Every parent has a moment or two of doubt, an instant in which they wonder if they should have done things differently, if their life would be better, or less complicated, or less stressful, or less expensive, or less exhausting, if they hadn’t decided to have children.
I had one such moment over winter break when my baby caught the stomach bug that’s been going around.
I love my kids, and I would never seriously consider a life without them. I mean, that’s totally impossible anyway, this isn’t fantasy land, there’s no point in even entertaining such an amazing possibility, why are we even dwelling on it, I made my bed, I knew what I was getting into, it is what it is, it’s fine, everything’s fine, I’m happy, we’re all happy! Anyway, I love them so much I can’t imagine not being their father.
But, man, do I hate puking.
I know, I know: Everyone hates puking. It’s universally reviled. There’s nothing to like about it. But hear me out: I really hate puking. I want to murder it. I want to spend my life hunting it down, seeking vengeance for the misery it has caused, torturing it relentlessly until it begs for mercy and then ignoring its pleas. I want to encounter puking in a dark alley, shout some baroque pronouncement I’ve memorized for just such an occasion (“My name is Mike Julianelle, you’ve infected my family. Prepare to die!”) and shoot it in the kneecaps just to watch it writhe in agony, like it’s made me do every time I’ve curled up on the floor in front of my toilet.
I also hate being nauseous, but despite the fact that feeling like I’m going to puke is almost as bad as puking, and that actually puking is brief and almost always relieves the excruciating nausea, I refuse to make that concession. I refuse to puke to feel better. I will fight the vomit for hours, no matter how inevitable, because the experience is so unpleasant.
But sometimes, it’s unavoidable — like when your baby wakes from a nap covered in vomit, and then because you had the bright idea to procreate and now the results of said bright idea are your responsibility, you are forced to clean the baby and the baby’s clothes and the baby’s sheets, and guess what? Now you’re covered in vomit, and there’s no way you’re not puking soon too. In fact, soon everyone will be puking. Fun. Awesome. This is great.
When you have kids, catching a stomach bug, or 10, is inevitable. In a way, every parent has twins even if there’s just one baby, because with that baby comes a puke baby. When your baby is born, they should make signs, just like those “It’s a boy!” and “It’s a girl!” ones, that say “Congratulations, it’s vomit! And it’s going to happen whether you like it or not! Get ready!” (I’d advise against a celebratory cigar.)
Unfortunately I didn’t have one of those signs last week when the aforementioned baby woke up from the aforementioned nap covered in the aforementioned puke, not that I would have bothered to hang it. I was too busy covering myself in hand sanitizer in a vain attempt to avoid the Scourge of Upchuck that had already been set in motion. Fuck the shingles virus — the goddamn norovirus is probably definitely already inside you, and it wants to get out, repeatedly and violently, and into your toilet from both ends.
It’s going to happen to you. And if it already has, it’s going to happen again. Probably multiple times.
Once your kids are old enough for day care or preschool or kindergarten, they become walking petri dishes. They bring home all manner of germs and illnesses, from tiny insects that besiege your home and your head, to the dreaded stomach bug that makes its way from person to person, reducing an entire family to a quivering, shivering mess of limp flesh and ginger ale breath.
The good news is that the baby was completely fine the next morning, which is good for him but bad for us, since my wife and I were still in the throes for another 24 hours, and wrangling a healthy, energetic, increasingly mobile baby and his kid brother when you just want to lie down and not throw up is not a lot of fun. It’s more fun than worrying that your baby is going to get dehydrated and you’ll have to go to the ER, but still, it’s a special kind of hell.
Even more annoying is when your 6-year-old somehow avoids the bug and escapes unscathed. I wouldn’t wish this thing on anyone — the day of puking and the resulting multiple days of recovery where you’re too exhausted to move — but if I were to wish it on anyone it would probably be my hyper, demanding, smart-ass 6-year-old.
At the very least, maybe it would get him to stay in bed past sunrise.