Monday, April 09, 2007

Puking Parent

How hard is it to reach the bathroom when you’re puking?

Why is it that my seven year old can, my nine-year-old can but my eleven year old? Not a chance.

Please, I said to him twenty minutes before he threw up all over the landing at the top of the stairs, try to get to the bathroom before you feel like you’re going to lose it.

Jake’s birthday barfing has now gone through Zachary- he was home sleeping all day after an early morning bout. And I mean, early- 4AM. Now it's Ben's turn.

Why is it my job? Jeanine boots me out of bed and I go but … why? Why am I the puke mom?

Maybe kids don’t learn to reach the toilet until when they live on their own and have to clean it up.

Jeanine had just come home when the puke hit the floor.

She smiled. Thank you, she said.

I told her, that’s it. You’re making dinner.

Why? Because I knew I was going to have to clean it up. I always clean it up. Once, when everyone in the family was sick- me, too- Ben had puked all over the floor. Jeanine moaned in bed, no, I can't do it. I'm dying. No, really, I'm dying.

I think I threw up three times while cleaning up that time. Not because of the smell but because I was just as sick as the kids.

When I was a kid, I cleaned up the puke, poop and any bloody injuries our pets had. I, not my mother, would wrap the hurt paw after pulling out the thorn or piece of glass. I would attend to the stitches, the pills and the burrs stuck in delicate places.

I could never stand to see something in pain. For a long time, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Never a doctor- people sucked. But animals? They seemed so helpless. How could I not be calm and wash the wound?

Now I’m the puking parent. I always will be. I’m there to put a cool hand on the back of their necks- okay, my friend Margaret, aka Martha Stewart of parenting told me to do that. But I do. I clean up whatever needs to be cleaned up. I sit on the bathroom floor with them in my lap. Anytime of the day or night.

Zachary is lying on the couch across from me as I write this.

Who’s the puking mom? I asked.

He smiled and pointed to me.

At least I made it to the toilet, he added.

Yes, you did. Good job. But you know… when you’re sick? You’re sick.

Deep down? I love being the one they want to sit with them in the middle of the night. I love being able to take care of them, to ease their misery, if but for a second with the washcloth to wipe their mouth or wrapping my arms around them on the bathroom floor.

I may not be a veterinarian but I am the puking mom.

And someday? When Ben is on his own? He’ll learn how to hit the toilet.