The honeymoon is over. My hitherto perfect relationship with my ten-month-old daughter is a scrap of history and a mere memory to me. Miranda had such an agreeable temperament, you see. She’d sleep through the night, eat egg, smile indiscriminately at strangers, wave on cue, recognise her father. Do all the things which are called being ‘a good baby’.
All of a sudden it was No More Mr. Nice Guy. I woke one night to the certain knowledge that my baby was being attacked by a barking seal escaped from some aquatic reserve. But no, it was the child herself -and the daylight diagnosis: croup. Yes, I too thought that had gone out with rickets, but it turns out to be a son of laryngitis for beginners. Anyhow, the treatment, besides steamy bathrooms, was trusty old penicillin in that sweetened yellow suspension that makes it look like advocaat. Easy peasy, thought I. My boy Ben, now five, used to queue up for that Banana Treat. But with Miranda – no way.
Ben offered to take the medicine for her
Husband Simon and I spooned it, dripped it, dropped it, disguised it, coaxed it, mashed it up with real banana and offered it in every form known to man or mother… and got most of it back. Her brother was so appalled by our efforts that he offered to take the medicine for her. I cracked it in the end: Amoxil sandwiches – brown bread and butter with a 5ml portion spread on one slice.
Ten days later her breathing still sounded like someone trying to kickstart a moped. Our GP’s verdict; an upper respiratory infection not responsive to penicillin. (Perhaps she knew there was no point in taking it anyway.) New prescription – erythromycin, or what Ben appreciatively knew as ‘the strawberry one’. Not only was this unacceptable from spoon, cup or syringe dispenser, you can’t absorb it in brown bread either. Persistence disclosed the correct application: a small Neapolitan cornet topped with 5ml erythro-strawberry sauce and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. Seeing this presented three times a day has brought Ben to the very edge of filial jealousy.
Infant’s Pink Rash Revenge
Unwilling to concede defeat, Miranda ran a high temperature for four days and broke out in an erythro-strawberry-coloured rash from forehead to foot. As we now have a season ticket to the doctor, diagnosis was swift. Wait for it… roseola infantum. I expect that’s Latin for Infant’s Pink Rash Revenge.
My friend Sally was sceptical about this. She says some mothers need to leave the surgery with a large bottle of red jollop to feel the wait has been worthwhile, others need a good long-sounding condition to look up in their medical dictionaries when they get home, and I’d just been accurately identified as the second sort. All right, I did look it up, but it is a perfectly genuine mild viral infection, having these exact symptoms.
Kneading something rather unpleasant into my parents’ drawingroom carpet
The medicine business has been only one sign that my baby girl has become her own woman. As an eruption of acne might herald the onset of the troublesome teens, so Miranda’s pink rash has prefaced all kinds of revolutionary behaviour. There was spitting at the butcher, tearing up the telephone bill (my husband expects to reserve that activity for himself), wilfully dismantling her brother’s Sticklebrick constructions, kneading something rather unpleasant into my parents’ drawingroom carpet – that kind of thing.
And it’s worse because I thought she was such an angel. She’s so good, I used to say, she must have been here before. Wiser friends have said, no – it’s only that you’ve been here before.
Twenty straight and sparkling teeth
I had to take Ben and myself to the dentist last week. (Yes, it has been a rather medical month this one, but haven’t you noticed how your own body falling apart coincides with your children’s appointments?)
Splendid, said the dentist, your son has 20 straight and sparkling white teeth needing no treatment. I basked in his congratulations; the pleasure almost alleviated the discomfort of trying to smile while Ben smugly witnessed the dentist attending to my own crumbling canines and mouldy molars.
Ha! Done something right at last, I thought triumphantly.
As a mother, you should never even think anything like that.
Previous good behaviour was taken into account
The very next day Ben sank those selfsame straight and sparkling gnashers into his best girlfriend at school. We were in disgrace. If you’re going to cash in on your children’s dental glory you must also share their shame. I don’t know why he bit her. His defence seems to be that it was more gentlemanly than to punch her.
It was a first offence. Previous good behaviour was taken into account. The sentence was being sent to sit on the square of carpet in the corner. (You’ve heard about being put on the mat, haven’t you?)
As I was leaving the doctor’s surgery after yet another consultation (sticky eye in one and a verruca in the other, I forget which), my wise and often jokey GP said, ‘Who’d have ’em, eh?’
We looked at the enlargement of two handsome young people, quite grown-up, that looks down from her wall while she dispenses reassurance and red jollop and the news about roseola. You would, and I would, Dr. Anne. That’s who.
Water runs through your fingers… like these brief days
Back home at bathtime I lift what looks like a pot of raspberry yogurt (Miranda covered in red zits and calamine lotion) and immerse her in a bath of soothing bicarb. Ben helps me bathe her, fetching his best frogman and two ducks to cheer her up. He pours water from the highest point he can reach. She stretches out to clutch at the elusive ropes of falling water. Miranda never fails to wonder at water; you can see it, you can feel it as it runs through your fingers, but you can’t hold on to it. Like these brief days with the children, like everything really.
‘D’you know, Mummy, she’s really quite pretty, even when she’s spotty?’ observes Ben, and we are friends again.