Saturday, September 3, 2011

Week 3 - A pool of wee, and weeping by the pool

A pool of wee

Mopping up a pool of The Big Fella’s wee inside a plastic tunnel at a kid’s playground (like those at McDonalds, only not) was undoubtedly this week’s highlight. Of course the wee pooled in the most remote location. With only one good arm to support my less than agile 180cm 85kg body, I crawled through a 3-metre pipe, up a ladder, back across another 2-metre pipe, then finally exited into a yellow pod where his yellow wee lay pooled. In the hazy plastic-filtered light, it was hard to distinguish where the yellow plastic ended and the yellow wee began. Putting my one good hand in it clarified that nicely.

The Big Fella appeared quite apologetic. Knew he’d stuff up, and came along quietly. Back outdoors, I expertly stripped off his shorts and undies, popped them and the wee soaked cloth nappy into an odour-free nappy sack, pulled on his spare pair of clothes, and was feeling like a well-prepared parent.

The Complicated One then goes out in sympathy and decides he needs to do a wee as well. Being four and a half he requests the cold comfort of a toilet seat, rather than the warm fetid air inside a plastic pipe. Luckily the Christian bookshop and café has very clean toilets. Even as a non-believer I am eternally grateful for the fact that cleanliness is next to Godliness.

On the way back out of the shop, The Big Fella decides he’d like to browse the Christian books. I am against this for both practical and philosophical reasons. Even a newbie stay at home dad knows rows of neatly stacked books do not mix with little boys. Plus he needs to be a little older before deciding which religion to select. So I tuck him under my good arm and hurriedly leave the bookshop to howls of protest from my born again Son No.2.

I’d foolishly relented after swearing to Sherrie to come straight home – the first two post-swimming excursions to the park and the shops having ended in tears (The Big Fella’s, not mine – although I was a little weepy). Driving home I thought what harm could come to us in this quiet little bookshop playground? Even God would be close at hand. Turns out God is a busy fellow.

Weeping by the pool

Tuesday had begun well enough. I arrived at swimming lessons armed with my new small lightweight plastic half cast with nifty Velcro strips, which mean I could enter the pool. This will fix The Big Fella, I thought. Having his loving dad holding him in the pool will conquer all his fears of the swimming teacher, or the structured lessons, or whatever was giving him grief last week.

And for the first 10 minutes all was good. We blew bubbles in the water, sang songs with the instructor and other two-year-olds, and generally gave our best impression of a water confident toddler. Then back came the squirming and the tears and the shouts of “I don’t want to do swimming lessons!” Which must be music to an instructor’s ears.

We adjourned to the other side of the pool, hopefully out of earshot of the other two-year-olds who seemed remarkably happy. The Big Fella is usually calm and well-adjusted in most situations. The Complicated One, like me, is normally the wobbly one – but he’s taken to the lessons and his instructor like a champ. This turn of events is unsettling.

Son No.2 goes lame

The Big Fella feels no pain, like his mother. The Complicated One and I feel every pain, and most of the world’s pain too. So when we arrive home from swimming and our brush with religion, I am more than a little alarmed when The Big Fella collapses to the ground as he tries to climb the back stairs. His right ankle won’t take his (considerable) weight. So to howls of protest I tuck him under my one good arm and hurriedly carry him up the back stairs. (Did I mention that I only have one good arm at the moment?)

The ankle is clearly continuing to bother him, so I figure we’d better call the doctor. I ring ahead and they can fit us in at 3.30pm. Remarkably, we arrive 5 minutes early. (Remarkably, as getting an 15kg lame toddler down the back stairs with one arm is no easier than carrying him up – nor is buckling his squirming bulk into a child’s car seat with one hand.)

Alas, the doc is running late – very late. We spend 45 minutes in a steamy waiting room. Not what the doctor ordered, but the price you pay for an appointment at short notice. The boys are incredibly patient. Ominously, The Big Fella stays seated the whole time. His ankle must really be sore.

Dr D is lovely, as always. She’s very apologetic about our wait. Can’t find anything wrong with his foot of course, but I guess that was always likely to be the case. Probably just a slight twist that will fix itself. See how he is in the morning.

To those without kids, this might seem like a wasted trip (never mind the burden on the nation’s stretched medical resources). Surely I could have predicted a slight twist as the most likely outcome, and just stayed home?

But every parent knows that our family doctor has just performed a vital social function – not just a medical one. Reassuring a worried father that everything is OK is just as valuable to the child’s wellbeing as if the doctor exclaims: “Eek – looks like meningitis. Quick, call an ambulance!”

Otherwise I would have spent all night worried that his sore ankle was a lesser-known symptom of something hideous, like meningitis.

TIP: Try to worry less about your child’s health. This is usually not possible.

Son No.1 goes even lamer louder

As the first-born son, The Complicated One cannot let his brother have an illness that he doesn’t have as well, or even better. That evening Son No.1 complains of a sore right thigh – “a very sore leg daddy”. He complains quite loudly and quite longly.

Of course my experience with Son No.2 earlier in the day would indicate to any sane person that Son No.1 has strained a thigh muscle at swimming lessons. After all, it’s only his third week and he’s not the world’s greatest athlete.

Remarkably, I am able to pretend to be a sane person for a further 12 hours. That night I administer children’s paracetamol before bed (The Complicated One’s favourite night-time tipple). But the next morning before pre-school he is still complaining, so I take the twin actions of administering children’s ibuprofin (for his muscular benefit) and phoning the doctor for an early evening appointment after pre-school (for my mental health benefit). After all, a sore thigh is much more likely to be a sign of meningitis than a sore ankle.

Evening comes, and off goes Son No.1 to Doctor No. 2. Dr J is old school - a bit gruff, but I like him too. At this point, the discerning reader may not be altogether surprised to learn that Doctor No.2 pronounced Son No.1 equally healthy as Doctor No.1 pronounced Son No.2. But we all went home happier than when we got there, and that’s what counts (plus the boys got jelly beans).

TIP: It pays to have several doctors on standby, especially if any of your kids aren’t good with pain, or you aren’t good with them being in pain, or potentially in pain. The ability to rotate GPs so the local medical fraternity doesn’t tire of you should not be underestimated.

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