Right now might be a good time for me to admit that I don’t handle puke well. Not that anyone really does, honestly. But I have a real issue with it, from the sound, to the smell, all of it makes me want to puke too. When I went into this whole parenting gig, I don’t think I realized exactly how much puke would be involved. But everything from cute baby spit up, to full on barf, I’ve experienced as a father of three.
Since we’re in the midst of cold, flu, and stomach bug season, I’m trying to mentally prepare myself. Perhaps we should gather as a community and try to overcome the nastiness that is about to befall us, because the reality is, someone in our homes is going to puke very soon. It will go away. Puke is as dependable as the tide, so we might as well share a few funny stories. Solidarity, right?
I’ll go first.
When my son was two, he came down with this horrible virus. I remember him crying in the night. I came into his room and found him reaching from some bog, ankle deep in liquid like he was the Son of the Swamp Thing.
I didn’t want to go hear him, much less touch him.
I know, I know. I’m supposed to have compassion for what my child was going through. And sure, he was really sick. And I was worried about him. But at the same time, he was covered in puke and poop. I don’t care how much you love your kid, puke mixed with poop is still nasty, and I honestly considered abandoning him. I imagined myself for a brief moment walking out of that room, closing the bedroom door, and forgetting that I had a son. “It’s been good knowing you, little guy, but I can’t do this. I’m very sorry.”
Naturally, I didn’t. What I did do was what all parents do in a situation like this. I reached in, elbow deep, and handled it. We both needed a bath that night.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
I can’t count how many times I’ve had my children look at me with cold, white, glossy eyes, and begin to gag. And what do I do? I put my hands out in a cupping shape as if it’s physically possible to catch fluid with your hands. It’s not, by the way. It never has been, and it never will be, and yet, there I am, time after time, hoping to catch my kid’s puke so it doesn’t end up on the carpet, or the sofa, or the car seats. It never works, and I am left with a mess on the floor, and a warm coating of puke on my hands, the child crying and me crying on the inside.
Or there’s the moment when they give you the puke look, and so you point their mouth at your torso with the determination of a soldier throwing their body on a landmine to save the platoon. Only it’s not to save anyone’s life; it’s to save your recliner. It’s to save the time you’d have to spend dragging out the carpet cleaner. Because you have been a parent long enough to know that while getting puke on your clothes is both discussing and degrading, it is 100 million times easier to change your shirt than it is to clean the carpet.
As parents, we often talk about milestones. We talk about how exciting it is for your child to start walking or talking or reading, but the real milestone, in my family, was the day my children could actually lean up in bed and puke in a bowl. That was one of the most rewarding days of my life. It was a game changer. I didn’t have to live in fear January-March, knowing that at any time I’d be up at all hours of the night doing laundry and changing sheets because my kids simply couldn’t, for the life of them, put their stupid puke in a stupid bowl!
I mean honestly, if a job lists “demonstrated ability to work well in high stress situations,” the applicants should be observed changing puke-covered sheets on a top bunk at 2 a.m. People who can do that can handle anything.
I’ve dropped my child off at daycare, the whole time looking suspiciously at each child, wondering which one has the bug. Which one is patient zero?
You know this feeling.
You know this hell.
So here’s the thing, parents. It’s coming. All the awesomeness that is puke season is upon us. Then again I suppose it’s always puke season. Hold strong. Please don’t abandon your puke-coated child regardless of how badly you might want to in the moment. Stock up in carpet cleaner and laundry soap and hand sanitizer. And above all, share your puke stories in the comments so that we can all mentally prepare.