was a fire, flood or disease (specifically sepsis) a selection of accidents (falling through a window, choking on a sock) not forgetting your basic acts of evil like his being sold to or stolen by deviants and, most persistently, unspeakably harmed when one the nursery stuff suddenly went berserk.

It was so good to go and pick him up and see that he was all in one piece. I can’t say that I was overly impressed by the fact he was screaming the place down mind you. I asked the lady holding him what was wrong.

“He’s been as good as gold all day,” she said, handing him over to me, “until about ten seconds ago when he saw you walking through the door”.

Bollocks.