Mammy can make all the difference

When I was wee, and I got sick, life was simple. My mammy would make a bed for me on the sofa - my pillow from upstairs and a large blue cellular type blanket would be laid out and I would be tucked in.

She would sit close to me while I slept, or cried, or whined, or boked. She never seemed to flinch, no matter how sick I was or how I looked. She just seemed effortlessly, always calm. And her hands were always cool and soft.

One of my siblings would be despatched to the shop for a big bottle of Lucozade - wrapped in orange cellophane, which was a treat strictly reserved for the very sick indeed. Toast would be offered when necessary - barley sugars when not absolutely necessary but as a much needed wee treat.

I would lie on the sofa, being checked up as I dozed in and out of sleep , often waking to find my mother stroking my hair or checking my temperature. We didn’t have a need for a thermometer. My mother had three levels of measurement, all based on the reading her hand would take from your forehead or the back of your neck. The first was “You’re grand”. The second was “A wee bit warm” and the third was “Burning up”. The first and the second were considered not that serious - the third was a case for stripping you down to your smalls and dosing you with Junior Aspirin.

It was horrible being sick - but your mammy made it all better and there was always something extra nice about getting a wee day on the sofa and the undivided attention of the woman you cared most for in the world.

For the past two weeks, our house has been the house of the sick. Both kids have had tonsilitis. The boy, well he just gets on with things. He could be dying on his feet and still want to go to football and run about the house. The girl however - there was never a picture of misery like it. The tonsilitis knocked her for six and the heavy cold which followed, knocked her square for seven.

So I became the mammy, sitting on the end of the sofa, offering a pillow and a blanket and trying to reassure her she would be fine. I became the mammy who tried not to flinch as she was sick, who allowed her to be sick on me if that is what it took to get her comfortable and who has sat up into the wee small hours watching over her.

That’s not to say the husband hasn’t been helpful but the girl has developed a limpet like tendency to her mammy and that’s fair enough. When I’m sick - and I’m 35 and very much a grown up - there is a part of me that only wants my mammy too.

So entire days have passed on that sofa - the strains of Mickey Mouse’s Club House ringing in my ears, the pleading with her to take her medicine to help make her better and the feeling of her head to measure the level of hotness.

At the same time I think back to my mother - how she showed her concern but not her worry - and I wonder if I’m managing that. I wonder if she will look back at these times and think of how in control I seemed because even though it is only a heavy cold - even though it is a virus and will pass I can’t help but feel shaky myself when her temperature has soared and we’ve struggled to get it down.

And I’ve realised a big part of being a nursemaid to your children involves just being there when you can. It’s not about Calpol, or digital thermometers or visits to the doctor. It is about holding a sick child in your arms and rocking them to sleep.

It’s about saying “shush” softly approximately 364 times until they drift off. It’s about holding their hand all night if necessary and willing them to get better with every fibre of your being. It is, at times, about being so tired you could cry but wanting to stay awake anyway just to make sure your child’s temperature doesn’t creep up again. It is about allowing yourself to be used as a human tissue - take whatever wiped noses you can on your best clothes and still smile.

And it is about never, ever showing that you feel even a tiny bit nauseous as you clean up sick. (Although in my house, that is absolutely where my husband and his year experience working on boats comes into play. Sick does not faze him in the slightest).

There are many, many joys which come with parenting. Looking after a child when you wish with all your heart they were well again isn’t one of them. But to know you make a difference, that you can comfort your child with the touch of your hand or the soothing tone of your voice - that is its own reward.