Last week my mom came for a long visit. She planned to help get David to and from the bus stop, cook lots of delicious food, and spend a lot, lot of time holding her grandbaby.
It also happened to be her birthday, so we hung decorations, made cards, and baked her a very mediocre gluten-free cake with sparkler birthday candles.
What she didn’t know, was that while we were celebrating, the stomach bug was gathering firewood and pitching tents on every flat surface of our home.
As soon as the first person got sick, my mom had a decision to make. She could flee, and hope she wasn’t already contaminated. Or she could stay and help me. She chose the latter.
One by one we got sick. Instead of doing crafts, reading books, and discussing Prince Harry’s recent engagement, my mom and I spent the week cleaning partially digested food out of every carpet and crevice in my home. Because, turns out, none of our kids have reached the “vomit into an appropriate receptacle” age.
It occurred to me, as I wrapped my ailing children in blankets on the couch and told them, “HERE IS YOUR BUCKET!” I never took time to explain what the bucket was for. It’s like the time I was lecturing David for not being generous. And when I was done he said, “But, Mommy. I don’t even know what ‘generous’ means!”
You have to explain the role of the bucket in their life.
“See this? This is for vomit. Put vomit in this.”
“Mommy? What does ‘vomit’ mean?”
Oh, and make sure the word “vomit” is in their vocabulary! The stomach bug is such a learning opportunity!
I tried everything I could to contain germs, even though while Mary Virginia was throwing up, Thomas grabbed the spoon she’d just been using, and finished her breakfast.
At the height of it I had a nightmare about someone bringing a sick child to my house, and I was muttering about hand-washing in my sleep, “Did you wash your hands? But did you wash them WELL?”
It took all week, my mom’s entire visit, for the stomach bug to work its way through everyone, but it felt like much longer. When it was time for her to leave, with our normal “Goodbye” and “I love you” I added one last, heartfelt, “I’m so, so sorry.” Then we didn’t hug because, germs.
On the bright side, think of all the money we saved on groceries!
(Happy birthday, Mom. Sorry we gave you the stomach bug. You’re the best.)