The importance of keeping things in perspective


The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

Keeping things in perspective is a very important life skill. It’s not a bad trait for parenting either.
These past few weeks it has taken all of our strength to keep things in perspective. And that can be hard to do when you are only getting eight hours sleep – in three days! Or when it seems like you are being pinballed from one sickness in your kids to another.
Since the start of September it has felt never-ending. We’ve been to hospital twice, we’re at the doctor’s so often they are talking about giving us our own personal parking space and we spend so much on medication that I feel I have a conflict of interest if I ever write another opinion column lampooning big pharma conspiracy theories.
It hasn’t been constant. If it were, you wouldn’t be reading this column as the men in white coats would have long ago come for me. But it has been regular.
If I were to quantify it, the best way I could do it is to say that in these past three months, the amount of nights in which you don’t get enough sleep to function outnumber the amount of decent sleeps.
But – and here’s our friend perspective – our problems are small. The kids have never been dangerously sick. Never have we had to panic. They’re just picking up common enough winter illnesses that small kids tend to be susceptible to. Trouble is, they are doing it with the urgency of someone trying to watch the three Lord of the Rings films in the one sitting.
As I write, Éamon is on antibiotics for a chest infection and tonsillitis. Frankie is being dosed with Calpol for a high temperature and cough bottle for, well, you know what for.
Last night saw myself and Aisling get a combined total of four hours sleep. And I had the majority of that. I’ve a useful skill: I can go back to sleep fairly quickly after being woken. Aisling isn’t quite so lucky.
Both kids woke several times during the night, as they had done the previous two nights. If only one of them is sick, you can take it in turns as parents to get a good night’s sleep. This week, there is no escape.
It comes less than two weeks after Éamon spent three nights in hospital in Castlebar with what we found out was the adenovirus. It had him vomiting for days, and so a trip to hospital to be put on a drip was necessitated.
The poor fella was finding it very tough, but everything was well in hand.
You know your problems aren’t that great when all you are giving out about is lack of sleep. If your child was really ill, you’d have a different attitude.
But three nights in hospital for Éamon meant us taking turns to lie on the floor in his room, through the lack of a fold up bed for parents. It didn’t help that one of those nights saw him vomit all over me at 3am when I was trying to settle him. That just summed up my mood!
But we are among the lucky ones. Other parents are in there much longer with no certain home date and having to try to sleep in an armchair.
That puts things in perspective. But we wouldn’t say no to a few weeks completely free of sickness either.

> In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.