I am staring at my son’s willy and balls. I don’t tend to make a habit of this, but on this occasion, I made an exception. Clustered all around his bits are spots. Great big, red spots. It’s like my son has contracted some kind of STD.
I shout for back up and daddy appears.
“Oh f…” he frowns. “I’ll put a fiver on chicken pox.”
“Not herpes, then?”
He doesn’t deem that my medical assessment warrants an answer.
And so, here it is. The pox. My first thought is to scan my mental diary, trying to work out just how much of a pain in the arse this was going to be in terms of work commitments. Sorry, my first thought was for the welfare and condition of my son. Of course it was. What was I thinking?
An incident the day before whilst on the way to school made a lot more sense now. E was complaining that he couldn’t touch his head as it hurt too much. I suggested that he simply didn’t touch his head to solve the problem, but he kept on mentioning it, convinced he had been stung by a wasp. This notion was down to the fact that a few weeks previously, he had been stung, and subsequently at every hint of pain, at every possibility of an ache, had claimed he had been stung. I told him the story about the boy who cried wasp but it didn’t seem to make much difference. However, that morning he really did keep banging on and on… and on about it, until I was forced to inspect his scalp. I found nothing, but then parting his hair is a bit like trying to hack your way through the denser part of the Amazon jungle.
So, I put E to bed with a dose of Calpol inside him and a sense of trepidation as to how bad it might get. I then made the grave error of looking in ‘What’s That Rash?’ (seriously, that is the title of the book. It is an A-Z of spots, rashes and pustules and is pretty much a GP’s version of soft porn). The image of a child with chicken pox spots covering every available centimetre of skin stayed echoing on my retinas long after I slammed the book shut and slid it back into place on the shelf.
“Can you get chicken pox in the eye?” I ask the following morning as I inspect my son for pox progress. I peer at his left eyeball, distinctly bloodshot and red. My son shrugs his shoulders. It is a shame that he can tell me the colour of everybody’s light sabres in Star Wars and how pirates punish their captives, but has nothing useful to say on the matter of eye pox.
I sigh. I am going to have to call for a GP’s appointment. Which is a bit like saying I must find a unicorn’s horn in the back garden. ‘You are eighth in the queue…’ a voice tells me once I had navigated the complex maze of options, designed specifically to weed out anyone who wasn’t seriously committed to being ill. We are most of the way through breakfast before I get to speak to the receptionist, whose role is to write my son’s name down on another list in order to speak to the duty doctor, who then might put him on a list for coming in to see them. I think Dante was a patient at our surgery. It’s where he got the idea for the nine circles of hell from.
So whilst we wait for the call back, I realise that I have no suitable lunch materials and will have to take E to the supermarket. I make him wear his hoodie, with the hood up, and instruct him to deny all knowledge of chicken pox should anyone ask. As the face spots are not quite in full flow, we might get away with it.
Obviously, the GP calls as I am in the fish aisle, so I conduct the entire conversation about my pox-ridden son in very hushed tones. She doesn’t like the sound of the eye thing, so asks us to come in, but not to take a seat. Chicken pox seems to be the modern version of leprosy. If she could have asked for my son not to touch anything, to breathe into a handkerchief and to have a man ringing a bell walk five paces in front of him, she would have.
It turns out that you can get pox in the eye and should this develop, we were advised to go straight to A&E. Oh good. Something to look forward to. It’s been at least a few months since I spent four hours in that particular form of purgatory. The GP advised Calamine for the spots (not, I presumed, for the eye one) so I duly purchased a bottle, only to receive a tsunami of texts from friends advising me that this was the worst thing I could do, and should be using aqueous Calamine instead. This, I think, is the future of medical advice: crowd source it.
Seeing as my son seemed well in himself, I decided we could do some reading and maths games, mainly because I am a bit of a bitch like that, before the whole DVD-on-the-sofa- because-I-am-poorly ritual began. But by the afternoon, E was feeling a little sorry for himself as the realisation dawned that being home with mummy was actually quite dull when he could be at school with his mates building stuff, drawing, running around and generally having fun. By then, I was feeling a little sorry for my To Do list, which softly called to me from my desk, reminding me of all the things I wasn’t doing, and tutting gently under its breath. I am not saying that I was not cut out to be a nurse, but I did find myself uttering the words ‘just get it down your neck now’ to my son as he was refusing to take a dose of Calpol for no ostensible reason other than he enjoyed seeing the veins on my neck bulge.
I prayed to Poxulese, the God of Childhood Illness, to make this a swift bout of chicken pox so that my son didn’t suffer too much. And perhaps so that I could actually get some bloody work done. And all hail Poxulese, he stopped picking his scabs long enough to hear my plea and two days later, most of my son’s spots were scabbing over. There was a brief dip in form when his temperature went stratospheric one evening, and I desperately tried to get him to take Ibuprofen which he point-blank refused. This led to an incident now known as Smartiegate: I bribed him to take his medicine by offering him some Smarties. Which he ate in bed. After he had cleaned his teeth. He was inordinately pleased with this surprising turn of events. I, however, felt sullied by my own inability to get a six year old to swallow a spoon of liquid. May Supernanny swoop down and put me on the naughty step for such an epic parenting fail. Either that or knock me flat with her prodigious bosom.
As fast as the pox had arrived, it left, and on the whole, it wasn’t anywhere near as grim as I thought it would be. Bits of it were quite fun, like when we played imaginary dot-to-dot on his stomach and drew the Millennium Falcon. Some bits were not quite so much fun, like trying to persuade my son to let me dab cream onto his balls and willy. I won’t be eating spotted dick for a while, that’s for sure.
And now we are on Pox Watch with his two year old brother. It’s got more red herrings, quizzical looks and cliff hangers than your average soap opera. So it’s only a matter of time before the BBC commission it.