Sometimes I wonder if I have ever done one single thing right in my whole life. I know that sounds melodramatic, but I seem to spend a lot of my time second guessing myself – particularly when it comes to parenting – and I always feel like I’m making the wrong decision in the end anyway. So, this week I’ve been really sick and I spent one whole day in bed and honestly don’t really know how I got through the other days. But aside from that, Toddler Taylor (or “O”, as he will be known from now on) picked up conjunctivitis at the beginning of the week and I really didn’t know what to do. My husband diligently took him to the chemist and got some eye drops for him on Tuesday while I was out of action and started treating him right away, but I had no clue what I was supposed to do about sending him to paygroup the next day.
So I did research. Obviously I know that it’s contagious, and I’ve had it a few times myself so I know it’s also really fucking itchy. Itchy = Rubbing. Rubbing = Spreading Infection. Very basic formula. But O wasn’t really rubbing at his eyes after he started on the drops, so I thought we might be okay. I emailed his playgroup and asked them what they wanted me to do and they replied saying it was fine for him to go if he wasn’t rubbing or scratching his eyes. The next morning, aside from me having to physically sit on him to administer the drops (calm down; I only weigh 4 stone more than he does), he seemed generally quite well and he said that his eyes were not itchy or sore. And, on that basis, I took him to playgroup and that was that.
At home we did everything we could think of to stop anyone else in the house catching it. We gave O his own hand towel and I made a kind of strangled screech every time he reached for the wrong towel after he’d washed his hands, which was probably pretty weird and disconcerting, but it did the trick. And we made sure he washed his hands if he’d been touching his eyes and told him not to share his cuddly toys with his brother. Infection control is almost completely impossible with small people, and they really don’t understand what you’re losing your shit about if they pick up the wrong towel or why you scream "WASH YOUR HANDS!" at them every time they touch their eyes, but we did our best.
Yesterday it seemed like Baby Taylor (or F, as he will be known from now on) had quite gooey eyes, so we decided he had probably caught the dreaded pink eye too. So we kind of sighed and were like OF COURSE, but other than that we just figured it was pretty inevitable, what with kids being essentially quite grubby creatures.
Then I took O to playgroup and we bumped into Tired Dad on the way in (remember Tired Dad from my post about adult naptime?) and the conversation went something like this:
Tired Dad: Morning! How are you?
Me: I’m good thanks. How about you?
TD: Eurgh. Big one has conjunctivitis and little one has conjunctivitis AND an abscess on his eyelid.
Me: *awkwardly* Oh no, are they okay?
O:*mumbles* I had that. Mummy sat on me and gave me drops.
Me: Er, yeah, he had it too. Beginning of the week. Er... Sorry. It might be our fault.
He was actually pretty much okay about it and we grimace-laughed about how fucking impossible it is to put drops in the eyes of young children, then O and I went inside and were greeted by a gaggle of parents standing just inside the door. So then, in a moment that will be forever known as the Playgroup Witch Hunt, this happened:
Playgroup Worker: Morning O! Your eyes look much better today!
Me: Er, yeah. He’s doing great.
Mum 1. Oh, has he had conjunctivitis? I think my daughter has that.
Mum 2. Yeah, mine was rubbing at her eyes last night too.
PW: Somebody else just called up and said their child isn’t coming because she has it too.
EVERYONE LOOKS AT ME
Me: *desperately* I’m sorry! I sent an email! He wasn’t scratching! I’m so sorry!
O: MUMMY SAT ON ME AND PUT DROPS IN MY EYES!
EVERYONE STARES AT ME IN OBVIOUS HORROR
Then I faffed around with O’s coat for way too long because I was embarrassed and kept fumbling the zip while everyone else just kind of stared at me a bit and made it ten times worse. I literally couldn’t get out of there quick enough.
At lunchtime pick-up I laughed about it with Tired Dad and he told me it probably wasn’t O’s fault at all, but there was this little voice in my head the whole time that was like, it’s just one more fucking thing for me to feel bad about. I researched, I double-checked with the playgroup, I enforced strict infection control procedures and I still messed up. That’s so me.
I suppose at least there’s this one thing: I can actually give you some solid advice for once, which is this: If your kid has conjunctivitis, ignore what PHE says and just don’t fucking send them to playgroup or whatever, because it’s really just not worth it to end up being the person everyone glares at for the rest of the week. I mean, if you just don’t give a shit about being glared at then, seriously, good for you; I wish I could be more like you. Anyway, I suppose it’s not so bad; it’s half-term next week and everyone will probably have forgotten about it by the time the kids go back... Or all of the parents will be wearing dark glasses because they’ve caught it too...