Emergency middle of the night parenting

The first I knew was when my seven year old daughter was shouting in my ear, “He’s been sick”. I leapt into action. But even with my lightning speed, I couldn’t catch a glimpse of my daughter. She was gone; running between bedrooms. One moment offering sympathy (in a patronising voice to her five year old brother: “Are you alright?”) the next screaming orders, (in a patronising voice: “Dad, you’ve got to come NOW!”)

It was about two o’clock in the morning. As is often the case with middle-of-the-night-parenting the events that took place during the rest of the night are a haze. I honestly can’t remember where my son was. I felt like I was in the middle of a parenting training drill that I was failing.

Then Mary joined in. A distant, tired voice from the bed: “Has he ACTUALLY been sick?” Because we all know what she meant. If he had actually been sick then he would be off school for 48 hours. And if he was off school for 48 hours, all my wife’s plans were cancelled. No one wants a sick boy visiting their house. All doors are slammed shut. Net curtains twitch as you walk past. Our family would be infected. Personae non grata.

Whereas, if he’s just feeling sick, then he can go to school and Mary’s plans can stand. We can all relax. Obviously none of these calculations affected that fact that my son did actually feel sick.

Understanding all of this, like a crime scene investigator, I issued the command “No one flush the loo, I need to check for sick”.

I put my wobbly son back into bed. I think I said, “Sleep will help”. I was mainly saying it to myself. There was no time for sympathy, no time for forensic analysis of the porcelain. That would come later. My bed was calling.

The next time was clearer.

Same daughter.

Same shout.

Same emergency.

“He’s been sick”

I emerged from my room. I stepped in the sick. My son just stood. Wobbly. Next to the sick. I don’t know what he thought he was waiting for. We could flush the loo. It was conclusive.

This is the mundane reality of so much parenting. Where there is a small child in the home there are disrupted nights. Any one event can be made into a comedy of errors, but after multiple consecutive sleep-deprived nights, the laughs are harder to come by. These things happen to all of us, whether we’re trusting in Christ or not. No one is exempt. The difference is in our response, whether we face a trivial inconvenience, a visit to the edge of coping, or something beyond that.

Psalm 63 is a song of King David, that he sang when he was in the dessert, when life was so difficult that he couldn’t even sleep:

“6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.”

Through sleep deprivation, through anxiety, through thirst; David can still sing. Not a tap-your-feet, upbeat dance floor filler, but a song through clenched teeth to the one who is there, who is still in charge, still holding him tight. And if the words won’t come, we could do worse than sing the last verse of the Psalm, where David wrote of the King who had not yet come, who we now know and glory in. Even when standing in sick.

“11But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God will glory in him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.”