When I was growing up, my maternal grandparents would host all nine of us grandkids every New Year's Eve for a sleepover. We would eat pizza, play charades and make confetti to throw at midnight. We loved it.
My parents decided to continue the tradition this year with my two kids and their cousin, which meant my husband and I had a fancy-free New Year's Eve. We had a few drinks, some laughs, slept until noon on New Year's Day and felt restored, rested and rejuvenated as parents. Like the kind who actually change out of pajama pants during the day.
Cut to 1 a.m. the next night, when I awoke to my 3-year-old son puking ONTO MY SLEEPING HEAD. (Yes, I feel all caps is justified in this scenario.) My first thought was "Oh no, you poor thing." My second thought was "This is totally disgusting!" and my third thought was "Would it have killed you to do this to your dad instead?" My poor little kid was weeping and vomiting, and we sprang into action. I ran to the shower (because, as far as I'm concerned, this scenario is like oxygen masks on the plane - you have to take care of yourself first, then junior. You can't comfort a pukey kid while covered in puke yourself.) I washed the vomit out of my hair while my husband stripped the sheets and the kid. Then came a bath for the toddler, then new pajamas and sheets, then general comforting.
We got him settled and back to sleep and I said to my husband "I think we've been smited. We had a kid-free night and were feeling great and guilt-free, so now we are being punished. By the parenting gods. Or actual God. Or I don't know. All I know is yesterday I had a relaxing time and today I have puke on my head." My husband mentioned something about there not being a whole lot of smiting since the Old Testament but I was feeling melodramatic and unwilling to cede the point.
My toddler puked six times that night - almost on the hour. It was so sad. And so gross. Then my 15-month-old awoke and (you guessed it) got in on the fun as well. All my little guys did all day was barf. Our general cycle was that one kid would puke, get comforted, take a bath, get new clothes, and then 20 minutes later, the next kid would go and the cycle would repeat itself. I couldn't keep up with just two of them, so this went into the "con" column for having a third child. What do moms with five flu-ridden kids do? Running for her life seems the only sensible option.
I have to say though that there is something that makes you feel fundamentally mom with sick kids. They want their mommy. You are comfort. There's something very powerful about that feeling, even if it has a patina of sick on it. In the midst of cleanup and puke, there was also a lot of cuddles and quiet time. I felt so bad for them, then equally bad for the narcissistic and illogical notion that their flu was somehow punishment for my rest. (Catholic guilt is a heavy, un-removable sweater.)
The whole affair only lasted a day and a half but the house acquired a stench and general appearance I describe as "post-Katrina"-esque. I wouldn't say no to a FEMA trailer, especially if it meant I didn't have to do 42 loads of barf laundry.
Motherhood: A powerful and super gross profession.
Rebecca Little, a native Chicagoan, loves discovering new ways to keep her two very active boys entertained lest they resort to spackling heirloom furniture or flushing toy trains down the toilet - not that those are real examples. Follow her at PinwheelChicago.com.
See more of Rebecca's stories here.