Something happened late last week that made me want to cry. Not tears of sadness or pain, but ones of gratitude and relief. Surprisingly, it happened when my youngest daughter first showed signs of gastroenteritis – yet it was what happened IN that moment that makes me want to shout to my fellow parents, THANK YOU!
My eldest daughter, excited for pajama day at school, instead found herself staying home when she vomited mere minutes from walking out of the house. It was sad to exchange a fun school day with a sick day, but she managed – and by the afternoon, she was fully recovered. Enough so that we decided to keep a date with the Grandparents for dinner. We met at one of those typical chain restaurants – the kind that peddle 2 for $20 and pay-at-your-table service. It was going great, until my youngest said “Mommy…” in that tone and gave me that look. You know the one. Cross eyed, green skinned and sick – it’s universal, and horrible.
I moved before I breathed and got a napkin in front of her mouth – but it wasn’t enough (it’s never enough). This little girl of only 5 started puking… and didn’t stop. Someone, my Mother-in-law I think, handed me the tray her burger came on, and then I was rushing little-bit to the bathroom, puddles of vomit in our wake. As fate and motherhood would have it, the bathroom was on the OTHER side of the restaurant and in-between us lay the front doors, the bar and tables filled with other families obliviously enjoying their puke free dinners.
By the time we had rounded two corners and a dozen prying eyes, my young gusher had slowed to trickle, finding time to breathe and giving me hope that we could make it to the sink for clean up… and then it happened. One aisle and about ten families from reprieve her stomach rebelled once more and that paltry tray laughed at my attempts to contain the results. Her sickness became projectile, erupting with Mt. Vesuvius fury and force. It went everywhere. The floor. Her. Me. The tables nearest to us… and possibly even on a few patrons there.
But here’s the thing…. no one shouted or cringed. No one else puked in sympathy or disgust. In fact, in that last row of tables, the only shouts I heard were:
“Can I help you?”
“Do you need help?”
“Here’s more napkins!”
We were running past helpers… not onlookers. All the booths were filled and every eye seemed worried – each face had that empathy that screamed PARENT. We had found the families, and they had been there too. A waiter, oblivious to the oncoming storm, blocked our way. I asked him to move as I was rushing to him, but he must not have heard me. A dad (I can only assume it was a dad – he had that look about him) in the booth behind the waiter, lunged and grabbed the guy’s arm, pulling him back with a shouted “MOVE!”
And then we were in the bathroom. It had taken only seconds to gallop from our table to the restroom, yet those seconds lasted years, for both me and my baby. She was a mess, from top to bottom. Covered, christened and stained with a virus that has now lasted for over five days in my house. We had left a trail of vomit throughout the restaurant and had given staff a job few would envy. After I cleaned up little-bit, I attempted to clean up the bathroom floor, using paper towels far more suited to damp hands than chunks of goo. It was a hopeless endeavor, but I tried.
With the major emergency over, it was time to get her home – but I had some gratitude to share on the way. When we emerged from the bathroom, all eyes in that aisle found us again – and STILL the eyes looked worried instead of nauseous. I thanked people I had never met as we passed, trying to the find words in my mom heart that really expressed what I was feeling in the few seconds I could say them.
I am sure there were those that did react in disgust in those moments – I mean, not everyone can handle fountains of vomit with aplomb. But I didn’t see them, nor hear them. What I saw, heard and felt was a rush of support and concern – the kind only other parents can give. I can only assume the shouted offers of help coming from that row of booths were from fellow parents, or medical professionals. It’s not that I think that ONLY other parents would care in that moment, but it’s the way the help was shouted. There was a tone of ‘been there, done that’ which gives backing to my claim. Regardless… thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
The surprise of support
As I was sharing the tale with my friend the next day she told me how wonderful it was that I found support there, it could have been much worse. She’s right.
And I am so, so grateful that it wasn’t. We found support in the least likely of places, and now, six days, two Urgent Care trips and a thousand loads of laundry later, my heart is still full.
To my fellow parents, thank you.
If you enjoyed this article, please check out some of my other ones!