For the last week or so, my two youngest have had one of those nasty sick bugs. A mixture of sleep, vomit, and crying has littered my days and nights. I’ve washed more towels in one day than I normally need to in a week. I watch them, laying on the couch, pale and still. They are slowly getting better now, but it swept them off their feet.
I can’t lie, it’s pretty exhausting. The broken sleep, the continuous running one or the other to the bathroom, and then the eventual giving up and putting towels down wherever they might be sleeping.
But this thing happens, it’s like a switch. I don’t know if it’s a parent thing, or a mother thing. I just know it happens.
Suddenly you don’t need to sleep all night, you need to snooze – lightly – for when they need you at varying times between 8pm and 8am. You don’t need your bed, what you need is the edge of the bed, while they take up as much space as they need. You don’t need those clean clothes over there, what you need is the jogging bottoms that have a small flecks of vomit on them. Not because you don’t have time to change, but because one or more of the children are laying on you and moving is not on the cards. You don’t need to drink your coffee fresh and hot, you just need it to be within reach, and almost warm. You don’t need to answer emails and texts, the only people you even want to talk to are you poorly people. The ones you made and vowed to take care of.
You don’t need that bath alone, the one you were trying to fit in while they slept. What you need to be is a flotation device while they use your chest as a pillow and relax in the steam of the room.
It’s a switch. You go from doing everything in a day you normally do buzzing around, working, the school run, cooking, cleaning and so much more, to slowing right down. Your focus is changed. It’s only a sick bug, and you know it will pass. It’s only a sick bug and it won’t last forever.
What does last forever are the moments that you stroked their hair from midnight till 5am because you couldn’t take away the bellyache, making up the cure-all drinks and food that your parents or grandparents made for you, the way they wrap their whole body around you and only you.
What does last forever is that moment, when you realised they were sick, and it’s only a sick bug, but it reaffirms rapidly how much and how deeply you love your children. The moment you put everything aside and it was them, and you, and the sick bug.
In a few days they will be talking to me about how they need NumNoms, ice cream and chocolate. They won’t recall the last few lightly slept nights, until they are older, and have children and they are me.
And I will say to them on the phone, when they call to tell me their babies are ill –
It’s only a sick bug, it won’t last forever.