I’ve got three kids who’ve all had the pox. That includes twins who’ve succumbed twice ( I didn’t know that was possible either but they’re amazing at finding new ways to make our lives more interesting). The first time it came and went, luring us into a false sense of security, the second it was an apocalypse of scratching and sleeplessness. So I know what it’s like to do battle with the virus and the emotions you’ll go through when it strikes.
Stage 1: Denial
There are challenges every new parent will, in all likelihood, face: the nappy explosion miles from home (which is where you left the wet wipes), the exorbitant cost of petting zoos, the child who will only eat bread sticks. Chickenpox is another. And it’s so disruptive to everyday life it’s tempting to deny it’s even happening, despite mounting evidence.
Every child within a 10-mile radius may have had the virus. They may all have sneezed repeatedly on your daughter at school. But that suspiciously high fever, the one that’s come on really quickly? Just a cold, she’ll be fine in no time.
Stage 2: More denial
Here come the spots. But are they actual chickenpox spots or just one of the many rashes sent to terrify parents on a weekly basis? You’re going with a harmless heat rash that in no way means she needs to miss nursery.
Stage 3: Acceptance
She’s been sent home from nursery – the manager’s raised eyebrows suggesting they weren’t convinced you had “no idea what they could be”. It’s time to face your fears like the adult you are… by putting the kettle on and opening a pack of chocolate digestives. Once you’ve polished those off you’ll be ready to rearrange your schedule around a strict quarantine regime for your infectious offspring.
Stage 4: Sympathy
The little buggers are sprouting up everywhere and in the most annoying places. Your child resembles a human-shaped polka dot towel. They’re itching, they can’t sleep, you’ve slathered them in enough ointment to fill a small oil tanker and watching them in such discomfort is breaking your heart. You’re also quite upset you’ve had to cancel all your plans.
Stage 5: Exhaustion
When a child is ill, all they want to do is cuddle up in bed with mummy or daddy. So cute. Also annoying. Especially when, even at the best of times, sharing a bed with that child involves being kicked in the face all night. Add a wakeful chickenpox-riddled toddler into the mix and these are truly the worst of times for those who need a solid eight hours.
It’ll remind you of the mind-fuddling sleep-deprivation you experienced when a newborn was in the house. You’ll go to the kitchen for a cup of tea and come back with a packet of spaghetti, you’ll put your smartphone in your pocket and then spend hours looking for it. At some point you might start wondering what chickenpox has to do with chickens – I’ve asked around and nobody seems to know.
Stage 6: Claustrophobia
You’ve got a biohazard on your hands, you can’t go anywhere. At the start of the, usually week-long, enforced hibernation, the thought of a few days on the sofa bingeing on Peppa Pig is quite appealing. But by day four you’re starting to suffer hallucinations that involve everybody you know turning into Miss Rabbit and forcing you to eat carrots for breakfast.
You crave the sweet smell of fresh air and the stimulation of adult conversation, hell you’ll settle for talking to someone over the age of five who isn’t related to you. To complicate matters, your child is starting to feel better and suddenly has lots and lots of energy, which they can only burn off by using you as a climbing frame. You plan to tunnel out Shawshank Redemption-style.
Stage 7: Relief
The spots have finally scabbed over – the end is in sight! Ironically your little ’un now looks more diseased than ever, which is why when you venture to soft play you make it very clear, in your loudest I’m-not -shouting voice, that “THEY’VE SCABBED, THEY’VE DEFINITELY SCABBED OVER. THEY’RE NOT CONTAGIOUS”. Even though nobody asked.
But give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve leaped another parenting hurdle and survived. Bring on the next one!