I was scheming big schemes for our afternoon today – a visit to the library, grocery shopping, a quick trip to the post office, all the good stuff. But, come lunch time, I looked at Petra and cancelled them all. She was white-faced, dark-eyed, and snotty, and generally looked as if she was about to fall in a viral heap. She’s been sick on and off for about a month – just when I think she’s kicked it, it starts up again. I don’t like it at all, and I’m not quite sure what to do about it.
Today, we focused on rest. Petra snuggled on the comfy red chair with a pile of soft toys and I wrapped them all in the special quilt Travis’s grandmother made him many many years ago. She sat there for quite a while eating her body weight in tomatoes, cucumber, and rice crackers and watching episodes of The Wombles. They’re five minute puppet and stop motion animation shorts produced by the BBC in the 70’s. I liked them when I were a lass, and Petra’s fond of them now, almost 40 years(!) down the track.
I’m not sure that parking her in front of the telly is out of the approved parenting guide, but she really needed the food, the rest, and the peace. I pottered around on the other side of the lounge and, once she was finished on the chair, she joined me. We completed the rest cure with an afternoon bath. A bit of mucking around in water is a great way for a small child to relax. Petra petitions for an afternoon shower most days if we’re home. (She asked for the bath today because she was too seedy to be bothered standing around in the shower.) I chuck her in with a stack of toys and she splashes around until she drains the hot water tank. It’s not good for our power and water consumption but it’s very satisfactory for Petra (and for me because I get a break for a few minutes).
Because Petra was quieter and stiller than usual, I got a hell of a lot done. I washed all the clothes I could lay my hands on. I changed beds, laid out pj’s for Petra at lunch time, folded a mountain of washing, and pre-cut all the veges for dinner.
Having a child makes you much more orderly. I have friends who used to lay their table for breakfast and put out the kids’ clothes for the next day before they went to bed. I was single and childless at the time and wasn’t sure whether I was impressed or horrified by their efficiency. Now that I have a child myself and have to get out the door before lunch time with her, I aspire to their organisational skills. I haven’t attained them yet, but I do pack Petra’s kindy bag, get out her clothes, and stack everything we’ll be taking with us beside the front door the night before. We’re going to stay home again tomorrow to give Petra a chance to shrug off her horrible cold. And I’m already planning various domestic activities. Wash more sheets, bake a carrot cake, use up all the vegetable lurking in the fridge in some kind of pilaf.
Sometimes I wonder just who is this woman being responsible for the well-being of a small person and organising a family life? I don’t always quite recognise myself. I’ve come such a long way from that first overwhelming night in the maternity ward, when I looked at Petra, thought, “I’m never going to sleep properly again – I have a whole other person to look after,” and was shell-shocked and convinced that I was totally out of my depth. I remember arriving home from the hospital, putting Petra down in her cot, and wondering, now what? What am I supposed to do with this tiny creature? But she was there and I was there, and she knew all about being a baby, so I just muddled along following her lead and somewhere along the way I turned into a mother.