Ah winter, the worst of all seasons. You bring with you frost on my car, numb fingers and noses, and all manner of nasty viruses, each one which will slowly convince you that this is the bug that will finally kill you.
Miss K is sick at the moment with a particularly nasty virus in her chest. I had it for three weeks, mum's on week two at the moment and Miss K is on day three. She currently sounds like a sixty year old man who has smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for the past forty years every time she coughs. I have an arsenal of pain killers and cough medicines in my pantry and every four hours I dutifully dole out the next dose of vile medicine much to her disgust. I'm sure she is convinced that my various treatments are going to kill her before the virus does.
But come tomorrow morning all of this stops. I dose my daughter up one last time, then I bundle her into a train and hand her over to her father for four days, during which time it officially becomes his duty to be chief snot remover and poison dispenser. Even before I was a single mother with my own custody agreement in place, this always seemed like the normal thing to do. You have a visitation scheduled, it happens unless a body part is falling off, and even then if it can be sewn back on in time the visit should still be able to happen. But my time working for a lawyer taught me that this isn't actually the case a lot of the time, and it doesn't seem right.
Now there is always a back story to every relationship, so I'm not saying that my way is the only right way and everyone else who does this differently is an idiot, but I wonder what the mothers who do keep kids home sick from a custody visit are saying when they make this decision. Are you saying that there is no one in the world who could possibly care for your ailing child better than you can? Are you saying the father is totally inept at caring for house plants, let alone children and this virus is far too much of a challenge for him to be able to get right? Are you saying you secretly have Florence Nightingale syndrome and the highlight of your parenting career is the times your child is ill and you spend your nights sleepless and your days full of temperature taking and dosing up your children?
Miss K's dad can be a total screw up, a fact which I gently remind him of at any chance I get. But by withholding our child from visiting him simply because she is sick, I would be telling him loud and clear; "You are not good enough."and that is simply not a message I care to send to him or our daughter. I want her to know that when the chips are down he will be there for her, and that message needs to be sent from day one. Whether it be a virus or a bastard ex, she needs to know that her dad will be there for her no matter what. On the other hand he needs to learn exactly what it means to be there for her when she needs it. He needs to get used to comforting her, wiping away her tears and making her feel better. Unless he has practise at doing this there is no way in hell he will ever be good at it. Now I'm not saying he sucks at it now, he is a very devoted dad who does everything in his power to love and care for our daughter. But as she gets older her needs change. Once upon a time all of her boo-boos could be kissed away but that's not the case so much. As parents we both need to be present for all of the changes otherwise we get left behind and stop being effective at our job.
As the primary caregiver I am the chief snot wiper and boo-boo kisser, and that is how it has been for over five years now. I've lost count of how many colds I have weathered, how many times I've caught vomit in my hands (or on my shirt) and how many cups of vile tasting medicine I have given over the past five years, nor do I care to count them. They are all just threads that make up the fabric of my life as Miss K's parent. But I am not her only parent, and because of this I am happy to step aside every now and again and let her dad take the reins for a few days and see what it means caring for someone who has half his genes. (Side note, they are the ones responsible for her total lack of inside voice). But because I am still mum, even when she's not in the same town as me I'll still be worried sick and totally unable to sleep this weekend, but that just goes with the territory.