Yet more fever fun

“Oh, it’s high!” exclaimed the other mother in surprise, holding aloft the thermometer. I gave her a sympathetic smile as I hoisted E out of her carrier to do the same process. How many times have my children had perfectly normal temperatures only for the childcare thermometers to offer up some absurdly high reading?

I tucked the thermometer under E’s arm, waited, and then gasped in surprise myself at the elevated number it showed. “What?” I peered at E suspiciously. “You do not have a fever.”

“Maybe the room’s hot?” suggested their childcare worker, heading over to adjust the air conditioner. The other baby, in the meantime, was having her temperature taken again and, this time, it produced a low reading to her mother’s palpable relief.

I decided to use the same thermometer for E’s second attempt. The number that came back was still high, but within the realms of normal. I frowned to myself and patted her head before handing her over. She must have gotten a bit too warm in her carrier, I reasoned. Her head felt as hot as it always did.

Wait, what?

It’s Mr. K who always has a hot head. It’s not E. E’s head is usually cool. It’s been a relief, really, how reassuringly cool her bald head is compared to her bronchitis-ridden brother. Something was amiss.

But she was already settled into her teacher’s arms, as calm as ever. She had played around like normal at home. It was probably nothing.

Reluctantly, I left and headed off to work, but I kept checking my phone throughout the morning. The lack of calls from childcare was reassuring at first, but then my imagination went into overdrive. Perhaps they hadn’t called because they hadn’t had the chance. Perhaps they were too busy rushing E to hospital somewhere because something was really, really wrong, and maybe they had just called R instead and he was rushing to meet them somewhere-…

It was actually more of a relief when I got out of my final class for the morning and found a missed call from R on my phone. Childcare had indeed called him, but only because phone Japanese is not what you would call a strength of mine by any stretch of the imagination. E was not in the emergency ward of a hospital or anything remotely like that, but she did definitely have a fever. In fact, it had gone up to 39 degrees. I was to come and pick her up ASAP.

And so here we are. The 39 reading worried me and had me wondering about goddamn bloody annoying why is there no vaccine for it roseola so we ended up going via the doctor’s (Mr. K stayed at childcare until afterwards). While he was pleasant and appeared to take me seriously, the doctor just diagnosed a cold (possibly with a wave of his boyband haircut to cap the whole thing off), and told me to come back if E still had a fever on Saturday. Honestly, that doesn’t seem impossible right now. After a nightmare night of her screaming on Wednesday, it seemed like she had turned a corner and her temperature was mostly normal by this afternoon. Now, though, she’s hot again and squirming in her sleep, and I’m searching my inbox for tomorrow’s company’s phone number. At least I don’t have to try to make sure I sound genuinely sick when I’m calling in because my children are sick, hey?

So yes. More cancelled work, more anxious waits as the numbers on the thermometer fly up just a little too quickly, more ambiguous diagnoses and the ongoing unpleasant realisation that, as far as medicine has come, there are an awful lot of things that nobody knows or just nobody bothers with. Whatever immunity E borrowed from me for her first six months has worn off. It’s her turn now.

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“But he’s too little!”

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Definitely not a pose his father let him linger in for longer than it took to take this photo

I work part-time and this means, with a couple of notable exceptions, that my seven month old is elsewhere while I’m doing so. “Elsewhere” for us means a nice childcare center less than 10 minutes from where his father works. We were lucky to get a place at all, let alone in one that’s vaguely convenient, new and modern, complete with largish, airy rooms, kids grouped by age, outside space, and a carer-to-child ratio of 1:3 for the babies.

For some people, that’s still not cool, though. Childcare at all for a baby is just. not. right. He’s too young! He should be at home with… well, me! Or a family member, at least. Or someone like that, I don’t know, you figure that part out, but still!

What are we thinking?

A simple answer that, actually, childcare seems to suit Mr. K reasonably well and I don’t think it’s so bad for him to be looked after qualified individuals who, so far, seem to be taking exceptionally good care of him when he is with them may be the best solution for my own peace of my mind. It doesn’t really give my life-commentators the explanation they’re seeking, though, and even though they’re not really entitled to such, I still find myself wanting to provide one. A defense, a justification, an explanation, something.

 

The only socially acceptable answer really seems to be a sudden admission of abject poverty. That raises a whole new problem, though, in that we are suddenly talking about money and that is a bit of a taboo. Do they really want a breakdown of our household income? Or  the details of the financial mess caused by my father’s unexpected death (another taboo!) and how I would like to help my mother? Do they want an in-depth discussion about university debt, rent prices, the coat of fresh food? Perhaps I can explain, in depth, what starting unpaid maternity leave early cost, or the expenses that a baby generally accrues.

I’m doing part-time work, so things can’t be too bad. I must only want money, not really need it. Maintaining a certain quality of life, pfft. Perhaps if I cut out some of those expensive extras… my idea of an expensive extra is a 500 coffee set? No, that can’t be it. Those expensive overseas holidays… visits to my family? Huh.

Do I need to I explain that no, my husband doesn’t make enough money to cover this? Shall I explain why it works that way? And that I also prefer him having a job where I actually see him as opposed to a more financially-lucrative job where he’s absent for six days, sometimes 7 days a week? Perhaps I need to stick to more general comments on money? But then, I doubt they really want to hear my extensive and largely negative commentary on the full-time wage, Japan’s “Abenomics” version of neoliberalism, Japanese work culture, gender roles, men generally working themselves into the ground?

Talking about politics and criticising the esteemed Japanese culture, yes. That’s going to go so well, don’t you think?

Should I tell them that I actually enjoy my work and, on the days I don’t, that I still get satisfaction from doing it? That’s just selfish, though, isn’t it?  It doesn’t matter how I might feel about work or staying at home, or how well I know my mental state. Nothing is as important as being a mother and being a mother means being there all the time, duh.

If I need help, I could ask my mother… oh, right, Australia. Well, my mother-in-law, surely? She must be so excited about her grandson! Should I then explain how strained that relationship is, the now non-existent support on that front, and how non-interested she is in Mr. K at all, especially compared to her daughter’s baby girl? Hell, perhaps we need to discuss the weirdness of my husband’s family generally, and exactly why my sister-in-law is getting a divorce too.

Or, you know, we could discuss where the fathers fit into all of this and we could branch into my thoughts on your somewhat outdated notions about gender roles to boot. That sounds like a bit of fun too, doesn’t it?

In short, the more I try to think of appropriate responses and explanations, the more I realise that just about every line of conversation these supposedly innocent remarks about childcare could take us on touches on something taboo. All of the explanations that are expected of me lead to topics  that have the potential to be scandalous, interesting… and absolutely uncomfortable. It’s generally accepted that these are things people might not want to talk about, and we’re generally not expected to do so.

Since these people are fairly often well-meaning students, my inner troll sometimes sticks its head out and I find myself fighting the urge to tell them that my God, they have shown me the light! I see the rightness of their words! I’ll quit my job right now and hurry home to resume childcare duties at once!

Oh, what? That leaves you without an English teacher? Well then.

Since trolling is definitely out, the only acceptable response to an unsolicited comment on what was not an easy decision about raising my baby is… no response. I am supposed to simply take this throwaway criticism in my stride, maybe act appropriately ashamed and sad to top it off.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I don’t entirely want to do that. What I wish instead is that we could all add another taboo to the list of those I’ve outlined above, that being the offering of unsolicited criticism, however throwaway the comments might be, on people’s parenting decisions.

The simple fact is that, unless the child is obviously being neglected, it’s fair to assume that no small amount of thought went into the decisions about his or her care. It’s also reasonable to assume that the decision isn’t up for review right now and that the parents don’t need to add a little dose of pointless negativity to their days… so try not to offer it.

Four months

 

Lying around smacking toys in his Cookie Monster suit, AS YOU DO

Happy March, everyone. Yesterday, Mr K turned 4 months old. He is a lot more interested in his toys now, he has developed a very recent and very frustrating aversion to his pram, we are still battling baby eczema, and he’s trying very hard to roll over but his own head kind of stops him!