Friday, March 27, 2009

Vomit, lice, pus and snot

It's hard to be philosophical this week. We've had conjunctivitis, gastro, headlice, colds - and even house guests! It's hard to make play out of combing a child's hair with a nit comb (we set up mirrors a la the hairdresser); it's hard to feel amused by a happy-sounding washing machine when it's loaded to the gills with putrid sheets; it's hard to feel loving when a child vomits on you (although we did heartily congratulate any child who threw up into the bucket - I'm thinking of starting a vomit star chart). And any precious minutes alone have vanished in washing clothes and scrubbing buckets, putting in eyedrops, combing hair, changing pillow cases, wiping noses, and mopping the floor. The days have filled with tasks that our society deems valueless.

Why am I doing this, I wonder as I hold a hot forehead and turn my nose. Why did I get myself into this mess?

Last night I left my husband in the laundry stripping off his soiled clothes and shoes, and escaped to choir. After laughing and singing and laughing some more, we polished off the wine and talked about fantasies. One woman said it was to come home to a clean house, sweet smelling pajama'ed children, and dinner hot on the table. Another said it was to sleep. And I realised mine was a cool white hotel room, a big bed, a do not disturb sign, and no one. No one to wake me, no one asking for a tissue or a bucket, no one making any claims on me at all. Fantasy indeed!

Yet even this week there are infinite consolations. The baby noticing a spectrum on the wall and trying to grab it. My three year old snuggled against me, stroking my hair, as she falls asleep. My five year old stopping on the way home from school to say, I love you mama!

And I wonder too whether there's something valuable about losing oneself to others, for a time. Losing oneself, and realising in the process what is being lost, and how valuable it is. I never knew who I was or what I wanted until I had children. In having them I lost time, opportunity, status and dignity; my self as I knew it was shattered. Yet the gains in self-knowledge are immeasurable. Paradoxically, now that I don't have time, I know how I want to spend it. Now that I have spent countless hours doing apparently worthless tasks - cleaning up vomit, combing out headlice, wiping off poo - I begin to see what worth I have. Caring for children and reflecting on it has given shape to my dreaming, my thinking, my growing; out of manure - or vomit, lice, pus and snot - good things blossom.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. hi,
    have been trying to leave a comment to say thanks for commenting on my blog last month, but i've had all sorts of problems with blogger/google allowing me to do so. anyway, do drop by again and say hi sometime. thanks, burntsienna (from


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