Up until this week we have been very fortunate when it comes to the health of our children, Mary and Wilf (I do sometimes wonder why I gave my children names that make them sound like members of a crown green bowls team or volunteers at a National Trust property – ‘our guides Mary and Wilfred will now explain the history of the Chinese garden which we’re very proud of here at Biddulph Grange’).
Other than an eye infection and the time I had to take Mary to the doctors because she had ‘sore fingers’, they’ve not had any problems.
This sore finger incident I’ve never actually written about before, because my mother – who tends to be dramatic about things – told me if I did social services would take my children off me, which if I’m being honest, isn’t an entirely unattractive proposition.
What happened was this. My mum comes round on Tuesdays to look after Mary and on this particular occasion went straight upstairs to the loo after arriving. This isn’t unusual. Much as three-quarters of planet earth is under water, my mother spends 75 per cent of her life with her bottom attached to a toilet seat. ‘Ooo Steven,’ she’ll start the conversation pretty much every time I call on the phone, ‘my IBS is bad today. I’ve barely been out of the lavatory since I got in from bridge.’
I was running late so shouted up the stairs, ‘just heading to work mum, Mary will be fine on her own for a few minutes. Bye.’
As I went to leave, Mary followed me. “Sorry sweetheart, daddy got to go now,” I said, gave her a kiss, and firmly closed the door.
I walked down the path and heard her sobbing. “Aww,” I thought, “how sweet. She can’t cope with the thought of me leaving.”
The crying got louder – I was pleased; it showed how much she loves me and how upset she gets when I’m not there – and then I got in my car, put some Simon and Garfunkel on, and drove off.
Forty seconds into the journey my phone rang. It was my mother.
“Hi mum,” I answered breezily. “Mary was really upset when I left wa…”
‘STEVEN!’ interjected my mother with panic in her voice. ‘YOU TRAPPED HER HAND IN THE DOOR.’
In the background I could hear Mary screaming with an intensity I’d not heard since the day I refused to give her another Farley’s Rusk AND switched off Paw Patrol.
It turns out when I’d left the house, Mary had put her fingers in the door as I shut it. Furthermore I’d then listened to her start sobbing and walked off. I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a recommended parenting technique in any chapter of The Good Fathering Guide.
‘Her fingers are so swollen and red,’ bellowed my mother. ‘I’m running them under the cold water tap.’ Then she added, just in case I didn’t feel bad enough already, ‘How could you do this to her?’
I began to imagine the court proceedings. ‘So Mr Canavan, your daughter’s right hand had to be amputated. Can you explain how the accident occurred?’ “Erm, well, your honour, I slammed the front door hard on her hand, got in the car, and then started singing along to Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Thankfully all turned out ok and there were no broken bones or lasting damage. But understandably I’ve not told that story to many people, so I’d appreciate it if you could keep it between you and I.
But back to the start of this column – healthwise we’ve been lucky. Till now.
I drove to my sister’s the other day. As usual I’d spent the majority of the journey singing nursery rhymes with Mary. (There isn’t a nursery rhyme I don’t know. If ever I go on Mastermind it’s going to be my specialist subject – ‘What instrument was the cat playing when the cow jumped over the moon?’ Fiddle. ‘Who takes Polly’s kettle off the hob? Sukey. ‘Well, Mr Canavan, I’m pleased to say you scored a maximum 21 points.’ Cue huge applause from the audience and a nod of respect from John Humphrys).
Seconds after switching off the car engine, Wilf started crying. I glanced over my shoulder at his car seat and saw my son covered beneath a quite horrific deluge of vomit. It was like something out of a particularly graphic horror movie. There was slimy white liquid all over his clothes, his car seat and much of the surrounding area. It was a tsunami of sick.
I did what any grown man would do and ran to get my sister. She came out, started wretching, said, ‘sorry, sick’s the one thing I can’t deal with’ and disappeared.
I spent 40 minutes stripping Wilf, putting him in the bath, handwashing his clothes and cleaning the back seat of the car.
Clean-up operation complete, 20 minutes later – at the very moment I picked him up and was touching my nose against his while saying the words, ‘there there Wilf, are you feeling better?’ – he spewed up again.
It went all over me and some dear reader went in my mouth. That’s right. My own son vomited into my mouth. There have been many many low points in my life but this was by some distance the lowest.
“Oh. My. God,” I said, trying not to throw up.
‘Stay there while I take a picture,’ remarked my sister helpfully, while laughing. I resisted a very strong urge to punch her in the face.
Wilf vomited five more times before bed. By the end of it I was so adept in sick-cleaning I feel I could now apply for a job as a professional vomit remover.
Fortunately all seems fine now, but the car may never smell the same again.