When you’re a parent, you learn a lot about how to treat certain spills. Some salad dressing ruins your clothes instantly. Blood cleans easily. Vomit cleans well if treated quickly, but can leave a permanent mark otherwise. Because of the danger of vomit stains, all parents are well versed in the art of sniffing out hidden vomit. It’s like a game of bile Marco-Polo.
Last night, just after I turned off the computer, Maddie woke up crying. She was very congested, and couldn’t inhale enough between breaths. I ran in, knelt beside the bed and held out my arms. She got up just enough to collapse forward into my arms. I scooped the rest of her up, and tried to calm her. The poor girl was hot and sweaty from the crying.
Lillian came in, too, but I was already holding the girl. Maddie still couldn’t get a good breathe in. I got the feeling from her convulsions that she might throw up, so I told Lillian this, and started to head to the bathroom. But before I even got in the bathroom, I felt a certain heavy warmth on my shoulder.
Maddie threw up on my shoulder. The same shoulder that she covered in blood two months ago.
So I put her down long enough to take off my shirt, and picked her back up again. The shirt had to be rinsed immediately. But if she were to barf on my bare shoulder it would be no big deal. Vomit cleans from skin easily.
Lillian and I went through the panic list.
- We don’t know what to do!
- When do we decide to go to the hospital?
- Did our friends from Hong Kong give her SARS?
- Is the mold that’s holding our house together toxic?
But we came to our senses pretty quickly. I thank God I have Lillian around in case of emergencies. She’s got a good head on her, and she always knows what to do. Experience is showing that I only have one reliable instinct:
Scoop up the kid, and let them barf, bleed, and cry onto your shoulder.
As I do that, we both assess the situation, and try and calm the child. Lillian’s the one who makes it to step two, and takes appropriate action. But I like to think that I’m helping out a little as the kid soaks my shirt.