London - We had an unwelcome visitor at home this week. No, not the elf on the shelf (who watches naughty offspring and reports back to Santa) or the world’s rudest delivery man, who’s been grumpily leaving next-door’s pressies with us every ten minutes.
Nope, worse than that, we’ve had the most hideous house guest of them all - the winter superbug.
I should have known what was coming after Mabel’s accident in the bath on Friday (there are some things you never want to catch in a plastic cup and that, dear reader, is one of them).
The following morning, just as we were to set off for a pre-Christmas visit to our West Country rellies, the 18-month-old vomited up everything she’s ever eaten in her short time on this planet. Everything.
And so it went on for another 24 hours. Mr Candy left and took the other three out of the contamination zone.
“Save yourselves,” I murmured angrily as they drove off, their little faces pressed against the window like a scene from an Armageddon blockbuster starring Will Smith.
Mabel and I fought a valiant battle with the winter virus, but we lost. The numbers were against us - it affects more than one million people a year, after all, so who were we to think we could beat it?
As my little one lay fragile and floppy on the smelly kitchen sofa, which will finally have to be replaced, I regretted the fact that baked beans had been her last full meal. Let that be a lesson to new parents - avoid anything containing tomatoes after October. You can thank me later.
Ten years ago, when my first child was this ill, we nearly called an ambulance. It didn’t seem possible that something so small could produce so much liquid and still be alive.
The speed with which they go from being rosy cheeked to deathly pale and back to rosy cheeked again is a medical mystery. It caught us by surprise initially, but now we’re used to it.
In fact, I feel proud of our panic-free approach. Our parental endurance in the face (sometimes quite literally) of unpleasant situations is impressive.
Put it this way: if you ever need a duo on your side in a torture situation, then me and Mr Candy are your best bet. We’d make good spies. We’ve been sleep- deprived for nearly a decade and cleared up many unmentionable excretions (children and dog) often without access to rubber gloves and/or on the side of the motorway in the pouring rain.
We cannot be humiliated or tested any further and this makes us brave in the face of physical adversity.
And the day my six-year-old nearly broke my nose when he spontaneously vomited on me as I picked him up means that, apart from being in labour I have experienced a level of pain that would floor most would-be James Bonds. MI5 would be proud to have me or my husband in the force.
Personally, I think it’s a shame that these hard-earned parental skills aren’t valued outside the home, that they aren’t assets you can put on your CV unless you were entering the medical or childcare professions.
If you’d asked me before I had children whether I could do any of the above, I’d have said no.
And if you’d asked my mom, she’d definitely have said no. But now I’m a mother, I am made of tougher stuff.
Anyway, Mabel recovered slowly and by Monday winter flu had taken over where the superbug had left off.
I was so germ-ridden I believe I resembled the Gruffalo’s ugly relative as I trooped to work desperate to finish everything in time for Christmas.
We are going away for the first time ever, packing Christmas in a suitcase like migrating snails.
And as my mind runs through the ever elongating mental to-do list, I can only pray that in the debit/credit world of motherhood, getting this illness the weekend before Christmas means we’ll be free from germs on the big day.
This is, of course, wishful thinking when you are a family of six, four of whom have questionable hygiene habits. - Daily Mail
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of ELLE magazine.