It has not been the best of weeks in our household. Three out of the five of us have not had a lot of sleep. Given the events in the US you may be forgiven for thinking that it is because three of us are concerned that the man with the most impressive quiff since Elvis now has the nuclear codes. You could not be forgiven for thinking that three of us have not been able to sleep out of excitement at this new appointment. However, given that one of the three of us is aged five, I think we can assume that her prime concern is more along the lines of milk and chocolate, and who is going to provide it. No, Child Number Three has an ear infection.
We all remember having poorly ears as a child. That pain that makes you want to push an entire bottle brush into your ear, through your brain and out the other side, just to make it stop. Well my daughter has that at the moment. But, until Thursday, only between the hours of 7pm and 7am. In the daytime, she has been full of the joys of Spring. And now me and her father have had so little sleep we feel like we did when Child Number One was a newborn. And those of you who have children will know that the tiredness that you have when you are looking after a newborn is something that you can remember, but you can only really understand it when you’re there; rather like trying to imagine how it feels to have a limb chopped off with a bread knife – you can’t quite picture it, but you know that it would hurt a lot and it definitely would be messy.
I was going to write earlier in the week, but I was having trouble putting my pants on the right way round. As I type now, you’ll be both thrilled and relieved to learn that I am fully washed and dressed, and you would only know about my lack of sleep due to the wide-eyed look that I have from over-dosing on caffeine.
It started last Sunday when Child Number Three complained of her ear hurting. Three sleepness nights followed (for me, not her). You all know what I am going to say next. I was concertinaed up on her small person’s bed, clinging onto the edge of the mattress and clutching a tiny corner of duvet whilst my diminutive bedfellow was sprawled across the rest of the bed luxuriating in pretty much the entire duvet and pillow combo. If I so much as attempted to move, or Heaven forfend, leave the room, she was up and crying, demanding to know why I had had the audacity to attempt to get some sleep myself.
By Thursday, I thought she was on the mend. My mistake. I got a call from school and made an appointment at the doctor’s. Child Number One didn’t see why he couldn’t be left at home. I explained that this was not advisable as in spite of his protests to the contrary, I trusted and expected him to behave like a nine year old boy, which, in my experience did not lend itself to being left home alone for the time it took me to go to the loo, let alone a doctor’s appointment. And I had also heard that Social Services can get a bit sniffy about children being left alone in the house. We agreed to differ and all went to the doctor’s.
We waited for an hour, during which I was climbed on, jiggled about on, pawed, clutched and bodged, together with accompanying huffing, puffing and declarations of ” I’m bored, Mummy” and “how long is it going to take?” There has been much battering of A&E in the Press this week, but in my experience, they are infinitely quicker and certainly no slower than seeing the GP. Child Number Three managed to fall over in the lunch queue the other week necessitating a trip to A&E – we were in and out in an hour. That is not to bash GP’s, it is to defend A&E departments. When we got to see the doctor, it transpired that the original doctor had had to go home ill and a replacement summoned. Maybe they had a poorly ear too?
Anyway, we got the medicine, and with precise instructions as to how much paracetamol and ibuprofen and when it could be taken, I took everyone home and got them ready for bed. I then administered lots of medicine to my poorly child, which the doctor had told me was absolutely fine and would “make her more comfortable for bed”. I took that to mean “would fell a stag” and got on with dishing it out. I tucked her up and eagerly counted the minutes until I could legitimately go to bed myself.
After Man of the House and I had self-administered a couple of glasses of red wine, I checked on my poorly child and it seemed that she was not only a sleeping child, but she was sleeping so soundly that she didn’t even wake up when I accidentally stepped on a piece of Playmobil and swore loudly. Relieved, I got to the bedroom, got ready for bed, set my alarm and snuggled down under the duvet. No sooner had my head hit my pillow than there was a noise that sounded like a motorbike revving up emanating from Child Number Three’s room. I went in. I got into the bed and assumed the position of the Mattress Island Castaway. The revving motorbike died down and I lay there, wondering if anyone has got set into this position and needed to be rescued.
During the middle of the night, I woke. And I managed to get out of the room without her grabbing my arm. Far more excited than I should have been, I returned to my bed. Again, my head hit my pillow. Almost immediately an apparition appeared in the doorway. This time, in the interests of variety, it was Child Number One. They couldn’t sleep and wanted a cuddle. So he got into bed next to me.
Now I don’t want you to think that whilst all of this was going on that Man of the House was idle. He had been meowed at by the cat and she doesn’t shut up until you feed her, so he had fed her and then got back into bed. He also moved over slightly to accommodate me and Child Number One. And as he is currently the one who works for the money to pay the mortgage, it seems more important that he gets sleep so he can function in the office the next day, whereas folding pants, brushing hair and preparing edible (but not award winning) food may require maximum effort and patience, brainpower is not high on its list of requirements. On the other hand, it does need to be done or bottoms are bare, hair is hedge-like and tummys are empty.
So Child Number One nodded off, I lay on my side (because there was no room to do anything else) and at that moment, the cat decided that my vast bottom looked both enticing and comfortable. When she perched herself like a pimple on a mountain and started paddling in the way that cats do when they’re settling down to sleep, I decided that I had had enough. I dislodged the cat, shuffled under the duvet, down the bed and popped out at the bottom and onto the floor. I went and got into Child Number One’s bed. This is a normal-sized bed so I stretched out. And Child Number Three knew it. She came in and assumed her usual considerate sleeping position, so I assumed mine. Child Number Two was rather confused when she got up in the morning, having slept through it all.
I am a donkey on the edge now and I am not ashamed to admit it. Today I have bathed three children, fed three children three meals along with drinks and snacks, driven one to an exam and done some washing. And this is a lazy day because I am so tired I could throw up. I expect that by Monday, Normal Service Will Be Resumed, or at least, expected. However, if tonight doesn’t go well, if anyone, anyone even so much as suggests to me that looking after children isn’t working, I’m going to poke them in the eye.