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Parenthood

We were walking past a cricket pitch in Lahore when one of my kids gasped.  Eyes open, he pointed excitedly at the centre of the pitch.

“Look Daddy!  A steamroller!”.

An old metal roller lay next to the wicket.  The groundsmen had just been using it to roll the wicket flat in preparation for a match and now it lay on its side, supine and ungainly, like a hippo taking a nap.  My son ran over to it excitedly, grabbed the handle, and pulled.

Nothing happened, of course.  The roller weighed several times more than my son did.  It would have taken three or four men at least to move it.  And yet he tugged and tugged, his eyes widening with the effort, the optimism of youth set against the immobility of a a heavy roller.

After a while he gave up and wandered off to chase some crows.  He never would have moved it.  Of course he wouldn’t.  But I’m glad that in his mind at least, nothing is impossible.

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Parenting can be tough.  I learnt this early on, when a blizzard hit our town in the UK and I had to stay home from work.  I arrived home having taken an hour and a half to cover the 25 mile journey.  My poor wife was frazzled.  The boy wouldn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time so she was unable to shower or cook as he would start screaming more or less straight away.  So I arrived home and promptly started cooking, washing up, doing housework, and looking after our little boy so she could sleep.

The next day the conditions got worse as the snow settled and froze, meaning that driving conditions are just awful.  So I stayed home, working thanks to remote access, doing more housework, and looking after our son so my wife could sleep.  Being able to work from home would normally be a good thing, but not when I have at least three different jobs to do.

The thing is, when I went to change Sam’s nappy, feeling intensely stressed and tired and harassed (in short, like a new parent), he stopped screaming, gulped, looked straight into my eyes, and gripped my finger with his tiny little hand.  You wouldn’t believe how clear and blue his eyes look when he does that.  He lay there, gazing up at me, silent as a lamb, just taking it all in.

See what I mean?  Even the bad times are good.

I was in the dining room clutching a cup of black coffee like a drowning man clinging onto a liferaft when Andrea came in and said:

“Sam had diarrhoea last night”.

I adopted the guarded tone I generally employ when given news which confuses me.

“Ah”, I said thoughtfully, my traditional response when I’m confused, which is pretty common.  After all, having diarrhoea generally doesn’t strike me as a disastrous occurrence; I just make a mental note not to go back to that particular kebab van and move on with life.  However, as I was rapidly made aware, diarrhoea in babies is a rather more serious matter.

And so began the epic tale of How We Sought Medical Advice For Our Sick Baby On A Bank Holiday.

First stop: ring the surgery.  They were closed.  So Andrea rang the out-of-hours number.  They took the info and said they would call back.  So we waited.  And waited.  Eventually Andrea got bored waiting and had a shower, and came back, and got dressed, and they still hadn’t called.  So I made more coffee, and they called, and said that we should take him to the clinic.

Being both highly punctual and highly nervous we arrived early at the clinic early and promptly sat there for 45 minutes as one doctor worked through an entire roomful of patients.  When our turn eventually came our very friendly Pakistani doctor cooed over Sam for a bit (always gratifying) and prescribed saline drops for his blocked nose and an electrolyte solution for his diarrhoea.  “All we’re seeing at the moment is babies with diarrhoea”, the doctor said in a faintly wistful voice, as if longing for a decent outbreak of bubonic plague to liven things up a little bit.

And so out we went, clutching the prescription as if it were one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, and plunged into the Bank Holiday traffic and drove to the pharmacy by our house.  Closed.  So we drove to another pharmacy, which was also closed, and then to the local Sainsbury’s , which was a mistake as it didn’t have a pharmacy.  Then we sat in the car park and called the pharmacy in the town centre, ascertained that they were open, drove back to town, parked, and I dashed in to Boots.  The pharmacist shook her head sadly, probably noting that I was trying to get medicine for a 2 week old baby and had a moderately insane glint in my eye as if I was one shut pharmacy away from stealing a chainsaw and going completely postal, and said that she was out of saline drops.

“That’s fine, I’ll just take the diarrhoea medicine then”.

“No, I can’t give part prescriptions.  Either I give you both, or neither”.

Of course.  So out again, across to Superdrug, where the pharmacy department was closed, and to the only other pharmacy in the town centre, which was, believe it or not, closed.  By this point the insane glint in my eye was developing into a look which said “get in my way and I will do something for which a judge may later incarcerate me”, and old ladies crossed the street to avoid walking close to me.

Back to the car which contained my sick son and my beautiful wife, and back out into the insane Luton traffic.  Apparently the Sainbury’s in Bury Park had a pharmacy, but it was close to shutting for the day.  I drove like a madman.  Mothers pushing prams jumped out of my way, dogs barked, and I may have taken a short-cut through a back alley, smashing rubbish bins all over the place.  It was open.  I parked, ran inside, shouldered a couple of grandmothers out of my way, barged through a display of half-price tins of biscuits, and dived for the pharmacy counter.  The pharmacist read the prescription, looked at me with a bored expression on her face, and said it would take fifteen minutes.  Was that ok?

I nearly kissed her, which would have been inappropriate for a number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that she was wearing a full veil, and relaxed for the first time in four hours.

Then we got back home and put some saline drops into Sam’s nose.  He gazed around for a few seconds, puked up a surprising quantity of mucus, and fell asleep.

Back then I didn’t know if I was cut out for this parenting lark.  And now?  Well, I still don’t know, but we still seem to be managing ok…