This post was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, June 2013
Last week I put my foot down. Six year old Peanut, who had spent the day at school and then the afternoon making flower potions, was refusing to eat her dinner. She was bunging it on. I was sure. ‘I feel nosey’, she moaned. ‘She means nauseous’, my husband Keith translated.
‘No, Peanut, ‘I said firmly. ‘You will eat that salad.’ She gazed wanly at me but I stood strong. There was a standoff. ‘NOSEY!’ she said. ‘Nope’, Keith answered. We winked at each other, pleased at the firm and loving boundaries we were setting together. And then Peanut threw up, copiously and violently, onto her dinner plate. When the heaving was over, she raised her head, eyes glittering with the thrill of victory, and probably fever, and spluttered ‘I told you I was sick!’ I don’t think I have ever seen her so happy. Keith patted her head and I fetched a tea-towel, and when our eyes met this time, the unspoken shared message was ‘Together, we will burn in Hades.’
Oh, vomit, you evil nemesis. You have been my constant, stinky companion for the last two weeks. All three kids have been sick, and the soft furnishings and I have been spewed on from every possible angle. I am so tired of washing linen and bleaching floors. So exhausted from days spent patting backs and rocking while the washing machine hums steadily in the background and the Mount Washmore of unfolded laundry grows terrifyingly tall. I long for a mini-break to a pristine, antiseptic room with the freshness of Scandinavia.
But vomit, it seems, is part of the parenthood deal. And it starts early. I remember one day when baby Peanut lay kicking and gurgling next to Keith and I as we sat on the floor, eating lunch in a patch of sunshine. Such a charming domestic scene. ‘Eep!’ I said. ‘What sauce have you put on this chicken? Is that parmesan?’ I tasted it again. Ooh, bad. ‘I didn’t put any sauce on the chicken,’ said Keith. I inspected the little pool on my plate, and realised, hopelessly, that the baby had thrown up on my lunch and then I had eaten it.
It gets worse. On the freeway a few months ago, I had all three kids loaded into the back of the car when Pudding, in the unpredictable manner of baby humans, vomited violently without warning. ‘Oh! Oh! Oh!’ shouted theatrical Peanut. ‘It stinks! I can’t stand it! It’s disgusting!’ I shouted her down from the front. ‘Stop it, Peanut!’ I said. ‘We can’t do anything about it now. Stop being such a drama queen. Just! Calm! Down!'
Peanut pulled it together, and we all moaned quietly as the cheesy fug filled the car. Pudding was unperturbed by the fact that she was carpeted in gastric juices and began to quietly inspect the food particles in her lap. The unthinkable happened. She began to pluck out the choicest morsels and eat them.
That was when Peanut and I both lost it. ‘No she’s not oh my god she is I can bear it don’t look don’t look in the name of all that is holy DON”T LOOK AT THE BABY’ we cried in horror. And there we were, on a freeway, screaming while the baby ate her own vomit. And while we screamed, we laughed. Which is, when I think about it, a fairly accurate snapshot of mothering three children under seven. Screaming with horror. Laughing hysterically. And vomit.