A Father’s Way to Manage a Sick Kid

A Father’s Way to Manage a Sick Kid  

In his younger years, our son was a deep sleeper to say the least. This usually presented little problems for his mother and me until he got nauseous and sometimes vomited in bed, without fully wakening. That very sight and the accompanying odor have to rank close to the bottom of duties parents must deal with when raising kids. I know this to be true, especially for the miserable moms out there who usually end up handling the mess.

In my son’s early years, the clean-up process was not a big deal and my poor wife always handled that duty without much grumbling on her part. But as he got older, and the mess became more troublesome, I felt sorry for her having to deal with it. Notice though, I never felt quite so bad for her, that I volunteered to clean it up myself. Instead, I thought I would handle the problem in a way that only a dad might come up with.

Vomit drill
After a particularly large mess one night resulted in a change of pajamas, change of pillows and pillow cases, a complete change of sheets and a rug scrubbing on the path from his bedroom to the bathroom, I decided to give my idea a try. Our son was about six or seven years old at the time.

The next day after supper, I told him that starting that evening I would wait till he fell asleep, and then I intended to open his bedroom door, turn on the lights, and proclaim, “Vomit drill,” loudly and repeatedly until he made his way into the bathroom.

He was instructed to carry his plastic-lined garbage can with him, then to bend down and open the commode lid when he got there. This way, if he didn't quite make it the whole way to the commode, the garbage can would be his safety net – and his mother’s, too.

Needless to say, my wife was not totally on board with this plan, as her maternal instincts were at odds with the idea of having her child awakened abruptly from a deep slumber in the middle of the night, regardless of the reason.

Laughter in the faculty room
I will never forget the roar my idea received from my fellow teachers when I announced to them the details of my plan. One colleague said, “Do keep us posted – I’m dying to know how this works. A vomit drill – you’ve got to be kidding.”

Kidding, I was not. And my first drill was followed by about four or five more practice runs on consecutive nights. When I was sure my son was sound asleep, I’d open his door and assert with a bellowing voice, “Vomit drill!” Then I hit the light switch and commanded him to grab the can and, “get into the bathroom now.”

My poor son actually started to get the hang of the drill after a few practice sessions, but the true test would come at a time when he was actually nauseous and ready to let loose.

I honestly didn’t know if he would even awake on his own after the week’s worth of drills. And I was not about to stand watch in the hall outside of his bedroom to check on him every night, either. After all, there is a limit to what a father can do regarding a sick kid and vomit.

Practice makes perfection
Sure enough, as my wife and I were watching television in another room a few nights later, we heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps running from his bedroom toward the bathroom.

With wide-eyed anticipation, we looked in and were pleased as peas to find that he made it to the commode and not a drop of regurgitation had leaked anywhere else. The bottom of the can was surprisingly dry, too. I couldn’t believe it, and also couldn’t wait to announce to my colleagues the next day that this fatherly plan worked so well. It’s rare indeed when a male plan works at all, and I was going to take full credit for this ground-breaking technique.

I can’t remember if we had any more drills regarding the vomiting at our home, but I do know for sure that he continued to make it the whole way into the bathroom from that time on when he got sick. To my recollection, he had no more need for a complete pillow or sheet renewal, or a rug cleansing.

I felt really good that my plan proved to be a Godsend for my wife too, as I felt horribly about the fact that she always inherited the chore of cleaning up. My plan was the least I could do, for her sake. And the plan should not go unnoticed by those females out there that aren’t blessed with a mate with a mind like mine.

On vacation
Customary to the time our kids were growing up, we never failed to take them to the shore at least once every summer. And my male prowess and fatherly skills came in handy yet again in the house we rented at the beach.

We unloaded our belongings and assigned our kids the bedrooms and bathrooms that each one would use. I thought ahead, and I asked my son to lie in his bed and make a dry run to the bathroom as quickly as he could. Being in new surroundings, I thought it might be necessary to get him used to the new floor plan and room layout, in case he got sick during the night. He obliged, and it was apparent that he could easily navigate to the bathroom during the night if he had to.

A proud parent
I was so proud to discover that a few nights into our stay, our son used his vomit training like a Navy Seal might in an attempt at a nighttime rescue of fellow servicemen. He woke up, grabbed the garbage can next to his bed and sprinted to the bathroom down the hall. Always thinking ahead, I kept some night lights on so he could clearly see where he was heading.

It was then, as my wife and I rose to check on him, that we noticed something glistening on the dimly lit floors between his bedroom and the bathroom. The night lights were reflecting off a narrow trail of spillage. How could this be? My son had grabbed the waste can on his way to the bathroom, exactly as instructed.

We both soon realized that the garbage container in his rental house bedroom was not lined with plastic and that the receptacle just so happened to be made of loosely woven wicker.

Hey, a dad can’t think of everything.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA