First of all I have to apologise unreservedly to any eager folk who have clicked onto this blog post hoping for some sort of parenting panacea which could lead to glamour. There isn’t one. I was being sarcastic. There is officially no glamourous side to parenting whatsoever. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is an extremely unglamorous side to parenting.
Nobody tells you this when you make the decision to procreate, foster, adopt or travel whichever other route you decide upon to reach parenthood, but I will tell you. Sometimes parenting is gross, repulsive, cringe-inducing and very much not for the fainthearted.
Just this week I have experienced two incidents that could be categorised in these ways. The first involved poo. Suffice it to say that poo was in places it shouldn’t have been and I had to sort a blocked, nearly overflowing toilet. All in the middle of dinner time, obviously.
The second was a first for me (though one I would rather not repeat). We thought we might have Bed Bugs. Yes, tiny little crawly insect-y things living in a bed. An absolutely abhorrent concept, especially when it is your littlest son’s bed.
This came about because Little Bear has been having some sort of allergic reaction all week. I posted a picture of some of his rash and a Twitter friend said it looked like the rash she had when she was bitten by Bed Bugs. You cannot un-hear those words. It isn’t possible to just brush that aside and assume you haven’t got them. Because what if you have? What sort of parent would that make you if you might be putting your youngest beloved son to bed with a whole band of hungry critters every night? When you hear those words there is nothing for it but to have a quick Google, roll up your sleeves and inspect the bed (all the while telling yourself not to run around screaming or spontaneously vomit if you find something).
The search of the bed was INCONCLUSIVE. This is not good. This doesn’t mean you have Bed Bugs but crucially it doesn’t prove that you don’t. You might have them. ‘Might’ in my experience is not a chance that you can take when it is your beloved son’s bed and he is walking around in public with a very strange rash. There is only one thing that can be done: you enter full DECONTAMINATION mode. The pillow and quilt covers and comforter blankets are easy: stick them in the machine at 95 degrees and hope they come out intact.
On balance the pillow and quilt themselves are not really very expensive to replace so I go for double bagging and chucking out, just to be sure. Now, surely a good hoover of the mattress will suffice? I proceed, centimetre by centimetre, using my microscopic-power-mum-eyes to check as I go. What on God’s green earth are these barely visible things in the pores of the mattress? As much as I don’t want to touch them, I go in, for inspection purposes. The results are INCONCLUSIVE. This is not good.
I phone the husband to check that I am not completely insane for now wanting to throw away the mattress. He has a quick Google and concludes it is not Bed Bugs but as he is slightly OCD over hygiene and is all too aware that I will soon enter PROTECTIVE MOTHER HYSTERIA, he suggests we get rid of the mattress. I heave it down the stairs and into the garden with freaked-out-mum super strength.
What then ensues is an evening of me taking both boys to buy a new mattress, quilt, pillow etc. and then on our return, removing everything from the room, hoovering every nook and cranny and anti-bac-ing like I’m deep cleaning a hospital. Obviously I also decontaminate the child. To be sure.
When it is all over I sit on the sofa and stare into space for the remainder of the evening. I do not entertain the fact that if we did have bed bugs, they could have spread to other beds. If you do not present with a rash, you do not qualify for full inspection. They are the rules.
These sorts of parenting-breaches are exhausting.
I’ve been here before of course. You can’t get to be 8 years into parenting without a few anti-glamour moments along the way.
The last MAJOR INCIDENT was nit-gate. On that occasion, the inspection proved CONCLUSIVE. I did indeed find a large, burly nit merrily parading about Little Bear’s curls within seconds of starting the inspection. I think it was on steroids. I was utterly squeamish about it and had to defer to my mother-in-law until I realised she couldn’t actually see the nits and I had to woman-up. I realised this after a few days of having a very itchy head myself and although she had checked my hair and so had Grizzly, I found a friendly nit peeking at me when I looked in the mirror! There is absolutely nothing glamorous about hanging over the bath, searching your long, thick hair with a fine tooth comb for hours on end, removing little beasties. That is another thing that nobody tells you – children like to share.
Nit-gate went on weeks and took A LOT of perseverance and many an hour with the tiny comb until I finally won the war (don’t listen to anyone who tells you that the shampoo alone will do it: it won’t, you need to manually remove every single one of them).
The nits did attempt a second round a while later but I had absolutely none of it that time and shaved off the beautiful curls. You have to take a zero tolerance policy to unwanted insects I find.
The non-glamorous moments do not just involve insect-invasions. Oh no, bodily functions feature highly too. I seem to have dealt with many an al-fresco poo situation so far (not me, the boys!): most memorably Big Bear couldn’t wait and ended up going under the ‘no fouling’ sign in a local park once. Another time, a hungry Labrador involved itself but that story is too disgusting to publish.
I have dealt with poo in places it shouldn’t be, including on an I Pad.
I have (why did God gift us with this reflex?) proffered my cupped hand in lieu of a sick bowl.
I could go on and on. Parenting is pretty disgusting. They should issue you with a hazmat suit when you take charge of an infant. It should be mandatory.
There was a time when I would have been too embarrassed to share my Bed Bug story, assuming it meant I was slovenly and unfit to parent (despite knowing that neither nits nor bed bugs prefer dirty places) but I have learned that I’m not alone in these situations. I suspect that every parent up and down the country could contribute a story or two. Yesterday, as bed-bug-gate was breaking, I messaged my friends who I had been out with earlier in the day. “Oh, we thought we had bed bugs last week” one of them replied, immediately making me feel better. I have another friend whose child had a funny rash and she took DECONTAMINATION one step further by calling out the Pest Control, even though she hadn’t found any evidence of an invasion either.
If we’re going to take a very positive view of it, then I do think parenting gifts you with a whole raft of transferable skills.
Little Bear took bed-bug-gate very well. I think he secretly liked it that I was going to all that effort to keep him safe and (hopefully) itch free. As much as these un-glamorous incidents are gross, they do seem to provide good bonding opportunities. He secretly enjoyed all the grooming and attention nit-gate brought as well.
All that said I am very much looking forward to some actual glamour.
You never know.
Maybe one day.
In the future.