Kids throw up, yo. Sometimes, they do it in a much more casual way than adults – the “I’ve been running around a bit” kind of vomit where a tummyful of food just effortlessly exits them and they carry on with their day.
But often, they also do giant, house-redecorating, exorcist-style pukes. Terrifying projectile regurgitation that becomes your responsibility as soon as it departs their body.
It’s a carrot-flecked learning curve – and here are the things you’ll only know if you’ve been there, done that.
1. There’s Vomit, And There’s VOMIT.
Baby sick, just like baby poo, is harmless. It’s just milk, and milk is pretty much just water, so it’s fine. Toddler sick, however, just like toddler poo, is a different kettle of fish. It’s the same as grown-up sick and grown-up poo, so whatever they’ve been eating – a kettle of fish, say – is a lot chunkier and more noxious when returned to the outside world than the adorable little ralphs they used to produce.
2. Kids Don’t Always Get It.
My daughter spent most of last week throwing up everything she ate or drank – often onto me. She’s only little (20 months), and didn’t quite know what was happening. She’d suddenly get all whimpery, hurl everywhere, and say: “Spit out! Spit out!” in a sad little voice. Bless her. I have too much respect for her privacy to mention whether, at any point, she looked at some vomit glistening on the back of her hand and tried licking it up, necessitating a Matrix-style leap across the room on my part to intervene.
3. It Gets Everywhere, That Stuff.
Have you ever thumbed ‘upchuck’ out of the holes in your belt? I have! It’s colossally disgusting. It would be satisfying if the sick were a bit more substantial, and came out retaining the hole’s shape, like pressing Play-Doh through a mould. But it isn’t, it’s sick – and you have sick on your thumb, and there’s also still sick on your belt, and your trousers, and your life, and your world. Similarly, attempting to polish the yak out of a squirming toddler’s ear after they’ve rolled around in it (like the bit in Pitch Perfect where Lilly Onakuramura does a ‘puke angel’) is not fun for anybody.
4. Sick Lingers In The Air.
Few things make you feel a worse parent than dropping your toddler off at nursery and having to apologise for her whiffing of honk. “I washed her hair, but she still smells,” you stammer, telling the truth but feeling like a liar, certain the police are about to turn up and throw you in Parent Jail for not having time to give her a second bath.
5. The Aftermath Is Nastier Than The Main Event.
While your child is throwing up, you’re not that disgusted, because you’re concerned about your little one and making sure everything that needs to come out, comes out – and that they don’t choke, and you can give them a cuddle to reassure them. But once they’ve finished, you’re the one who has to deal with the spew that’s left over, the spew you’ve just cuddled into your jumper and beard. The panic and fear come to an end, and there’s just a cooling pool of vomit that grows more disgusting with every second that passes.
6. Cleaning Vomit Is... Bad.
About 30 seconds after stuffing barf-covered sheets into the washing machine in the dead of night, it might occur to you that maybe you could’ve done something with the vomit beforehand. What, though? Spraying it off with the shower head would have just led to a drain full of sick. Scraping it off with a butter knife would probably result in more vomiting from you. And going outside whirling the sheets around your head to clear the biggest chunks almost certainly counts as antisocial behaviour. Better to just stuff ’em in and get ’em done, right? Sure, for now. But later on, you have the unique experience of lifting incredibly clean slivers of partly-digested food out of your washing machine. “Ooh,” you think. “That piece of mince is in surprisingly good condition.”
7. Sometimes You Have To Jump In Front Of The Bullet.
When there’s a load in the washing machine, a pile of sicked-on sheets and clothes waiting to go in there next, a pillow with two kilos of guts in it and some unwell pre-purge whimpering coming from your child, Operation Human Shield feels like a good idea. “It’s easier to wash my body than the carpet!” you think, hugging your toddler as the contents of their stomach flow down your bare back. Later, as you clean chunder from your own bum, you wonder whether you are even still a person.