A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
Never has a common cold felt more intense and I don’t even have one.
Late last week my little boy woke up and radiated temperatures between 38 and 40°C throughout the day. He was attached to me constantly, waking up only to check that he was still in my arms and that I hadn’t gone anywhere.
I did what I could to bring his body heat down, remembering the best piece of knowledge that any parent can ever learn (that you can administer both paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time), but to little avail. The germs were just too hot and bothered and they weren’t going to chill out until they were reunited with their nasty little friends at A&E.
I think I could have found better places to pass the time in my current state of mind. The words “trauma in six minutes” announced repeatedly over the speakers somehow weren’t helping me relax. The doctors and nurses weren’t of much assistance either.
The nurse rolled her eyes at my distressed two-year-old son’s lack of cooperation, the doctor called him “naughty” and the registrar was openly judgemental about the fact that he was eating plantain chips. I bit my tongue but if by any small chance you are reading this, he’s half Jamaican, it’s a type of fruit common to the West Indies, and we couldn’t get him to eat anything else that day so get back to your fucking ivory tower and be grateful that you’re well enough to stomach your quinoa and three bean salad.
Where was I? Yeah, so my son has been unwell, it’s normal, he’s a toddler, it happens to them all bla bla bla, but it feels less normal when you’re both grieving. Every emotion that I’ve been holding inside, invisible to the naked eye, is being projected publicly by my child.
My internal but incessant tears are running down his face. My hidden frustration and bad temper are convulsing in his little limbs on the bed. My desire to be completely antisocial and to physically lash out at people who deserve to be treated better is there in his tiny fists.
But the hardest thing of all is realising that I’m constantly torturing myself with the thought that I’m a bad dad (I’m not fishing by the way, so don’t feel the need to offer me any reassurance).
When I can’t get his medicine down his throat my mind tells me that his mum could.
When I spot that his t-shirt is on back-to-front I feel like giving him the phone to dial ChildLine – I even feel like scripting him so he doesn’t leave anything out.
And when the only thing he’ll eat is Cheerios and I know that he’d get more nutrition from a bowl of Mars bars, I feel like getting that registrar round to give me a good talking to. We’re probably not on speaking terms if she’s just read this though.