Fear, love, and the everyday stuff

Monday, 16 November 2015

My parents sometimes like to tell the story about how I used to hate medicine.

Calpol, antibiotics, anything: the taste of medicine made me feel so sick that they used to have to deploy all sorts of tactics to get me to take it. They'd get me to take one sip, and then have nearly a whole glass of water to wash away the taste. Or they'd get me to take little tiny amounts at a time. 'One ... two ... three ... sip!' Sometimes this would take so long, my Dad says, that by the time I finished it, it was almost time for the next lot. He may be exaggerating slightly. But he might not be

Also, more than once, I was immediately sick after having medicine, thereby undoing all their hard work. 

My sisters remember this and sometimes like to talk about it if the subject of Calpol ever comes up. 'Oh yeah, I remember ... one ... two ... three ... sip!'

And we all laugh about how annoying and frustrating I was.

That's the thing though: you just expect your parents to do stuff like that for you, because that was their job. I know that I was poorly a lot when I was little. I used to get high temperatures all the time. I used to be sick a lot. But hey, I'm their kid! 

My parents have told me about a time when I was little and I was rushed to hospital (with suspected meningitis, possibly? I'll have to ask them). I had a raging temperature and, apparently, nurses had to pin me down to get a drip into my arm. I can imagine it now, when they tell me: Mum and Dad pacing up and down an empty hospital corridor, in tears, listening to me screaming as the nurses tried to get an IV into me. Sitting by my bed, all the windows open and blasting in icy winter air, staring at me, hoping and praying that my fever would go down.

It doesn't feel real when they tell me. (Partly because the only memory I have of this incident is of a little musical toy that they had in the hospital that I loved.) But it must have been terrifying. Exhausting. Draining. 

There is no fear like the fear you feel when your kid is ill and you can't help them. I know this now. It is a piercing, terrible, helpless fear.

I don't know why I'm thinking about this today. I suppose because I've been thinking about my own childhood memories and matching them up to what Mum and Dad must have experienced. I had a happy childhood, which meant I was protected from the stress of adult life and kept innocent and unafraid of the world. Even when awful things happened to my parents, they protected me.

The thing is, you don't ever switch off from being a parent, even when they're asleep. Because there's always something to do, or think about. When you're a child - or a young adult - you don't necessarily appreciate everything your parents do. There's all this everyday stuff that you have to do that your child doesn't even know about. Like ... food shopping and meal planning. Budgeting in a way that allows you not to panic at Christmas. All the RELENTLESS baskets of washing. Clearing out the slimy lettuce and furry carrots from the back of the fridge. Scooping poo out of the bath. Having chewed, and then suddenly unwanted, food spat out into your hand by your toddler. The running list of things to do. Need to get her on the list for preschool. Need to cut her toenails tonight. The way you have to leave the house with a luggage bag full of things that you probably won't use, with the knowledge that if you leave one thing behind, that will be the one thing that you actually need.

And sometimes, you do all this with the theme tune to Paw Patrol in your head on loop.

You do it all though without complaint. (Okay, sometimes with a bit of complaint. I don't think anyone in the history of the universe has ever scooped poo out of a bath and felt happy about it). Because, you know, that's what you do. That's your job. And you love them. And that's just the normal stuff: that doesn't include the late-night trips to an out-of-hours-GP, or chasing your potty-afraid toddler around whilst wielding a tube in an attempt to catch their wee in it to be tested, or walking to the shops after having no sleep in order to buy ice lollies for your feverish child.

I suppose what I am trying to say is this: I really, REALLY appreciate my parents now. Even now, they are there: buying us the odd thing that we might need, coming over to help me clean down the backs of our radiators, the reminders that they are there for us, no matter what time of the day or night. And not only for me, but for Chris, whom they have embraced like he is their own son, and for Jellybean, whom they love so fiercely that sometimes they call pretty much just to tell me that.

I know how hard it is sometimes. How scary and frustrating and stressful it can be.

It all gets cancelled out, though. By the wonder of it. By the awe of seeing your child grow up. By the love. A whole day of exhaustion and emotion can be turned around just by the way your kid goes all smiley and gooey when she looks at you sometimes. The fear of raising a child in a world that isn't safe (particularly at the moment) is conquered by the utter joy of loving someone that much.

It's worth it. No matter how tired it might make you feel or how frustrating it can be or how long the days feel sometimes. It's always worth the hard work.

I'm sure my parents would say that. Even though all three of us were pains in the bum sometimes.

Thanks Mum and Dad!

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