• Whether a child is too sick to be taken to kindergarten, school or, more pointedly, dumped at a birthday party or playdate, is a regular dilemma. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
There are codes of conduct when it comes to childhood illness and interactions with others. Ian Rose pushes the boundaries, and makes a plea for clemency.
By
Ian Rose

8 Apr 2016 - 11:56 AM  UPDATED 8 Apr 2016 - 11:56 AM

There’s a lot of grey area when it comes to parenting protocols. The playground, for instance, is a minefield of etiquette challenges, my own children’s typically contrarian preference for climbing a slide, regardless of how many fellow users are waiting to descend the thing, a case in point.

I suspect it’s my place to point out the error of their ways for the greater good, but I hate to quell their spirit of subversion.

The greyest of grey areas, though, is that of illness. Whether a child is too sick to be taken to kindergarten, school or, more pointedly, dumped at a birthday party or playdate, is a regular dilemma.

I thought I had last Wednesday all worked out. It’s the Victorian school holidays, always a bind, but this time my bases seemed to be covered. Our pre-schooler son was booked into childcare, his regular, once-a-week gig (one that he loathes, but we’ve decided it’s character-building), while his first-grader sister was due to visit a local buddy for some first-grader kicks, affording me three or four hours of precious peace and quiet in which to get some work done, or else to sit giggling maniacally at my own good fortune. A sweet deal. Or so I thought.

Whether a child is too sick to be taken to kindergarten, school or, more pointedly, dumped at a birthday party or playdate, is a regular dilemma. 

“I’ve got a tummy-ache,” announced the boy, as soon as he heard it was child-care day. There was no way I was falling for that one.

“Come on, eat your toast, that’ll make you feel better,” I advised, unwavering, business-like, no-nonsense. After some standard protestation and a tantrum registering five or six on the Elton John-scale, I got him dressed and ready for action before his eight-thirty lift arrived (I don’t drive, as I have the hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness of a sandwich).

Twenty minutes later, just as I had the other one ready for our playdate-bound bus journey, I got the call from the mum who’d picked him up.

“Sorry, he said he felt sick, so childcare won’t take him. I have to drop him back with you.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” I replied, internalising expletives, “I’m really sorry for your trouble.”

At this point I was still convinced he was faking it. It took me by surprise, then, when five minutes into the bus journey on which I was now obliged to drag him, he vomited all over himself.

Realising that the poor boy was genuinely ill, and that I had left the house with only three teeny-weeny tissues upon my person, I was struck with a devastating combo of horror and guilt.

Having done my best to mop up his chunky mess with my tiny tissues and yelled my apologies to the driver, I disembarked from the bus, a child at either hand. And so began the ten-minute walk to my daughter’s buddy’s house, venue for a playdate I was too obstinate (irresponsible?) to cancel.

Realising that the poor boy was genuinely ill, and that I had left the house with only three teeny-weeny tissues upon my person, I was struck with a devastating combo of horror and guilt.

The boy, of course, refused point blank to take a single step, and so, in classic dad-style, I hoisted him up onto my shoulders, forgetting that his jeans were sodden with chunder until they were clamped around my neck.

Perhaps my arrival at the doorstep of a fellow parent whom I hardly knew, with a bilious child slumped over my head, the unmistakable odour of stale puke about us, could be construed in some quarters as crossing a line.

It’s true that the look on Mrs Playdate’s face, as she opened the door to our motley crew, passed in an instant from welcoming smile to abject terror, but, in my defence, my little girl was the very picture of good health (though the embarrassed expression she wore belied her tender years), and it wasn’t absolutely inevitable, was it, that she would be carrying the same nasty microbe that had waylaid her brother?

And maybe it would have been magnanimous of me to have refused her husband’s offer of a lift home for me and my queasy boy, given the very real possibility of further upchuck episode, but the alternative (the walk back to the bus-stop, maybe the same bus-driver?) didn’t bear thinking about.

In the end, we were driven home without unpleasantness. No-one else in our family, or theirs, got sick, no thanks to me. The boy got better, and I may even have struck up the beginnings of a friendship with the parents, who were amused by my plight.

And if billionaires and corporations can get away with working the grey areas, taxwise, I figure a slack dad can be cut, well...some slack.

What’s the verdict?

More from Ian
It's so funny (how we don't talk anymore...)
It’s the talking that makes the relationship. And finding the time or energy to talk about anything but kids, once you have them, is a tall order. Ian Rose misses the gossip.
I took my 5-year-old to a self-regulation class
Unsure whether his five year-old son’s propensity to lose his cool is just a phase, or something to worry about, Ian Rose signs him up for a course in self-regulation. Now, if he can just get him into the car...
Snip decision
A year on from his vasectomy, Ian Rose reflects on the tie that binds, and wonders what happened to the mystery semen-sample.