"I don't want to jinx it," says my wife, "but we haven't been there in a while."
She's pointing towards Warwick Hospital as we drive past, the scene of many visits in our six or so years of being parents. We've found ourselves within the walls of its wards with each of our children at some point: there was the time Isaac had some kind of bowel infection, or when Noah broke his arm, or when Jemima got gastroenteritis. I shudder to think how many hours we have spent in A&E with a sick or injured child.
My wife has jinxed it, of course, because that's how cruel the universe can be, and so now it's simply a case of waiting for the next time one of the children contracts an illness or thinks he's Superman and jumps head-first onto the patio (I'm looking at you, Noah), and we're rushing down to hospital.
The thing is, as a parent you worry - not just about the welfare of your child, but how you are perceived by the hospital staff. Due to the many illnesses and injuries we've experienced over the years, the NHS must have a medical file on us the thickness of three Harry Potter novels.
Combine this with every parent's worst nightmare: that somehow your child will be taken away from you through some form of injustice, that one day there'll be a knock at the door and a social worker will just drive your children off in a van, or something, when you've not done anything wrong. The result is a cocktail of irrational concerns which panics you more than anything.
This cocktail results in us feeling guilty whenever we take our children to hospital, especially after they've injured themselves; not because we should be feeling guilty - we'd never lay a finger on our children - but because you can't help it. It's the kind of scared guilt you feel when the man at the airport asks if you're carrying anything illegal in your luggage; you know you're not, but you're so worried that you're overcompensating with your innocent shake of the head that he's going to somehow think you're lying.
The full force of the law should come down on those parents who beat or otherwise abuse their children. I think I just worry too much, so that when I'm explaining to the doctor that Jemima burnt her arm because she pulled a cup of tea over herself, he's somehow thinking that I'm lying, even though I'm not.
I'll never let this irrational fear stop me from taking my children to the hospital if they need to: but, as a parent, the cocktail of concern never leaves - and it doesn't bear thinking about.
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