I CAN tell you if my child has a temperature without a thermometer. But if I did use a thermometer, I’d probably forget what the average temp is anyway.
If I see dark circles under their eyes or notice behavioural changes, I’ll disguise a quick forehead check with a brush of their fringe or press my face against them.
I don’t know if this is gut instinct, mother’s intuition or a a load of bullshit… it’s how I do it.
Frankly I don’t care if you think that makes me an incompetent mother because I rocked it in a crisis last week.
When my son woke up coughing – hacking – I didn’t know it was croup. I didn’t know what croup sounded like at all.
All I knew was he was fighting for breath and I wasn’t going to fuck around. Speeding to the hospital, he started to sound better and I considered turning back at the round-about.
I was glad I didn’t because his coughing returned as I sprinted, him in my arms, through the hospital carpark.
My decision was further validated when the triage nurse ushered me straight through the waiting room to the emergency ward before I could even utter a word.
Phew, I thought, I’m not over-reacting, this IS serious.
And then I realised… this is SERIOUS.
He was experiencing severe respiratory distress. He was growing pale. His chest was concave, he was working so hard to suck in air. I had stopped watching him to focus on the road, on getting him into emergency, on getting help.
He uttered two words: “what’s happening?”. Meeting his eyes, I calmly told him he had croup, that these people would help and he must do as he was told.
Now, there’s a certain point when you realise the fragility of the human state. As three doctors and two nurses shouted a litany of words I didn’t understand, I panicked briefly at the possibility that they might not stop this; as you do when the professionals look worried.
But he came good and only then did I let tears streak my face.
“You’re braver than I am,” I told him – boosting his morale while distracting myself from The Fear. You know the one. The “my life revolves around this little person right here” fear.
It was intense. It was an experience I was incredibly ill-equipped for but I did the right thing. Just one of so many things you can’t know about parenting – the decisions and consequences you’ll have to make and accept – the things you’ll never see coming.
My only clue that croup was coming was a runny nose. That’s it.
And now, though I’ve had barely any sleep, I’ll lie awake listening for a cough. Listening for the sound of their breathing.
Thanking God for whatever it was that stopped me from making a u-turn at that round-about and taking him home.
What’s been your “I got that right” parenting moment?