The vomit drill, like the fire drill, every home needs one.
Being woken in the middle of the night, in the dark, by the cries of your dependent and the awful smell of vomit is always a nightmare. Holy God, you think as you try to wake yourself up and apply damage control, while simultaneously, seeming compassionate. Or, more importantly, you try to stop your dependent from puking again, this time all over your bed.
I would always ask at some point, whilst stripping the bed at 3 a.m., shaking leftovers out of the sheets, putting on a load of laundry, washing chunks of partially digested food out of the dependent’s hair, and remaking the bed, “Did you not know you were going to get sick? Could you not try to make it to the toilet? Did you not feel it coming up your neck at… all?” To which, there was always just that blank stare, shrugging of the shoulders, and/or more crying and vomiting.
In the beginning of my foray into parenting, I installed a family tradition passed down from my own childhood, called the vomit bowl. In my home growing up, there was this silver bowl – ah, I can see it now as if it was yesterday – with a black, swirly ring around the top of it, and caked rust on the inside. This bowl had the power where, just by looking at or coming within a certain distance of it, to make me queasy and want to vomit, even if prior to this I was feeling fine.
I remember one Christmas, one of us (I have three brothers and one sister) had a guest staying for the holiday. We were putting some food out and were looking for bowls, and this nice, unassuming guest grabbed the vomit bowl and started to put Doritos in it. All five of us jumped up and shouted loudly, nearly simultaneously, “Oh My God, Don’t use that bowl!!!” To which they replied, while putting their face practically inside it, “This bowl?” “For the love of God!” my brother shouted,” as the rest of us dry heaved. “That’s the vomit bowl!” Upon which the guest quickly dropped the bowl on the floor so that it made this loud, clanging noise, and we all jumped back as if something was going to come out and spray everywhere.
Since this tradition has not solved the problem of getting the dependents to actually vomit in the bowl, I have added the “puker bed”. This is a sleeping bag/mattress, which has to be blown up with an accompanying foot pump, generally in the dark at 3 a.m. After which, we place the child in the “puker bed”, in our room, with the vomit bowl, and hope for the best. The “puker bed” limits the clean up and sanitisation of a second crime scene. However, the elusive goal remains: to get these dependents to puke in the toilet.
One night, I was exhausted from being awakened multiple consecutive nights due to the visit of the dreaded, winter vomiting bug. I thought, There has to be a better way. It’s worrying that some of my best ideas for parenting problems come with sleep deprivation. Nevertheless, if it works ….it works.
That is when it all came to me ….We need a vomit drill.
So, I typed out the procedure, printed it out, and called a family meeting where I discussed the new drill, explained the implementation, and followed up with a few practice runs.
So, as they climbed into their beds and pulled up the covers, I got the stopwatch ready and shouted, “Go! Go! Go! You feel like you’re going to be sick, it’s coming up your neck!” I watched them all run like mad and pretend to puke in the toilet. Genious, I thought.
Now, the newly installed vomiting drill has not been a total success, as evidenced by one of the twin dependents coming into our room at 4 a.m. stating, “Jude just puked in my bed and pooped in his bed.” But, the vomit drill mantra , is: progress not perfection. More practice drills to follow …..