Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dozing and dreaming

We had a furious shrieking day early last week, and now I know why. The day after, my baby and the three year old began to throw up. Then they went spotty. Meanwhile, I had a touch of flu. Picture this: a woman in a heated room, shaking with cold despite her woolly jumper, jacket, ugg boots and enormous woolly hat, holding a three year old's head as she vomits into a bucket. Then gagging herself at the stench. I don't think normal parenting gets much worse.

In a calm moment, bucket washed out ready for the next round, I and the three year old lay flat on the rug playing Memory. My headache made the cards spin, and the three year old wanted to chat through every pair we found - including animal noises for the very loud tigers. Then she asked to sing together. I taught her how to hold a note, then came in on the same tone to make a dense wall of sound. We did it over and over, finding the match, falling into the sound, laughing, and finding it again. It is a mystery to me how three year olds can be sick and chatty and hilarious all at the same time - or how a wall of sound felt healing to my headache.

Later, she and her baby sister broke out in spots. She's fine now, but the baby is still rashy from head to toe. She looks utterly ghastly, like the diseased thing that she is. But in these same few days, she's learned to play 'peekaboo'.

She finds a piece of cloth, or a small cushion, and holds it over her face. Then suddenly, off it comes, and 'Boo!' she crows. We all laugh riotously, her fat little tummy shaking with laughter - and then we start all over again. Or she hides behind a piece of furniture, then 'Boo!'. I look round, and a little spotty face is peeping round the edge of a chair or a doorjamb, waiting to be noticed, beaming with delight.

As I was recovering from the flu, others did the school run. I had no energy for walking or sweeping or shopping. Instead, my three year old and I made miniature books for the dolls' house, and a rhyming book about the colour orange. While she was absorbed in decorating her newly made books and arranging them on the dolls' shelf, I put together a tiny illustrated recipe collection.

We all want to be healthy, and serious illness is devastating. But I find it fascinating that in a time of mild sickness - vomiting, aching, shivering, and spots - we had an intense period of creativity. Singing games, peekaboo, papercraft, drawing, hand lettering... I was too tired to try to be some archetype of the good mother. The floor was covered in crumbs; books and toys and shoes were scattered around the house like a definition of entropy; dry clothes sat in washing baskets waiting to be folded. But my drivenness was stripped away, the desperate need to Get Things Done abated. Instead, I curled dozing and dreaming in a corner of the kitchen, and rose only to play: to staple, fold, cut, draw, sing.

And my kids loved it. They played alongside me, involved in their own projects and commenting on mine. In the end we had a great week, a happy week, vomiting and all. It makes me question how much time I spend housekeeping - so much time, that I can forget to play. After all, nobody cared about the mess, or the benches. They didn't even care about the crumbs on the floor. In fact, I think one in particular enjoyed it no end - with overlooked crusts clustered under the high chair, the baby savoured more than one illicit snack.


  1. Always such real, gentle and grace-full reminders ... thank you Alison. And I was so delighted to see your post included on inward/outward. Along with so many affirming comments. It makes me smile!

  2. such good food for thought, Ali - you really are an ace mother...


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