I am woken by the sound of insistent tapping at my bedroom door. It is 9.10 am on Sunday morning. My clothes are in a sorry heap at the foot of my bed, my head is pounding and the light which floods into my bedroom from the hallway when I open the door sends me reeling back to bed again, wincing in pain.
“I’m really sorry, honey, but I’m feeling poorly and I’m not going to be able to take you to the swimming pool this morning,” I say. Just speaking makes me feel pitifully nauseous; I’m amazed to have managed such a long sentence without mishap.
To her credit, Tadpole doesn’t complain or say “but mummy, you promised!” Instead, she retreats to her bedroom and returns brandishing her (pink) plastic doctor’s kit.
“I going to make you feel better,” she says firmly and takes out the tools of her trade, one by one.
- A bizarrely phallic looking thermometer, which makes me gag when she shoves it in my protesting mouth.
- A pink and yellow stethoscope, which she seems to think has healing properties if positioned just so (on my right nipple) with maximum pressure applied.
- A pair of pink tweezers, used for pinching the patient’s nostrils.
- A pair of purple plastic scissors, with which she pretends to cut my fingernails. (If real, Tadpole’s rather haphazard technique would leave me with nothing above the knuckles.)
- A pink syringe, which she presses painfully into my wrist.
“All better now?” enquires nurse Tadpole, who has finally run out of toys. I make a mental note to look for the pink plastic scalpel, which appears to have gone missing. Also, when I’m feeling a little more coherent, I should try explaining that the implements in her doctor’s bag are for diagnosing what is wrong, rather than healing the patient. But today I do not feel equal to such a task.
“I feel a little bit better,” I say wanly, feeling both very sorry for myself and extremely foolish, in equal measures. I need no doctor to tell me exactly what is wrong, nor where it came from.
“Oh. Well if you’re not better, I going to do it all again.” She reaches for the thermometer.
It is torture, pure and simple, but I can’t help thinking I deserve it, so I offer no resistance.
I took a vow on Sunday. Never again will I drink a drop if I’m supposed to be spending the next day with Tadpole. No amount of fun can ever be worth such pain and self-loathing.