“Daddy, I don’t feel good. My tummy hurts.”
These are words one never really wants to wake up to from your 6 year old, but truth be told, it was 6am, and the kids and I didn’t have anywhere to be until the PTO-sponsored showing of Muppets Most Wanted at 9:15, so we’re only talking, like, DEFCON 4 here. With my wife out of town for the weekend, this is an easy fix: climb into bed with me and snuggle, and let’s all get some more sleep.
Twenty minutes later, though, we went to DEFCON 3. “Daddy? Daddy, I really don’t feel good. My tummy still hurts.”
“Like, hungry hurts? Or need to poop hurts? Or, like, gonna throw up hurts?”
“Yeah. Like gonna throw up hurts.”
WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP! Alert! Alert! We are at DEFCON 1, I repeat, DEFCON 1! Everyone up, out of the bed, get past the previous puke stain on the carpet to the bathroom, go go go move it move it MOVE IT!
My First Brilliant Foresight was preparing The Bucket — a small trash can with handles lined with a kitchen garbage bag. Ten minutes in front of the toilet went for naught, but thanks to The Bucket, Peter Puke #1 ended up not on the den carpet.
Okay, this is not a drill, we get that now. But, we’ve got a movie to see and $30 already paid for tickets and snack packs, as the first part of the Foley Boys Weekend. Still, my son’s health and well-being should be of the utmost importance, right?
No. I’m a cold-hearted bastard of a dad, apparently, because I kept telling Peter he was okay, and convinced him to suck it up so we could all go to the movies. He wavered several times, since his natural tendency is to always vote for whatever he’s doing right now, but we all made it into the car.
We got about halfway down our street before Peter turned to me and said, “Daddy, I really don’t want to go, my tummy still hurts.” What can you do? Time to abort. I apologized to Jack but said that with Peter really feeling sick, we’d have to see the movie another time.
At this point, the 9-year-old panicked. Tears, sobbing, but-you-saids, the works. I tried to console him as I made my three-point turn. Somewhere between points two and three, Peter, torn apart by seeing Jack like this, sobs, “Okay, okay! I want to go. Let’s try it. Let’s go, Jack.”
It warms my heart how much empathy these brothers have developed for each other.
So here we are, at the movie. Jack is sitting with his friends. Peter is sitting with me, separate from everyone else, “so I don’t get anyone sick.” You got it, buddy. As long as we’re on the aisle. And if you EVER feel like you need to.. you know… let me know and we’re out of here. Don’t worry about the movie, don’t worry about anything, we’ll just go go go.
I figured the movie would be distracting enough to help him get over feeling sick. I brought him a water bottle to sip. He didn’t even touch the popcorn or lemonade. Just sipped, watched, and even occasionally laughed.
Then, about an hour in, he turned to me and made The Face.
You know The Face. The twisted mouth, the raised eyebrows, the look of panic and shame. The I’m-sick-and-I’m-gonna-throw-up-and-get-out-of-my-way Face.
WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP Peter Puke #2 incoming WHOOP WHOOP…. all right Peter let’s go let’s go come on come on right this way go go go…
We stop at the top of the ramp. “You’re not gonna make it are you.” Head shake.
Aha! Let me introduce my Second Brilliant Foresight: the plastic bag stuffed in my back pocket. He threw up what little was in his stomach right there, in the back of the theater, in my plastic bag. Then we walked to the restroom, him holding the plastic bag up like a horse feeder. Which is good, because that meant he caught probably 95% of the second upchuck, ten feet in front of the bathroom.
Worst. Dad. Ever.
That’s all I could think as I hung out in the bathroom while Peter regained his composure. I coerced him into coming. I should have known better. “I want to go home, Daddy.” I know, son, I know. Let me figure out how to extricate Jack.
But when we got back in the movie theater, the distraction kicked in again. “I want to try one more time, Daddy. One more time.” You’re the boss, bud. I’m out of plastic bags, though, so this is for all the marbles. (That was a lie, though: I was armed with my emergency backup half-full popcorn bag in a pinch. You ever catch yourself thinking: if this plane goes down, or if I fall into this alligator exhibit, or if a bomb goes off in this building, this is how I’m going to survive? This was one of those desperate survival moments.)
We made it through the movie. Jack and I thanked Peter about a hundred times for sticking it out with us. I hoped that I had quarantined Peter enough to not magically infect everyone’s kids.
The rest of the day was penance for my decision-making. Peter napped for about 3 hours while Jack played Minecraft for just as long. Nevertheless, we watched favorite shows together, played iPad games together, and otherwise huddled up for most of a rainy sick Saturday indoors. A failed dinner attempt led to Peter Puke #3, right before bed, but once again in The Bucket — whew!
Before bed, I reminded Peter how to avoid another puke stain on our carpet. If you have to throw up, throw up in The Bucket first, and then come find me — not the other way around. Still, sleep for me may be tough. After all, you ever try to swing a golf club waiting for the Peter-Puke-#4-Gotcha?