This weekend just gone has been tough. No, more than tough – emotionally draining. It’s not all been bad but it’s been dominated by one thing: Little H has been ill. She’s not just had a cough and sniffle which we all know babies and toddlers seem to get every other day. No, she’s been the raging fever, won’t eat or drink, crying inconsolably type of ill. It started on Thursday afternoon at nursery. I got The Call on the train home – her temperature was going up. I was on edge the entire journey, hopeful it wouldn’t be as bad as they made it sound on the phone. When I arrived to a teary, snotty, t-shirt-less mess it was clear it was worse…
From that moment we entered it was an unending series of ups-and-downs. There were some happy moments, some meltdowns. Sometimes she’d eat, sometimes she wouldn’t. But nothing was unmanageable. Until Sunday afternoon. Sunday afternoon was tough and it took it’s toll. She woke from her nap exhausted and refused to do anything but cry. Her fever had finally broken in the early hours so we had naively been hopeful for the day ahead. But as she laid in my arms, swollen-eyed from crying, clearly distressed, the fact the doctor had said it was just a virus and needed to pass was of little comfort. I felt powerless. My not insubstantial bag of tricks had been utterly depleted and I had to use literally all of my remaining strength not to cry in front of her.
Later that evening, it got me thinking about the burdens we place on ourselves as parents. Sure, we get more than enough positive pay-back to offset the bad stuff that comes with parenthood. But put dealing with tantrums, mess and, errr, faeces to one side and the one thing you can never be prepared for is the unending fear and worry. My recent physical response to her latest illness is almost case-in-point, I have always gone in during the night to check on Little H when she has a fever. However, since the incident with the febrile convulsion I don’t just wake-up during the night, I wake-up with a shocking start. This weekend, I have woken with a jolt just before 2am every night. My body would physically not settle for the worry, always on edge. It’s left me completely and utterly shattered. Then on Sunday night, knowing she didn’t have a fever, I finally slept soundly…until she started hysterically crying at 3:30am. Cue her relocating to our bed and me traipsing up and down the stairs to get her biscuits then milk as her stomach started demanding sustenance again.
NCT classes may tell you about the sleep deprivation, the poo and breastfeeding. But they don’t tell you how from the moment your child enters the world, a pit of worry opens in your stomach that never, ever, ever abates. From the mundane worries (Has she eaten enough today? She probably needs to go to the loo? Argh, I forgot to brush her teeth, she’ll end up with tooth decay before tonight.) through to the extreme paranoias (What if she manages to force open the cupboard under the sink despite the child lock? Is her car seat done up tight enough? What if she runs off into the road? Should I leave the window open incase she finds a way to climb up and falls?*). Perhaps I am just an exceptionally neurotic and fatalistic person? Or perhaps every parent drains themselves thinking about the What Ifs that could befall their offspring. (*Incidentally as I was writing this, The Unmumsy Mum shared the awful story of a 4 year old boy who left his mother’s sight for seconds only to have got upstairs onto a window sill. Whilst waving to his sister, he slipped and fell and at the point the message was shared was critically ill in hospital. So it proves that even for the most diligent and cautious parents, these fears aren’t unfounded.)
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I suppose I have been dwelling on this internally for a while and I need to admit the paranoia that is continually trying to dominate my life. A little fear and worry is a good thing, but too much will result in me smothering Little H’s sense of adventure, squashing her confidence and bravery. Not only that but it comes a bit soul-destroying when all you can see in front of you are risks and hazards! Let them pop into your head too often and they turn you into a very stressed out and anxious human being.
The solution? I’m not sure there really is one. We all need to be mindful of this stuff until our children are eventually able to do it for themselves. But it needs to be kept in check. For me that’s taking a breath and assessing how likely something is:
•• Little H climbing onto a window sill whilst unsupervised: low risk because we have a stair gate so she can’t be upstairs without an adult. Plus she can’t even climb out of her cot yet.
•• Little H hitting her head on the sink because she slips on her bathroom step if I leave it accessible: high risk because she’s obsessed with running water and doesn’t pay attention so the step is put out the way.
Other than that, it’s also having a bit of cake and occasionally getting a stern talking to by my slightly less anxious husband to just calm down!