The Tiger Who Came To The Walk In Centre

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when your child finally sleeps the sort of hours you have dreamed about for years, you won’t sleep a wink and will be utterly convinced something catastrophic must be wrong which will result in a call to NHS 111.

My son (three) just hasn’t seemed right for a few days. He’s been as emotional as me watching a John Lewis Christmas ad, he’s suddenly terrified of everything, he hasn’t been eating and he looks as white as a sheet. His neck seemed to be stiff and swollen. Then last night he slept from 4pm to 8am.

So at eight o’clock this morning we (myself and grandma) shivered into the walk in centre with our little soldier to wait for two hours to be told we were wasting their time.

The walk in centre on a Saturday morning is a lovely snap shot of life. Simply lovely. If you didn’t feel ill before hand – it’s sure to make you come down with something. There was a one year old toddler walking about in his slippers and dressing gown, ever so often letting out a ridiculously loud battle call. His exhausted mum was trailing after him apologetically nodding at everyone, especially the elderly gentleman clutching his chest with his hearing aid on maximum.

There was a tiny baby who wailed every time his poor new mum tried to pull him off her breast. I remembered that feeling. I nodded at her in solidarity.

There was a little girl in the corner clutching a cardboard bowl. The dreaded cardboard bowl you’ll all know about if you’ve ever been to A&E of a night time. I remembered it well from my first labour as I vomited throughout the entire three days of it. I remembered my husband pretending to use one as a hat to try and get me to smile at ten centimetres dilated. Nice try mate.

I prayed she wouldn’t be ill both for her sake and for mine – I started to feel queasy. I shot her mum a sympathetic smile. I assumed if she had norovirus we probably all would soon.

My mother leaned over to let me know she could smell poo, making a disgusted face before asking me what veg I would like with my roast later. Not now Mother. Not now.

Last time I went to a walk in centre I had to sit next to man in a high vis with a nail through his thumb, and sitting next to my Mother for two hours was a close second to that kind of torture.

“Grandma, will you read me Tiger came to Tea?” he said in his tiniest sick voice.

“Yes Darling.” She said and in the middle of the house of plague my mum read aloud The Tiger Who Came To Tea. 

The room fell silent as we all listened to her Hyacinth Bucket (Bouquet if you please) voice reading the familiar story.

The baby being breastfed fixed his eyes on us, the Gladiator toddler sauntered over with his mum, the ladies behind us stared, even a burly drunk looking gentleman in a tracksuit looked over and listened. The audience of sick people united as the Tiger made his way through all the food in Sophie’s house. Everyone was captivated till the end. The baby fell asleep. My mum in the centre of the room like Mary Bleeding Poppins.

Everything felt nicer, safer. I felt less nauseas. Maybe this is all the divided world needs to unite – a grandma reading us all a nostalgic bedtime story.

We were called in after an eternity to be greeted by a rude Doctor who told us there was nothing wrong with him (my Mother’s instincts don’t seem to work).

So we all put our coats on and we walked down the road to go to a cafe. And all the street lamps were off and all the cars didn’t have their lights on but the little boy screamed that he hated cafes. So we walked down the road to a Sainsburys where we had to buy a toy for the poor (milking it) lamb.

And we got a very big bottle of calpol in case the cold should come again. And it did.

And Mummy got a very big bottle of wine because that’s what she did. And it was just right.

The end.

 

The rules of ill – when you have children

The real problem with not being very well off is that you don’t have the money to separate yourself from the other sick people in your house – or as some like to call them – the family.

It’s all about sharing – sharing without your consent. Sharing germs, sharing beds, sharing air, sharing bathrooms. You’re all sick, exhausted and horrendously unattractive and holed up in a house of shit like the last few humans hiding away during a zombie apocalypse.

The “ill” will more than likely originate from the child in the family – if you have a toddler who has a social life, basically, you’re screwed. He’s a little germ dealer you see. He will spend his time licking floor jigsaw puzzles, door handles and sticking his fingers in other children’s noses. While he’s out he will collect as many different strains of a virus as he can and settle down on your sofa before unleashing them into your household.

I never feel like a ‘mum’ – that title still doesn’t sit well on my shoulders. Until my child is ill. Suddenly a small person is vomiting all over my large textured rug, and over my duvet, and over the cat and I start screaming “it’s ok sweetie, it’s ok sweetie” running from wall to wall frantically looking for help and realising that no one is coming to help me. I’m it. I’m the mum. It’s my job, and mine alone – to mop up this spew and burn the rug and hose him down and throw out the cat.

You find yourself dealing with all manners of horror that you never thought you would be able to do before becoming a parent, and that are, by the way, never any less disgusting.

The next ten hours are a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ll go from assuming it’s just one of those things that children get, to Googling symptoms and terrifying yourself, to calling 111 in tears explaining that you really don’t want to bother anyone.

You’ll sit by their side with a thermometer testing their temperature every twenty minutes absolutely terrified that it’s something more sinister than a cold and wondering if you have any of this ‘mother’s instinct’ everyone bangs on about but you’re sure you don’t possess.

You get a Doctor’s appointment, which is a miracle in itself, because you have a tiny sick person as collateral. The doctor is lovely and you sob again because you’re exhausted from worrying. You feel like being a mother never gets easier – and here you are again dealing with a situation you have no qualifications to deal with.

It’s just a viral infection and it’ll pass in a couple of days.

A couple of days pass and you start to wonder if the little one is starting to milk this as it looks like a pretty nice life lying on the sofa all day, sipping strawberry milk, watching Peppa Pig on repeat.

And then you cough. The bastard has got you.

You feel wretched. You have complete sympathy with the toddler. You just want to crawl into bed and slowly die – but you can’t, because you’re the bloody mum. Who is there to make your chocolate milk and let you watch The Good Wife on repeat? No one.

Wait! I know who will look after me. My parents! They always looked after me when I was sick. So I call them – and prepare myself for the waves of sympathy that are about to wash over me. But – they have none.

They just ask if the children are ok and order me to bleach my surfaces. Not a euphemism.

So I look to my husband for sympathy and I may get a cup of tea and, if the stars align, a nap. Maybe we’ll get through this after all.

And then the husband comes down with the same thing. And once daddy pig gets it – you’re all doomed.

Don’t forget – the particular strain the man of the house gets is much more potent and deadly than yours or the children. You might have all been a little bit sick – but he has version 3.0 which is your minor illness times 987%.

The poor little lamb.

If you can survive this sick time together without clobbering your other half to death with a bottle of junior calpol then you can survive pretty much anything.

Weirdly the baby – the second born – will remain entirely unaffected during the entire sick period. He will bomb about with a grin on his face proving further that he’s not entirely human and has been sent to destroy you all.

Cough, sneeze, splutter.