My family is ill and I feel old

It’s my birthday. I’m now 364 days from officially entering the Middle Age. I’m thinking about erecting a giant countdown clock in our front room or maybe the driveway, so I don’t waste the precious remains of my dwindling vigour and energy.

I haven’t got off to the best start, though. It’s not even my fault. The rest of my little nuclear family has been struck ill with a vicious cold and cough.

Boy Wonder’s eyes are shut tight like a luckless boxer, he’s off his food and he keeps waking in the night with screams and tears. He’s probably also wise to being blamed for every new germ purely as a result of his attendance at nursery. Little Buddha, meanwhile, is blotchy, sleepy and keeps having coughing fits that include frightening thirty-second bouts of purple-faced choking.

The Duchess is coughing and spluttering and should really be in bed. But I can’t take time off work, especially so soon after paternity leave, and our decision to settle in Leeds for social and economic reasons, rather than follow many of our peers who buy a house round the corner from one set of grandparents, is temporarily biting us in our collective red nose.

So when I’ve been getting home from work this week, the unholy trinity is usually all laid moaning in the lounge and the house looks like it’s hosted another burglars convention. The evenings have involved blowing noses, trying to motivate the zombies to do the simplest physical tasks and dealing with requests for water and juice and milk and blankets and hot water bottles. I feel guilty but it’s a relief when I get Boy Wonder to bed and then, despite her colic having started to subside, poor Little Buddha usually treats us to a night of painful cries and those coughing fits. Around midnight, the Duchess and I collapse into bed but we’re lucky to get more than three hours sleep.

Tonight has been no exception. The Duchess was so ill and tired, I cooked my own birthday meal and Little Buddha was in so much pain I finished it laid down on the lounge rug while I stroked her face and kept her warm. The Duchess was apologetic, like it’s her fault she feels like tepid dogpoo, but I told her that it doesn’t matter.

And it really doesn’t. Tonight might not have been relaxing or indulgent or the slightest bit fun but who cares, I’ve been looking after my loved ones. Maybe I’m middle aged already because it all feels okay, no big deal. Mind you, next year I’m going out in a blaze of glory. The unholy trinity, meanwhile, will be spending the month prior to my big day overdosing on vitamin c and Strepsils.

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