As a mother of three children under five years old, there are many times when I feel like a superhero just for surviving a typical day. Like the time I schlepped all three of my children, like a deranged mother possum, through the Target parking lot in the rain because apparently my four-year-old would melt if his feet got wet. I arrived at the gilded gates of retail heaven feeling like I’d walked on water, rather than just through it. Or the time all three of my kids fell asleep AT THE SAME TIME, a celestial even to rival the planetary alignment or a total eclipse. I moved the heavens that day.
However, for every instance of superhuman strength and agility my children afford me, they like to take me down a peg too. Just to keep me humble. The other night was one of those nights.
You know how when survivors are pulled from the wreckage of their trailer park after a tornado they always say things like “All the signs were there. I guess I should have seen it coming?” Well, my two-year-old refusing chicken nuggets and french fries is the culinary equivalent of a funnel cloud, and I should have knows to duck for cover.
His face was pale beneath the layers of sand, popsicle, dirt, and peanut butter. I casually noticed how pliant he was being as I wiped his face with a washrag before bed. The sound of a cloth being held under a tap usually sends him into acrobatic, alligator-like death rolls to avoid the indignity of a nose-wipe, but not that night. Instead he laid on my bed, as still as a corpse, while I changed his diaper and flopped him into his pajamas.
I knew something was wrong the moment I left my sleeping daughter’s room. The floor and the walls in the hallway were peppered with a pale purple goo, which reminded me of baby food or berry applesauce. I hopped carefully through the gastrointestinal minefield and passed the hall bathroom, where I found another pile of purple sludge, a pile of my husband’s clothes, and a discarded diaper. I still had no idea where they were, but wherever it was, they were naked.
In my bedroom the four-year-old was jumping on the bed, my husband was wearing nothing but his underwear and sitting in a rocking chair holding the toddler who was sucking on a blood-red popsicle. There was a spattering of purple vomit on the white carpet around their feet, and more clothes in the laundry basket. Before I could ask what had happened, my darling middle child turned to me and spewed bright red vomit like a geyser from Hell. Linda Blair would have been jealous of his distance and style points.
I grabbed my son and turned away from the ugly scene as I heard my four-year-old screech in delight, “Hey, it looks like Micky Mouse on the floor!” I couldn’t look.
I ferried the toddler to bed where he threw up twice more, in my hair, before passing out in his own filth. I didn’t have the heart to wake him to change the sheets so I slipped a towel between his naked body and the damp spots and called it a night.
Stinking of vomit and dreading the long, sleepless night I knew was waiting for me, I hurried to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy and stocked up on supplies: Pedialyte, Gatorade, Saltines, and Tylenol for me. They didn’t sell booze. The cashier took one look at me, my purchases, and the chunk of popsicle-stained chicken nugget in my hair and offered his sympathies.
I mustered my strength and my rehydrating ammunition and reentered the war zone just in time for my son to vomit all over the towel that was already hiding the sticky remnants of his last heave. Exactly three seconds later the baby howled from her room. Afraid she would rouse him from his much-needed rest, I rolled him off the puke, placed another towel as a barrier and ran to my daughter’s insistent shrieks.
Half an hour later I returned to my son’s room, replaced his wet towel and laid down beside him, too tired to care that there was only a thin piece of terrycloth between me and a puddle of stomach bile.
In that moment, with my hair stuck to my pillow, my body squelching in vomit, rubbing sick toddler’s back while the baby protests being left alone in her crib, I’ve never felt less like Wonder Mom.
Point taken, kids.
Maybe I’m not a real super hero, but I am a pretty good mom. Sometimes I think it would be easier to leap tall buildings in a single bound. So despite the fact that I was up half the night ping ponging between my two littlest kids’ bedrooms, catching vomit in a Tupperware container, and sleeping in a puddle of slime, I’m going to feel good about myself.
Tomorrow I’m going to Starbucks for the world’s biggest coffee, and I might just order a cookie to go with it because I deserve it.
And nobody better vomit on my parade.