My son has chicken pox. When the nanny rang to tell me (yes, I do know how that makes me sound. To make it worse, I wasn’t even at work – I was gallivanting about in London at a lingerie press preview) I let out a silent whoop of delight. You see, I’d been rather concerned that the children appeared to have escaped the pox over the last four years, despite numerous false alarms and pox parties. Secretly – and please don’t tell anyone – I thought there was only one explanation. They’d already had it and I just hadn’t noticed.
Now before you dismiss my concern in a snort of derisive laughter, it really isn’t that ridiculous. I’m not terribly sympathetic. My particular brand of Nazi-parenting favours the stiff upper lip approach to sickness and injury. Is it broken? Is it bleeding? Has it fallen off? No? Then get up and stop crying.
In relation to non-life-threatening illnesses I pretty much ignore them. Oh, I’ll dole out doses of Calpol fairly willingly, but to be honest that’s more to ensure I get a good night’s sleep than to alleviate any infant cold symptoms. With three children it is almost inevitable that one of them is going to be ill most of the time, so I do tend to ignore a whole raft of maladies, telling the children to man up and get over it.
This blase approach to mothering is balanced out by my extreme paranoia about one of them dying. I blame this mostly on the pretty ghastly experience of holding my son as he passed away, but suspect there is an element of paranoia among us all. I live in perpetual fear of losing another child and superstitiously cannot go to bed without physically checking their breathing. The fact that they could stop at any time during the night is irrelevant – I just can’t sleep unless I’ve felt the damp breath of three sleeping children on my cheek. Occasionally I’m compelled to actually wake them up just to check, which is irritating for us all. I’m hopeful that this fear will dissipate over the years, otherwise my teenage children are liable to find me crouching by their beds, holding mirrors over their faces.
But the pox? Well, that’s no big deal, is it? On my sympathy scale it ranks somewhere between the common cold and leprosy; worthy of a little TLC but nothing to panic over. So it had occurred to me that perhaps it had gone totally unnoticed in my household of stiff upper lip pygmies. That I’d been far too neglectful to notice any spots and too unsympathetic to listen to complaints of general ill health.
I am utterly relieved to discover that in fact I am not as terrible a mother as I thought, and am revelling in nursing my poor son through this Proper Illness. The girls haven’t yet succumbed, although they are eagerly scanning for spots each morning. It seems they have cottoned onto the fact that whereas a grazed knee will earn barely a cuddle, the pox will bring them hours of lounging in bed, Disney films and chocolate buttons.
Now that I put it like that, it does seem like a pretty good deal. When is it my turn?