Tag Archives: Calpol

An incident now known as Smartiegate


“Oh f…”

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.

Tumbling into a pothole of offspring illness

So there I am, walking briskly along the uneven path of parenting, stepping lightly over the weeds of disobedience, swerving gracefully to avoid the cracks of stubbornness, and oops, before I know it, I have tumbled into a pothole of offspring illness. Damn, damn and thrice damn.

B, who had been coughing like a hardened 20-a-dayer, developed an ear infection over the weekend. Obviously, being the caring parents that we are, did nothing whatsoever about this until Monday, when the doctor confirmed that B was definitely unwell and not just having a grump (my own first attempt at diagnosis). I have a vague recollection of looking at B on Saturday, falling over for the fifth time that morning, with his flushed cheeks and slightly red eyes and thinking ‘blimey, I wonder if he has an ear infection?’ And then, because I am pretty sure my maternal instinct was removed by accident when I had my C-Section, I dismissed such folly and put it down to teething. I swear, if I see my son with a limb hanging off and a fence post through his torso, I shall attribute it to teething.

And, being those aforementioned caring parents, we took him to nursery the next day. I entered reception looking like I was about to open a pop-up pharmacy, cradling Calpol, antibiotics and ibuprofen in my arms and making B walk as there was no room left for him to hitch a lift. He waved forlornly at me as I left him in the baby room, and walking back to the car I mentally docked myself 100 points from the league of great parents. Which meant I was currently running at a 342,800 point deficit. Shit, I am going to have to pull my finger out and do some serious Lego tower building to recover from this.

I drove off to my meeting, thinking happy thoughts about him being absolutely fine, but cringing every time the phone rang in case it was nursery telling me that B had taken a turn for the worse. But give my son his due, he did last until about 4pm, at which point he surrendered to his temperature and started to heat up like a hot thing in hot land, sitting on a Bunsen burner in a set of thermals.

We gave him a bath of Calpol and a spoon of cool water, sorry, a bath of cool water and a spoon of Calpol (although I am not convinced that the former would not be more effective), fried a couple of eggs on his forehead for our tea and got him to bed. All was quiet for three hours. Perhaps he is over the worst, we thought. As parents of two children, we should know bloody better by now, but no. Go to stupidity jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200 or any sleep. By half past ten, B was awake. And when I say awake, I mean screaming inconsolably. We cuddled, we stroked, we sang, we walked, we Calpoled…

 (Oh yeah, get me, I have just made Calpol into a verb. To Calpol verb: to administer strawberry loveliness to a minor. If the language pedants amongst you are struggling with this, I suggest you pour yourself a large glass of Calpol and relax a bit).

…but to no avail. B was rasping, struggling with short, rapid, shallow breaths that made us distinctly nervous.

“Shall I take him to A&E?” I venture with a grimace. I shudder involuntarily as I remember the last time I went and spent four hours waiting to be seen, at which point I was told to just go home.

We do what parents do when they are totally out of their depth and have a potentially very sick child on their hands: we act decisively and swiftly. Oh no, wait a minute, that must have been another, more competent set of parents. My mistake. What we do is stare at each other, then at B, then back at each other again, as if we can conjure the solution from between us, just by tracing an invisible line of magical answer-giving triangulation. After a while it becomes apparent that the sofa cushion is not going to spring to life and give us any medical advice, so we escalate our focus from the cushion to NHS Direct.

I approach the call with trepidation, since the last time I phoned about E having what I suspected was the Noro virus I was told to keep feeding him normally, including curry. There spoke a woman who was not going to be responsible for the ensuing clean up operation. Well, actually, there spoke a woman who did not have a bloody clue and was reading it off a screen, but let’s not be picky. But they were remarkably good, and arranged for a doctor to call us. We waited for forty five minutes, watching our son rasp and wheeze as he tried desperately to find a comfortable position on M’s lap. Eventually, I spoke to the doctor, who asked me all the same questions, agreed with me that it could be a chest infection, warned me not to use his puffer too much in case he became tachycardic (I am sorry, did I just wander onto the set of bloody Casualty? How am I supposed to know what that means? Oh, fast heart rate, you say? Well, why not tell me that in the first place, you knob?) and didn’t answer the only question that I actually had:

“Do you think it is safest to take him to A&E?”

“Well, it’s up to you.”

“I know, but given that you have had seven years medical training and I struggle to apply a plaster correctly, I was kind of thinking you might have a better idea than me.” Okay, I did not say this. But I thought it. Really loudly, Whilst grinding my teeth.

He did leave me with a very comforting thought though. He said that with young children, they can go downhill into a more serious condition very, very quickly. Ooh, super. You know, I had approximately one atom of my being that was not being consumed by anxiety up until that point, so thanks, Doctor Knob, for coming to my rescue there.

Well over an hour after this whole debacle began, we were back where we started, pondering an A&E trip. B, meanwhile, was so pissed off with our inability to make him feel any better, he had dozed off, at which point we thought sleep would be a better cure than four hours in a hot, noisy A&E., so we  decided to break the cardinal rule of the household and let him sleep with us so we could hear him breathing.

And so there we ended up, M and I flanking B, who laid on top of the duvet in his vest to get the full effect of the fan I had rigged up to cool him down. I was sodding freezing, but moaning felt a little churlish, so I kept my own counsel, the effort of which was quite something. B decided the only way he was going to sleep was to grind his head into my windpipe until my neck was at snapping point and I had a curiously close up view of the headboard. Not my position of choice for a sound night’s sleep, it has to be said. Stoically (okay, I was thinking some terrible, sweary things about my current predicament, but given I said none of them out loud I can still play to stoicism card, I reckon) I put up with this until 2am, at which point I could bear it no longer and gently passed the baton, I mean, boy, to M. I stared at the headboard a little longer, as my neck had seemingly frozen, and spent the next three hours in that weird semi-awake state where a small but insistent part of your brain is screaming “Don’t Sleep! You have a sick child! He could stop breathing for all you know! Stay awake you bitch! Don’t you dare close your eyes!”

It was almost a blessing when B roused himself at 5am to start the day, and I never thought I would hear myself say that. My limbs had been filled with concrete, my eyelids stuffed with grit, my brain had leaked out of an unspecified orifice and looming ahead was a call to the doctor’s surgery where I would be told I was eighth in the queue, behind an octogenarian who was going to give a full medical history of her varicose veins. I tell you something about falling into this pothole of offspring illness. It’s bloody cramped, it smells a bit and I think it has made me little tachycardic. Oh yes, in your face, Doctor Knob.

A situation of panic; a breakdown of order

This morning, I was pondering a word that sums up parenthood. This was obviously in the nano-seconds that occurred between throwing porridge in the general direction of E, assembling rain coats and school bags and chasing B around the kitchen table brandishing his shoes and trying not be irritated by the fact that he clearly thought this was the best game he’d played since 4.30am this morning, when he was wide awake and trying to gouge my right eyeball out using only his forefinger and a smattering of dribble.

Fulfilling. Enlightening. Joyous. Inspiring. Affirming. Nope, none of these words sprung to mind when I considered parenthood. Once I had worked my way through a number of swearwords, one word remained: Confusion. Later, I looked up the definition of confusion (let me clarify: fatigue may have dulled my mental facilities, but I did remember what confusion meant, I just wanted help putting the words in the right order), and the first entry I came across read:

‘Lack of understanding, uncertainty. A situation of panic; a breakdown of order.’

Now, if that is not the perfect explanation of parenthood, I don’t know what is. But then I probably don’t know what is, because being a parent, I am in a perpetual state of confusion.

I find myself confused a lot. And Confusion is not just content with hanging around like a house guest that has not only over-stayed its welcome, but also seems to have unpacked its suitcase and put its toothbrush in the cup next to the sink.  Confusion makes you shrug a lot as you look at your one year old screaming and wonder quite what the hell is wrong with him, and then before even have time to scratch your chin, quickly introduces its best friend, Guesswork, who appears to have slipped in through the back door when you weren’t looking.

Perhaps my son is teething, I guess, as I look at my crying son, reaching for the Calpol. Or maybe I have given him my sore throat, I muse, shaking the Calpol bottle. Although it could be a viral thing, I shrug, but open the bottle of Calpol anyway. I suppose it could be something else entirely, I think, as he swallows a dose of the strawberry loveliness and then continues to scream anyway. Maybe it is life threatening. Should I take him to A&E? Or perhaps just a cold? Or possibly he is just bored and screaming is a good way to pass some time.

I am confused about what stage B should be at in his development. Should he be feeding himself by now, I wonder at lunchtime. Probably not, I decide (spot the advanced level of guesswork at work here). At which point he commandeers the fork from me, spears a piece of chicken and pops it in his mouth, looking at me with those ‘you really are a twat, aren’t you, mummy’ eyes.

I am confused about his needs. He points and babbles in a very determined way, but most of the time, I have not got a clue about what he is after. So confused was I yesterday by his vehement pointing, I traced the line of his finger direction like a forensic scientist tracking the path of a bullet, holding up every object in its trajectory, but he just shook his head and grunted more loudly, waggling his forefinger in the air. In the end, I offered up the fridge, a door, the light bulb and some floor fluff in a desperate attempt to find out what he really wanted. It turns out that time, he had something stuck to the tip of his finger that he needed me to remove. It looked like a bogey, but hey, I’m just guessing.

I am confused about why my four year old can be breathtakingly well behaved, offering to wash up and tidy away his toys (I did have to ask him twice to repeat that last one, so astonished was I), only to be found face down on the floor screaming about the unfairness of it all three seconds later. I rarely find out the exact cause of the meltdowns, but with a recent incident, I am guessing (there I go again) it was me and my big mouth having the audacity to say something contentious like ‘let’s take your library books back this afternoon’. I know. What a bitch.

I am confused as to why my one year old wakes up in the dead of night, then is quite happy to spend the next hour staring, wide-eyed at me through the cot bars, only screaming loud enough to peel wallpaper the moment I threaten to leave. Actually, I was confused about this. Now I am just mightily pissed off.

I am confused by my son’s questions. No, I don’t know what slugs eat. I don’t know why electricity is invisible. I am not sure he is right that there is good oxygen and bad oxygen, but then again, I am not sure. Let’s just leave it as a ‘probably’, shall we, and move onto safer ground like what we are having for dinner.

They say there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Although when I first heard this adage, I heard it as death and taxis. Which seemed a little less profound than people seemed to give it credit for but pretty realistic, as anyone who has tried to hail a black cab on a Friday night in London will contest.

However, it seems there is only one certainty in parenthood: Confusion. I checked back on the definition of this word. To clarify the aforementioned definition, the online dictionary I used gives the following example:

“The shaken survivors retreated in confusion.”

Which pretty much says everything I wanted to say about parenthood in six words. I not only rest my case, I lock it in an underground chest constructed of reinforced concrete and go and lie down in a darkened room for a while. You know, just to have a few more guesses about my children.

A shallow sympathy puddle

That perennial unwelcome house guest, sickness, comes to stay once more. Honestly, you would think it would have got the message the last time it visited, what with all that barely-disguised tutting, sighing and eye-rolling I did. But no, here it is again, banging loudly on the front door, dumping its belongings in the hallway for everyone to trip over and leaving a bad smell in the bathroom.

This time, it is E that cops it. One evening, he starts to complain he is feeling unwell and a cursory touch of his forehead is quite a surprise: he is, indeed, running a temperature. I would have put a tenner on the fact that the complaint of illness was solely down to the fact that cleaning teeth and bedtime were imminent and he hadn’t finished watching this particular episode of Scooby Doo, but it turns out that mother definitely doesn’t know best. Well, not this mother, anyway. I shall have to employ a more competent mother to make judgement calls about my son in the future, I think.

One dose of Calpol later and he is in bed, insisting – despite the ambient temperature of his bedroom being somewhere between tropical and naked flame and him seemingly ignoring the fact that you could fry up a couple of chipolatas on his forehead – that he has his duvet pulled all the way up to his chin. We have a mini tug-of-war with his bedclothes, as I try to explain that he really needs to not cover himself with 10 togs of heat as it will make him feel worse, whilst he pulls it up even further just to prove the point that he is going to win this battle. I persevere for a while, as I really do not want his internal organs simmering in their own juices, but I soon realise that I am engaged in one of the most common parental past times there is: wasting oxygen. So I leave him, just two eyes and a forehead visible over his bedding.

He is still running a temperature the next morning, which is most concerning: I have a huge to-do list of work that I really need to get done. I decide that it is just a viral thing (don’t panic, I am a fully trained medical practitioner: I have a qualification from the university of Google, you know), ergo, there is no problem sending him to nursery. And then stupidly, when he asks for his morning milk, I oblige without a second thought, no doubt as I am too busy attempting to extricate a five day old pea from B’s mouth, or trying to stop him from sticking his finger in the electrical socket. Approximately three minutes later, there is a shout from the lounge: “Mummy, I am going to be sick!”

Now, I am not known for my swiftness of foot. But like parents everywhere, when they see a child a) teetering on tip toes on the back of the sofa shouting ‘look at me!’, or b) reaching up to the cooker just as you spot that you have left a tempting pan handle within reach or c) threatening to ruin your upholstery with vomit, I can give Usain Bolt a run for his money. The god of warp speed shone his faster-than-light on me and within the space of ten seconds, I had scooped up E under my arm to deposit him in the bathroom, realised that M was in there, changed direction toward the kitchen sink, remembered that E cannot reach the sink unaided, grabbed his stool mid-run from under the table, plonked it in front of the sink, dumped E on it and angled his head sink-wards just as the milky contents of his stomach came rushing out to play.  There are not many moments of unalloyed triumph in parenting, I find. But this was one of them. I allowed myself a little smile of victory on behalf of my sofa as I watched my son wretch so hard I thought his oesophagus may put in an appearance at any moment. That smile was soon gone from my face though, as firstly, E grabbed my hand and wiped his sick-smeared mouth on my forearm, and secondly, I realised that there was no way I could send this boy to nursery now. Bugger. I picture my to-do list, gathering dust,  beside a mountain of paperwork, a pile of urgent bills and a stack of notes I need to look at, under which somewhere, perhaps, is my desk.

So I do what any caring parent would do with a sick child: pull another chair up to my desk, plonk E on it, find an old episode of Scooby Doo on the iPad and tell him not to say a word as mummy has some work to do. The one flaw in my plan is the instruction ‘don’t say a word’. It’s a bit like sprinkling chocolate buttons over his lap and asking him not to eat them. It just ain’t gonna happen.

“Mummy, look at this bit, Scooby and Shaggy are trapped.”

“Oh yes,” I say trying hard not to lose the thread of what I am typing.

“No, look, mummy.”

“I am.” I angle my head a little toward the iPad, but don’t take my eyes off my screen.

“You’re not looking mummy!” he protests.

“I am,” I lie.

“No. Look.”

With a sigh, I look. And by the time I look back to the screen, my thread has been well and truly lost in the dark recesses of my brain and I have to start that line again. This is going to be a long, long morning.

“Mummy, can I draw on this?” He waves a brand new pack of Post It notes in front of my nose. Usually, Post Its are not for E. Gone are the days when I can use Post It notes with gay abandon: I work for myself, so have long given up the ultimate employee perk of an all-you-can-eat stationery cupboard.  But today, in a desperate attempt to get my work finished, I acquiesce. Ten minutes later, we are bobbing on a small ocean of bright yellow paper squares, curling slightly at the corners, each one bearing a small scribble, or a single letter, or a hastily drawn shape. Finally, after half the aforementioned Post Its are stapled together until my stapler jams, my ruler gets posted down the back of my desk never to be seen again and a large proportion of the pages of my notebook have curiously been crumpled, ripped or folded, I finish the urgent client document and skim read it before there is nothing salvageable left in my office. I don’t see any obvious accidental inclusions of ‘Scooby snack’ or ‘jinkers’ in the text,  so I hastily email it off.

It is at this juncture that the Calpol is starting to wear off, and E wants to lie on the sofa and feel sorry for himself. I oblige, installing a blanket under him to protect my sofa from any further outbursts of a vomity kind and a sick bowl by his side.

“Stroke my head, mummy,” he says. I do so for a while, until my arm aches.

“Cuddle me, mummy.”

“Can I lie on you, mummy?”

“Can I have some more water, mummy?”

“Can I have a little bit of toast, mummy?”

“Can you stroke my head again, mummy?”

And so it goes on. The demands of a slightly ill child. Each one met with marginally less sympathy than the last by his tired, slightly mean-spirited mother. The trouble is, I have very small sympathy reserves. Whilst some people worry themselves about the nationwide power generation crisis, foretelling of power shortages in two years time, I am more concerned about my own sympathy shortage. by my calculations, if E keeps on getting ill, I will have totally depleted my sympathy reserves by 2015. Some parents seem to have unlimited supplies of the stuff. There is no end to the sympathy they can shower on their offspring. My mum for one. No matter how ill, how whingey or how irritating I was, she turned on her sympathy tap and out it poured, embalming me in the warm, comforting glow of her care. I don’t really seem to have a sympathy tap. I have more of a… shallow sympathy puddle.  I don’t embalm my son in sympathy, more that I begrudgingly flick a few drops in his general direction. I want to be more sympathetic, I really do, but I get a bit… bored.

“Do you want to play Guess Who?” I ask, hoping that we can break the monotony of Mr Bloom’s Nursery. Watching a load of talking vegetables is making my remaining IQ leak from an unspecified orifice. But E only shakes his head in that slightly piteous ‘mummy, how can you be so crass as to suggest a board game, I am ill, you know’ kind of way that makes me want to tickle him to see how ill he really is. But I don’t, and turn my attention back to a gurning cauliflower making inane comments instead. Two seconds later and I have to find something else to do before I hurl the remote control at the screen, so I decide to do something constructive and will myself some more sympathy. It can’t be that hard, surely? I concentrate hard on feeling sympathetic. I look at E, lying forlornly on the sofa.

With effort, I reach out and pat his ankle. Well, look at me, with my sympathetic patting. I’m like a modern day Mother bloody Theresa, me.

So let’s play… Sleep or no Sleep?

Sleep or No Sleep Laura Slinn

“Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, to the latest edition of the ever-popular game show ‘Sleep or no Sleep?’. Brought to you in conjunction with Red Bull, Berocca and Calpol.

So with no further ado, we join Dad in his one year old’s bedroom. Oh, it’s not looking good… baby B is sitting  up in his cot and clapping… Dad is lying on the floor. Interesting strategy there, from dad. Less hands on, more hands over his ears. But the clock is ticking, folks… we are forty-five minutes into this round already and B is showing no signs of going back to sleep. Dad is not looking happy and has decided to try a new approach…yes, he’s now stroking B’s back. B is settling… it’s tense here, Ladies and Gentlemen… but it might just be working… B’s eyelids are slowly closing…

Oh no! Dad has tip-toed out of the room too early and B was playing him with a sleeping bluff, folks! Classic baby manoeuvre. And now baby B is screaming again! All together now… let’s say it… ‘Sleep or no Sleep?’. It’s now 2am, a definite ten minute penalty incurred there… oh dear, now Mum is in the room. This could get messy… and I’m not just talking about her hair – that can’t actually get any messier. Is she trying to scare baby B back to sleep? Ha ha ha, only joking folks. I’m sure she won’t look quite that bad in daylight…

Mum is looking at baby B. Would you believe it, Ladies and Gents, she is playing her Calpol card within minutes of getting into the room! Incredible. Wait… well, this is a confident strategy, using up all her tricks in one go, but she has decided to give him milk as well. Dad is out that room quicker than a crawling baby out of an open door… once he has delivered Calpol and milk from downstairs, he knows his part in the game is over for a while, and boy oh boy, does he look relieved.

So here we go, we are into the second hour of ‘Get that bloody baby back to sleep!’. Mum is giving baby B the Calpol. For anyone just joining us, it’s been an unsuccessful night so far for mum and dad. It looks like they might be heading back to bed with no sleep… which would be a shame, as they have been great contestants to watch, if a little dishevelled. Uh oh, folks, mum has made a real schoolgirl error and given baby B the Calpol syringe to hold. He thinks it’s play time! Disaster for mum at this late stage of the game. Ooh, now the syringe is being poked up her nose… she is not looking pleased about this dramatic turn of events. It will take some parenting nous to bring this one back from the brink.

But she manages to prise the syringe out of his hand and he has now settled with his milk. A good strategy, I think, but has she deployed it too early in her shift? Only time will tell, folks, so stay tuned.

Okay, the milk bottle is empty… this is crunch time for mum. Has the milk worked? Mum is on the edge of her seat, rocking baby B gently, and I have to say Ladies and Gents, we are all on the edges of our seats too… will he close his eyes? The suspense is killing me… oh no! Baby B is waving! This is a disaster! And remember, mum has no strategies left now… she entered this round a little light on ideas, it has to be said… this one is really going down to the wire.

Well, this is unusual… she is putting him in his cot anyway… ooh, I don’t like the look on her face… she is not happy. She strokes his back… oh yes, she’s done this before. A very professional movement of the hand, palm down. Oh, and some shushing. I think this is a sign of mum’s desperation… she’s leaning on the cot side, head  down… oh dear, it does appear she may be dribbling a little, what with all that shushing. Enough to put you off your Horlicks, so probably now’s the time to take a quick commercial break…

…so welcome back to  a very exciting edition of ‘Sleep or no sleep’. Mum has been stroking baby B’s back for a long time now… hold on, she’s stopping, hand poised mid-air. She’s leaning into the cot to try and see if he’s asleep… now that’s a high risk strategy folks, we’ve seen that backfire before. But she’s feeling confident and is slowly tip toeing backwards toward the door… she must remember the peg puzzle left on the floor. One step onto that and it could all go horribly wrong… no, she’s avoided it. Good work there, mum. Her hand is on the door… this might be it, folks, at just under forty minutes for her stint. She could still escape with some sleep.  Unbelievable! Calamity! As she opened the door baby B sat bolt upright and has begun to cry again. Can you believe it? That’s at least a fifteen minute penalty, right there. Both mum and dad have fallen for the sleep bluff! Twice in one night. Those two are really up against a professional Sleep or no Sleeper, I think you’ll agree. Disappointing for them, but as parents of two you would think they’d know better by now…

Okay, so it is quietening down in the bedroom again, Ladies and Gentlemen. Back stroking resumes. Mum is looking tired now, though. I am not sure how much longer she can do this for. She checks the clock… she’s been in there a good fifty minutes now. Last time she did a fifty minute stint was a week last Tuesday, stat fans,  but let’s not forget that it was only last night that she was in with baby B at 4.30am.

Mum seems to have decided enough is enough now. She is slowly straightening up… ooh, what was that noise  – the cot or her hips? Mum freezes. Will it wake the baby? No, folks, I think she might have got away with it. Perhaps her first lucky break of the evening. She tiptoes out of the room, forwards this time. The most utilised manoeuvre of the Sleep or no Sleep parents we see. And she knows the floorboards well, sidestepping The Creaker with ease. Tension is mounting here… will she make it out of the room? Remember, she needs to get back into bed and under the duvet before she can officially declare it dad’s turn again. She must watch out for the pyjamas-caught-on-the-door-knob trap, it was a classic Sleep or No Sleep? moment when she inadvertently slammed to door due to pyjama entanglement but not a moment she wants to repeat…  she is almost breaking into a tip-toe run as she crosses the hallway… she’s into the bedroom… this is looking good…. looking good… yes! She is in! Duvet is deployed. And there is no noise from baby B. Nice work, mum.

Well, what a great show, folks. Mum and dad took nearly two hours to get baby B to sleep and go back to bed with only a couple of hours sleep left in the bank, if they are lucky. But let’s just look what they could’ve won! Yes, a full night’s sleep! Yes, you’re right, it does deserve a round of applause. Seven hours of glorious slumber, brought to you from our co-sponsors Single Living. Never mind, mum and dad. We’ll see you tomorrow night so you can have another thrilling attempt at ‘Sleep or no Sleep!’ And remember – keeeeeeeep yawning!”

The Incredible Human Sick Bowl

E has just finished his course of antibiotics for a chest infection, and I breathe a sigh of relief: another contagion banished from the house. Even B is well, having shaken off his viral cough in a matter of days – although not before he passed it generously on to me. And given that I am old, worn out and haven’t had more than two consecutive decent night’s sleep for four and a half years, I am struggling after two weeks  to feel anything other than lousy. I have a sneaking suspicion that my immune system packed away its sword, threw a few essentials into a holdall and got the hell out of me a few months ago, so fed up was it of the constant battle with snot, coughs and unspecified viruses. So my current cough has claimed squatters rights and shows no signs of moving on. At least it is just me that is ill now, I muse, in a most uncharacteristic show of maternal martyrdom. Blimey, I must be ill.

But I should not have worried, for by ten ‘o’ clock that evening, mere hours after the last spoonful of that yellow antibiotic elixir passed through E’s lips, he awoke with a temperature of 40 degrees. This is concerning. 39 degrees is tolerable. Even 39.6. But reaching the hallowed ground of 40 shifts whatever he has into more worrying territory. I peer into the gaping abyss that is my medical knowledge. Just a fleeting temperature or suspected meningitis? The start of a cold or an infection so aggressive we may need light sabres to fight it off? That’s the thing with kids and illness: there seems to be no way of telling. From this point, it could go two ways: vanquished by a dose of Calpol or the start of a life-threatening  illness. Let’s flip the coin and find out.

I sit next to him on the bed, stroking his hair, as M runs to fetch some Calpol.

“I feel sick,” he says, which translates as: “There is a tsunami of vomit rushing up my gullet as we speak.”

With an air of resignation, knowing that the sick bowl is under the bed and out of reach, I cup my hands together and hold them under his chin. Sure enough, a huge stream of stomach contents lands warm and foul-smelling in my hands. Ah. Welcome to my life. The Incredible Human Sick Bowl. There is so much of it that it is threatening to dribble over the top of my fingers, and whilst uttering meaningless platitudes such as ‘you’ll feel better now’ (yeah, because I always feel smashing right after I have puked) I concentrate on keeping the sick off the carpet. E is distraught so I throw a few more impotent words in his direction whilst I glare at the sick in my outstretched hands, willing it not to spill. E’s arms starts to flail about wildly and I glance up, wondering for a fleeting moment if he is having some kind of fit. But no, he is gesticulating with abject horror at the smallest of sick splashes that have landed on his pyjamas, the full extent of the collateral damage he sustained when the vomit struck. Well, don’t mind me, with my hands full of your lumpy stomach contents, smears of sick on my arms and tracks of yellow vomit slowly making their way down the backs of my hands. This is obviously nothing compared to that miniscule fleck of puke you seem to be screaming at. M arrives with wipes and medicine, and quickly daubs E clean, before gently wiping his mouth and offering water. And I say again, don’t mind me, frozen to the edge of the bed, trying to both simultaneously look at the sick in my hands to ensure I am holding steady, whilst trying to move my nose away from the smell. I will just sit here for a while longer. I send up a quick prayer to the God of Coughs to have mercy, because one tickly throat incident now and we may all end up wearing what E had for tea  four hours ago.

E’s temperature has dropped a smidge, but I am still concerned. His torso is outrageously hot, his face red.  “I think one of us should sleep with him tonight, ” I suggest to M. “I’ll go and get you a duvet,” he replies. That’ll be me, then.

I switch the fan on in E’s bedroom, a remnant from the summer. Although I may have just dreamed we saw the sun.  I lay down on a makeshift mattress on the floor next to E’s bed. I am immediately freezing. Now, I am no expert on aerodynamics, but there was something bloody curious going on. I lay with my back to the fan, shivering under the duvet, facing the bed. And yet, somehow, I was getting a sodding  great breeze in my face. A cold one, at that. I lay there, listening to E breathing as he drifted off to sleep, no doubt having nightmares about his soiled pyamas, and cringing every time the fan swung round to chill me that bit further. I push the thought from my mind that if he is sick again, there is every chance he will lean over the side of the bed and puke on my face. Well, this is fun.

I cough for a bit into my pillow, desperately trying not to wake E, who keeps letting out quiet moans which have me springing into a sitting position and feeling his forehead. Every time I sit up, the cold air inveigles its icy fingers under the duvet and I feel just that little bit more crap. I need a tissue as my nose is now running profusely, but I’ll be damned if I am getting up in these sub-zero temperatures. I deploy my son’s nose-wiping tactic and use the back of my hand. Sometimes, it’s useful to have been through two childbirth experiences: I have no more dignity to lose.  I lie back down, trying to work out which part of my body has now broken cover and is outside of the duvet territory getting frost bite. Maybe I should get into bed with E and let his radiant heat warm me up a bit. He moans again, and I sit up to check on him. Shit, is it really only midnight?

I get a faint whiff of sick as I move around, trying to find a comfortable position. I sniff the pillow, my hands, my arms, the front of my pyjamas. ‘So what did you do last night?’ ‘Well, after I caught a bucket load of my son’s warm sick in my bare hands, I held onto that for a while for a laugh, then went to bed in a wind sock, spread my own mucus across the back of my hand and then spent ten minutes sniffing round like a crazed bloodhound trying to track down the unmistakable aroma of vomit.’

I peek at the clock. One in the morning. I have yet to sleep, unlike my ill son, who is sleeping the sleep of the righteously-empty stomached. I have had many shit ideas in my time, but sleeping on the floor is right up there.  I start to consider what excuse I might use to swap places with M. I cough hard, to see if I can wake E up, thus meaning that my presence in his room is more of a hindrance than a help, and giving me good grounds to quit. He doesn’t flinch.

Another hour passes. I can’t breathe through my nose due to my sinuses being packed full of Lego, meaning I am now breathing through my mouth. I am afraid my teeth might get so cold they may snap off. At 2am I am freezing, miserable and knackered I can’t take any more. I crawl from E’s room a broken woman, smelling faintly of vomit.  Parenting. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Brave Little Soldier

Before I launch into another missive that demonstrates my amazing parenting skills and delightful, well-behaved children,  I would just like to say a big thank you to all those lovely Mothering Frights readers who took the time to vote for me in the MAD Parenting blog awards. THANK YOU. Due to your fervent mouse-clicking, I am now a finalist in the Most Entertaining Blog category. I know. Someone other than my mum thinks I am funny. Quite astounding. I am rather chuffed and I may have let out a little whoop when I found out and smiled manically for a bit. Which would have been okay, had I not been on the tube at the time, and we all know smiling is banned on public transport, let alone bloody whooping. So thank you. Did I already say that? I may well say it again before this paragraph is done. And now the bad news. I am going to ask you to vote for me again. ‘Just piss off with your sad, desperate please for votes, will you?’ I hear you cry. Well, that’s what the voices in my head said. If you are still reading this, and somehow haven’t punched the screen in anger at my audacity, please do chug on over to http://www.the-mads.com to vote for this blog (you’ll find it in the Most Entertaining Category, in case you weren’t paying attention earlier). I feel I have little chance of winning, as I was slightly dumbfounded that I even made the final five, but a few votes would be rather nice and might mean I don’t comelast. Thank you. Oops, there I go again.


Are kids born tough? I don’t mean in the chewy sense, I mean in the Brave Little Soldier sense. I have a feeling they might be. I look at B, whose favourite toy at 11 months old is a door and who likes nothing more than to push the door open with all of his might, to watch it rebound on its hinges and thwack him firmly on the forehead on its return. He doesn’t even flinch, just pushes it again and gets another one in the face for his trouble. (I will no doubt be writing about my youngest son’s extraordinary intelligence on another occasion). This activity usually continues until I remove him from the door’s path, or until he gets pushed over from the door’s velocity, finds himself on his back, at which point he promptly forgets all about the door as he has spied a delicious lump of mud that has fallen from someone’s shoe.  He may squash his fingers in the metal drawers (whoops) or bang his head as I lift him up in a confined space (okay, I do realise this is beginning to sound like social services should be involved) but after a brief spurt of tears, he is right as rain. No drama, no fuss.

And then there is my other son. I don’t know what happens between then and now, but he is a strapping four and a half year old who spends an inordinately large proportion of his time cataloguing and showing me his spots, grazes and bruises. “Look mummy, blood!” he cries and I lean in to inspect the finger he is proffering up as evidence. When I can see nothing untoward, I lean in a bit further.


“Look!” he says with some urgency, as if my failure to spot this gaping wound may mean he could bleed to death at any moment. “Here!”

At last, I spot it. A tiny red mark. About the size of three pin heads side by side. I give it a cursory kiss, and he flinches, obviously from the excruciating pain. My brave boy.

It is bath time. I am washing E, and as I wipe down his leg he shrieks: “Mind my graze!” I have to get out my electron microscope to enable me to see the faintest of grazes left on his knee after a fall from his scooter some weeks previous, yet he still imposes a two foot exclusion zone around his limb, because surely, one more touch and the whole leg will just fall off.

And the moaning. Bloody hell, the moaning. Now, I like a good moan as much as the next grumpy sod. But really, moaning about dubious aliments is taken to a whole new level by my son. Groaning, grunting, whimpering. It’s like the soundtrack to a particularly grubby porn film.  (So I would imagine).  Of course, the sounds of my son in (very) mild distress brings out my maternal streak. Instantly, my teeth are gritted. I bite my knuckles. I hum song very loudly, Anything but the feeble grunting of my offspring.

The blossoming hypochondria is kept company by a burgeoning fetish with plasters. I previously had maintained a strict plaster policy, whereby only actual grazes that need protection from the elements (and his fingers) are issued. This policy now lies shredded on the floor, obscured by the white paper that has been peeled from many plasters. Plasters are the injury bribe of choice akin to chocolate buttons and behavioural bribes. I will gladly slap on a plaster if he promises not to whinge incessantly any more about the fact he brushed his finger against the chair and has been apoplectic with pain ever since.

A lot of time, of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with him and that just makes the teeth grinding step up to a whole new level of enamel damage. He gets out of the car from nursery, complaining of a tummy ache. Immediately, I am dubious. We have been here before, many times.

“Well,” I say, assembling my concerned face. “You’d better not have a snack tonight.”

“Oh… well, it’s better now.” Really? Now that is a surprise.

I was getting pretty damn smug about dealing with E’s faux injuries. A quick kiss, a concerned face, a plaster or threatening to remove a snack… job done. M even sat him down and told him the story of the boy who cried wolf to try and show him that fibbing about things was wrong. And then he started to complain about headaches, which I brushed off as a copy-cat ailment, as he had seen me take some tablets for a headache that morning. As I couldn’t put a plaster on it, I did the next best thing and gave E some Calpol. His insistence over a week that he did in fact have a headache, coupled with a temperature, did make me think he was not totally lying. Cue liberal use of Calpol, on the promise that he just stop that bloody whimpering. Anything but the whimpering. Then the stomach aches started a week later, and at the point he agreed that he should not have a snack, I relented and took him to the GP. Turns out, he has a chest infection. Whoops. Take 5ml of Guilt, three times a day for a week. Do not stop the treatment without finishing the course.

So he was the boy who cried wolf. And then he wasn’t. I didn’t know the sodding wolf rules had changed, did I? It makes my head hurt, trying to keep up. I might need a plaster…

Don’t forget, fans of swearing and mediocre parenting, my book Womb with a View is out in paperback at www.jodienewman.co.uk or from Amazon if you like your books less papery and more electronicy.