Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Captain (Ch)underpants

There always seems to be a predictive correlation between the times I throw caution to the wind and have a (relatively) late night mid-week and the amount of disturbed sleep that then results. Take last night as an example.

I was supposed to be out. Ended up staying in. And just stayed up late, reading blogs and watching movies, for the sheer decadence of it. By the time I got to bed I was totally relaxed and ready for sleep. Within 5 minutes of my head hitting the pillow, and just as I am heading off to happy-la-la-land, I hear it. The sound of coughing. Fairly violent coughing. Coughing that indicates that something else is on its way. Oh no. Really? REALLY??

I spring out of bed towards the kids bedroom and see Captain Underpants already in the bathroom, just beginning to violently wretch and throw up. Now I have a fair amount of experience with this situation. Even when ex and I were living together I was always on sick duty. Well not initially. But it soon became apparent that he was far more of a hindrance than a help. Seems he has an extremely sensitive gag reflex - resulting in muggins here having double the vomit to deal with whenever he did voluntarily join the emergency-throw-up-care-team.

I admit my first thought when assessing this nocturnal activity wasn't particularly motherly. Along the lines of, 'Oh no, there goes my chance of a good night's sleep' (but with a few more unrepeatable expletives mixed in).

Poor ol' Captain (Ch)underpants. He seemed to be bringing up at least a week's worth of food, with a few internal organs thrown in for good measure. But here's the thing. He did not make a blind bit of fuss. Up it all came. Again. And again. And again. And when he had finished depositing his own body weight down the loo we simply wiped his mouth, he had a sip of water, went back to bed and straight to sleep.

I placed a big bowl by his bed, along with some more water, and retreated warily back to bed, certain I would be up and down like a yo-yo all night long. I made a little checklist in my mind, convinced there would ultimately be the need for towels, linen changes, clean up equipment (a scoop and a hose sprang to mind) and fresh pj's at some point in the early hours. I finally drifted back off to sleep, programming my brain and limbs to respond to the slightest sound so I could minimise the requirement of the checklist (I was thinking specifically the scoop and the hose).

However, I have either become a very deep sleeper (unlikely - my neighbours can drop a pin 3 doors down and I wake and remain on high alert for the next noisy interruption of my slumber) or I have given birth to the stealth vomiter. I checked on Captain (Ch)underpants twice in the night - to find both the loo and the bowl full of...well, you know what it was full of. And he was sleeping soundly. There was no mess. There had been no noise. It was both gratifying and heart breaking at the same time. Bless his heart. At 5 years old he was handling being ill with far more grace and considerably less fuss than I am able to.

I dread being sick. I will physically hold it off for as long as humanly possible, until my body gives me no remaining alternative. Then I am like a woman deranged. There is, it goes without saying, the puking. But this is compounded by the addition of snot and tears. Usually many tears. And whimpering. And pathetic baby-like calls for my mum. It appears I cannot play a truly active role in this scenario without reverting back to childhood, crying like a baby and needing my mum.

Which is why the situation with Captain (Ch)underpants is so perplexing to me. He experiences the similar torture of needing his mum on a grand scale sometimes on a daily basis. But for the most trivial of things. For example, his world falls apart upon discovering that his bag of gummi bears does not contain a single green bear. To him that is a situation that provokes 'Oh My God the world is at an end' hysterics compounded by snot and tears and pathetic baby-like calls for his mum.

But when he has a cold, a fever, is literally sick to his stomach he weathers it all without any complaint.

Is this a form of sixth sense? Maybe he intuitively knows that his mother has no natural Florence Nightingale qualities to speak of (as her mother before her)? I really don't have the patience for sickness in anyone, irrespective of the severity. Even for myself. Being ill was never tolerated for more than, at most, 6 hours in our household when I was younger and I guess I carry a lot of that inherent, but unintentional, baggage with me to this day (as my sister will readily verify - thanks Debs).

Or is it that his first two years of life were spent coping with an inordinate amount of needles and tubes, coupled with numerous surgeries, chest ports, abdominal catheters followed by weeks of recuperation and blood tests... that throwing his guts up or having a fever of 104 is really just a walk in the park?

My first indication of his natural stoic behaviour came when he was nearly two. All was fine in our world. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were enjoying a lovely afternoon in our communal condo garden with the neighbours. The kids were all running through sprinklers in underwear or nappies and the adults were all half cut, drinking watery beer (American...need I say more?) in very hot weather. One thoughtful 'mom' (oh yeah, that was me) had provided the biggest bowl of succulent water melon slices for everyone to snack on. Captain (Ch)underpants was particularly fond of watermelon and consumed a fair quantity for a little scrap of a thing. Nothing unusual in that. He has always preferred fruit to most other foods, including chocolate or sweets. He does not take after his mother in this respect either, who is currently scarffing down a huge bar of Cadbury's - true - despite there being a fridge and bowl full of fruit nearby. To admit she hasn't had her 5-a-day for a week would be generous because if truth be told it's probably closer to 5 years.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Back to the summer-in-the-garden scenario.

In my slightly inebriated haze it took me a little while to realise, from the wide eyed stares of the neighbours, that something a little out of the ordinary was occurring during our little sojourn. Suddenly the haze cleared and I realised that Captain (Ch)underpants was gaily running amok with his little buddies having the time of his life, whilst simultaneously projectile vomiting half-digested pink watermelon chunks all over the lawn. Honest to God, the boy did not break his stride once.

I wasn't sure whether to be horrified (like all the neighbours) or seriously impressed. But admit I verged towards the impressed. Wish I could say that ex and I were joined in our admiration of our son's ability to not let being ill get in his way of having a good time - but he was too busy retching into the nearby bushes while I retrieved both the scoop and the hose.


  1. I'm reading this first thing in the morning - I'm just glad I'm not pregnant.

    He does sound like he has a huge pain/illness threshold. Perhaps he'll never get man flu when he grows up. Or perhaps the threshold will have lowered by then.

  2. Well in my experience men can tolerate any pain or illness on a work day...just chopped my leg off - not to worry, of course I can still make it into the office. But if it falls on a weekend (which it ALWAYS does) then you would be forgiven for thinking they were auditioning for an extra in casualty. As long as his pain threshold lowers after he has left the house I will be happy!

    thank you so much for your comments. And I love your blog. That mural! Amazing. Will definitely be following regularly and adding comments.

    Nic x

  3. Aw bless him - what a stoical chap! He'll be down the rugby club in a few years, putting away a dozen pints before chundering them up and starting again. Lovely.

  4. I wish mine was like that, on the few occasions she has been physically sick, you would think the world was ending, she turns into a pathetic little scrap of humanity who just wants to cuddle up with me. (Long may she need me like that)

  5. My DS is very stoic about his vomiting too. One night I heard him yelling "Mommy, I need help" and went into this room to find him sitting up in bed with cupped hands full of vomit! The only time he hasn't been that tidy was his recent projectile vomiting incident - but he was still very good about the whole thing!

  6. Thanks MTAM, Tawny and AA. The thought of this current talent being employed to get through a night of drinking is beyond thinkable when I look at my darling blue eyed boy! How bizzare to think he is going to grow up to be a....typical bloke. Perish the thought.

    I am still writing from Puking Palace. Johnny Drama has got in on the action - not quite so stoical. The scoop and the hose have been employed on several occasions. Yesterday my bra inadvertantly became the scoop for the projective vomit he directed down my top. My boobs still reek. The smell is impervious to even the most zesty of shower gels. Probably just as well I am single.

  7. I can't believe your child is 5. I have an almost 5 year old boy and there's no way he'd be like this. He takes after his father in the man flu department. Hope he feels better soon