Monday, April 20, 2009

A seal's bark

We've had vomit, lice, pus and snot - and now croup. Our five year old was making strange sounds in the middle of the night. Her breath was coming in sharp yanking gasps, and she woke to hoot and cough, loud and hoarse. After soothing her, I ran to the baby books and flipped through the pages. 'Maybe it's croup. Does she sound like a barking seal?' I asked my partner. But he doesn't know what a seal's bark sounds like either. And neither of us are selkies, so we worried and fretted until we could see a doctor the next day. She told us the cough did indeed sound like a seal's bark. It was croup indeed.

The day after that, we drove to Adelaide. On the way, our daughter hacked and barked in the back of the car. And so, of course, by the time we got to Adelaide the other two were infected. We spent our week's holiday up most nights cuddling and crooning, stroking and soothing. The worst night, the baby woke every forty five minutes. And our three year old and the baby wheezed and whistled all the way home.

It could have been unbearable. It was pretty bad. But we went away with three other adults who fooled around with the kids while we had restorative naps.*

It made me realise yet again just how much hard work the nuclear family is. Had we been home, we would have been up all night, then staggered through the days in a haze of exhaustion. But in a village, or away with our family and friends, other people play with the kids and ease the load. Indeed, we often have people come and stay with us, and time and again I find everything is easier with more people in the house. Fractious kids are calm with others; I get more things done because the kids don't rely on me for everything; and I even get to have an adult conversation from time to time.

It makes me wonder whether wealth can be a curse as well as a blessing. Our wealth means we live apart and soldier on, hiding our need for companionship, for a hand, for a presence in the household. With less wealth we'd be forced to share our houses, and our lives. There'd be more people on hand to diagnose a seal's bark, or allow an exhausted parent a nap. And there'd be more people around to be delighted by a toddler's drawing, a baby's smile.

Such an arrangement would certainly mean losing some privacy, but surely the trade off would be lives dramatically enriched by the experiences, the viewpoints, the stories, and the gifts of others. Not to mention lightened by more hands doing a bit of the housework.

*Also restorative, we loaded up on bratwurst and weisswurst, apple strudel and cherry streusel cake, riesling and beer - sing hey! for German heritage.

1 comment:

  1. I totally get this - staying three nights at Gembrook Retreat while Gord was away maintained my sanity, to the point where I began to seriously consider moving in! I know I'd go bonkers sometimes (often!), but the benefits are great, and the bonkers moments could stepping stones on a path of personal growth, on the way to a place where one day I might not need so much space.... I'ts not the right move for now but it felt good to mull on it...


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