A night of pukes
Be forewarned: I say the word “puke” a lot in this one.
It started with a tummyache, shortly after dinner. This is, on most nights, how Kina tells us she needs to go to the bathroom, but a visit to the potty yielded no meaningful result. After her goodnight kiss, more complaints of a bothered tummy, which probing suggested was likely constipation. We offered Kina the standard guidance on post-sleep poops, and Laurea and I made our way off to bed.
Three hours later, the pukes began, as they did the last time she got sick, over a month ago, but with more projectile vigor and drama. I’ve stripped both our beds in the last twenty-four hours, have cleaned the entire bathroom four times, put the kid through as many sets of pajamas, and am currently running a huge load of laundry in the basement. She will, to be clear—and this goes out especially to her grandparents—be fine.
Still, you really do hate to see it. All day, when she wasn’t gamely vomiting into my extended palms (a service I have never performed for anybody else in my life), Kina was poised glumly on the edge of the couch, draped in a cozy blanket and clutching her beloved Baby Rainbow Cat. I can always tell when Kina’s actually sick, because she is willing to cuddle with me for longer than it takes to watch a music video on my phone, and I spent a long time with her today on the corner of that couch, her little head pressed against my chest. There is nothing more bittersweet than comforting a pukey little kid.
Hannah and I tag-teamed every cleanup today: cleaning up floors, washing her hair, changing the pajamas. At one point, we agreed that puking is among the body’s worst rebellions—you can’t read through it, sleep through it, watch TV through it, or feed it. It is punishment that your own body metes out, and—like a migraine—it specifically demands your attention. “I hate to puke, Daddy,” said Kina later, “even more than you do. I hate it the most of everybody.”
This makes sense, in that—unlike me—she does not know when this will end. And she’s only just gotten to understand her relationship to it. When she was a baby, Kina and her puke acted in concert. As she grew, she came to be confused by it, which scared her. Now, though, she knows what her four-year-old body is, that it belongs to her, and that it has its own behaviors; she knows, in short, that this thing that is hers—is her—is rebelling against her. This time, it feels to her like she’s being betrayed by a good friend.
I watched my own kid today put her hands on the edge of the toilet bowl and groan in annoyance at herself as she emptied her stomach. It was a sad sight, as it always is when Kina’s sick or achy or disappointed, and I wished intensely that I could switch places with her. Let me take this one, I wanted to tell her, because I know how it goes; I’ve been there, kid—and depending on what it was that got you sick, I may well be there soon, when we can be annoyed at our bodies together. I got you. You’re safe. I’ll clean you up.