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Sick Of Being Sick

By Pat Albertson

Pat Albertson moans on the more disgusting aspects of parenthood.

“I’m sick of being sick”, my daughter grumbled to me the other day.

Mind you, who could blame her? It could be said that she was lucky that she has only had one cold over the last year. However, she caught it six months ago and it still hasn’t gone away! That’s the trouble with having three young kids really; colds and flues get picked up at kindy and school, and then go round the family faster than pass-the-parcel.

It is really miserable for the poor guys, and of course when you are miserable there is nothing more satisfying than sharing it around a little bit; after all, a problem shared is a problem doubled, or something like that.

There are a few remarkable things about childhood sickness that have not been explained by modern scientific theory. The first one is that, somehow or other, no matter how sick children are feeling, they will almost never turn down a feed of fish and chips.

Christine had obviously been off colour all day, but she insisted that she was feeling alright and so we assumed she was just feeling over tired. She was still keen on her Friday feast and managed gainfully to swallow a few chips before bringing it all back up again (over my wife’s plate as it happened; nice of her to share the meal with others I would have thought).

I wonder how much persuading the kids would have needed to forgo a plate of broccoli, rather than fish and chips, if that had been on offer?

One of the really tough things for sick kids must surely be the uncertainty of whether things are going to improve or whether they will stay that way for good. You and I both know that, when a cold or flu comes along, the nose runs, sore throat and other unpleasant symptoms will eventually go away.

Imagine what must be like as a baby to have your first ever cold and not know that it will probably last just a few days.

Being an at-home-dad (which I guess I sort of am, on a part-time basis at least), it is particularly difficult when the dreaded lurgy is going around the family. It is fairly easy to have a sick day off work when you are not feeling well, but far harder to have a sick day off parenting. No matter how dreadful you may feel, the little darlings, who are probably the ones who gave you the flu in the first place, still need looking after.

It is amazing how sickness can occur just when something really unpleasant is about to happen at school, an assignment or a test for example.

With two pre-schoolers and Christine in primer one, we have not had to worry about that particular event yet, and our kids are not quite street-wise enough to want to “throw a sicky” at kindergarten. I can still remember some of my own favourite techniques, though.

One of the best was to fill my mouth full of grapefruit or weetbix (or better yet a combination of the two), and then give a muffled announcement that I felt sick. What the next step was can best be left to the imagination but it must have worked because it got me a few days in bed.

However, there was certainly no faking the stomach bug that hit a few weeks ago. Have you ever noticed the split-second warning that you get when your child’s meal is about to come back to haunt you? You have just enough time to know what is going to happen, but not enough time to do anything about it. That was the case with Christine’s post-noodle experience.

I was upstairs using the computer (miles away from any toilet, bathroom or convenient bucket of course) and she was on her way to bed. As she passed she said something to the effect of, “Dad, can you please get me a drink of water”. Then came that horrible moment where we both suddenly knew what was coming. With reflexes that would have done the New Zealand Black Caps proud, I quickly thrust out my hands and achieved the catch of the match, a double handful of wet, slimy noodles.

Sitting there with my little surprise parcel slowly dripping from my fingers and faced with the awful decision of whether to dribble it through the house over the stained remains our carpet in an effort to make it to the nearest toilet bowl, it was a blessed relief to discover that my wife was within earshot.

My rescuer quickly arrived on the scene, plastic bucket in hand, and all was well once more, although we had a temporary aversion to noodles for the next few days.

I am sure those wedding vows that we took included a line about “in sickness and in health”, and the same applies to our children. It is not the most fun thing in the world to clean up after the mess and console them when it feels like that cold and flu seems never ending.

Still, it goes with the territory and, when it all comes down to it, would we really want it any other way? It’s just part of what being a loving dad is all about and you know you wouldn’t change it for the world.

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