5 ways a sick toddler puts life into perspective

We were hit with the trifecta this weekend: sick daddy, sick Tuna and…”The Haze”.

The last of these, while sounding more like a cheesy horror/sorority movie, is an actual thing with which those of us living in Singapore have become all too familiar. Essentially, the air outside becomes horrible to breathe due to forest fires in Indonesia and the winds that very kindly blow them our way. You’ll recognise the more paranoid amongst us as we constantly refresh the same trusty website on our smartphones – “how high are the PM2.5 levels now?!” So what ends up happening is we all stay indoors, cooped up, with our air conditioners and purifiers on maximum levels.

That sounds like exactly how toddlers, and their respective parents, would probably love to spend their weekends! I hear you saying. Yep. No really. It’s a dream. The minute you hear whisperings of “The Haze is back…” you genuinely start to fear for your and your child(ren)’s sanity because all usually viable options for getting energy out, and keeping cabin fever at bay, are limited, nay, destroyed.

Did I mention that it was a *long* weekend this weekend? Oh yes. Three. Long. Days.

So Tuna came down with a little cold/cough combo a couple of days ago, which is life, I get it. But the minute I hear that stuffy, congested sound when she’s woken up four times during the hour after going to bed, the dread sets in. This dread is maybe more powerful than the dread of “The Haze” (I do enjoy capitalising that and putting it in quotes – try to imagine ominous horror movie music immediately after that phrase… it works, right?!). I’ve decided that apart from building my little sweetie’s immune system, childhood illnesses are also here to teach parents to step back, and just be grateful for the non-sick status quo. You know, the little things that we would perhaps never think to appreciate. 

1. Sleeping reliably for more than 2.5 hours at a time is a beautiful thing.  I’ll be the first to admit it – after a long day, there is that peace and relief that sets in: Tuna is safely and comfortably asleep in her cot; A emerges from her room looking decidedly triumphant; he shuts the door gingerly so as not to wake her, but secretly wants to do a little dance and jump for joy. Of course we typically miss her within 12-18 minutes of her being asleep, but that’s beside the point. My darling Tuna was a little late to the “let’s sleep for at least a 4-hour stretch” party, so for us, once she started sleeping a little longer at around 8 or 9 months old, we thought it was the best thing since baby wipes (which are magical creations, as you may well know). She then went into the phase of sometimes sleeping through the night, and at worst, waking up once needing a cuddle – or more often these days, to monopolise our bed and claim it as her own. Ahhh….those days (last week) when I would lament having to bring her into bed with me and get kicked in the face and/or stomach. I didn’t know what I was talking about. But of course, just like us, sick babies get cranky and uncomfortable and can’t sleep because they can’t breathe and just generally feel yucky. So we get to be their middle-of-the-night soothers that help them get back to sleep. I find myself waiting each night that she’s still sniffling – is tonight going to be the night? Are we past that hump yet? Please, please, PLEASE.

2. Not having someone else’s saliva and/or snot streaked somewhere on your person. This one is self-explanatory. I am a self-confessed hygiene freak, and yes, motherhood has taken that down about twenty-five notches, but I’m not fully reformed yet. You know that feeling when your sweet little one is coming at you for a “please-make-me-feel-better” hug (bless them) but all you can see is that sheen in the lower nasal area, making its way to your shirt – or worse, mouth.

3. The panic of being anywhere without a stash of tissues. This is similar to the panic of being anywhere without baby wipes – but that’s just silly. No parent would consciously do that to themselves. We stockpile baby wipes at our place – and once we get to dangerously low levels of say, three full packets only, you bet I’m ordering more in bulk. But tissues? Nah, they’re overrated. Not a must-have in the old diaper bag. But when you realise that these tiny humans don’t have our adult powers of nasal control to just “hold it in” a little longer, you find that you are asking your significant other (who is all better now, by the way) where the tissues are approximately every four minutes. I’m sure he enjoyed that this weekend.

4. Keeping up with your kid’s social life. Tuna is a social butterfly. She loves being with people. She loves her friends. Heck, I love her friends, and their moms (who are my friends – I swear, my social life {albeit only between the hours of 8am and 7.30pm} has dramatically improved since she was born!). We need our mama-toddler network to make it through the week. But when you have a sick baby – yep, you guessed it, bye-bye play dates! As if it’s not bad enough that your little one is sick and no one is getting any sleep. To top it off, you have now drastically cut down your available activities to 10% of the usual range. Don’t get me wrong – I am hilariously entertaining and Tuna will tell you that I do a wonderful reindition of her latest favourite hit “Flutterby Butterfly”, but guys, Mama is tired. Play dates may have been the one thing that could have gotten us through this weekend in light of “The Haze” – but instead, her two dates were recovering-from-illness Papa and pregnant-and-I-need-to-lie-down Mama. What a dynamic duo.

5. Having an identifiable reason 90% (okay, maybe 80%) of the time your toddler cries. This is actually supposed to be framed as a positive statistic. It’s true though, isn’t it? Most of the time, you can figure out what’s troubling them, and can find a way to fix it. But when Tuna wakes up half an hour into her nap, crying and inconsolable, it actually is one of the most stressful feelings I feel as her mother. I’m used to being able to almost always get her to stop crying, even if I haven’t figured out exactly what’s bothering her. Although today did remind me of that website which posts memes of children crying with captions as to why they’re crying, which is hilarious. By way of example, this weekend we’ve had meltdowns with the following captions:

  • My parents are hugging.
  • Mama put my baby doll on the dining table next to me while I was eating my snack.
  • There is a watermelon seed on my finger.
  • I have woken up from my nap and Mama is hugging me.

All in all, we did okay this weekend. We survived. I’m travelling alone with Tuna on Tuesday so I’m hoping she’s almost fully recovered by then – otherwise our plane-mates are in for quite a treat.

The highlight of this weekend though, which I have to share, was definitely this afternoon when I was giving Tuna a big squeezie hug and kiss, and when she declared to me (for the first time!) “I love you!”. To be fair, it sounded more like “Ah-dav-oo!” but every little part of me just crumbled into a million pieces. As far as I’m concerned, nothing sweeter has ever been said by anyone.

Ah-dav-oo too, baby girl. And yes, you can freely rub your snot on me this time and I won’t even care.   

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