Going places with babies and small kids is like playing an endless game of Regurgitation Roulette: you have several loaded guns with you at all times and any one – or all of them – could explode in vomit at any moment. It’s part of the adrenaline rush of being a parent.
I was painfully reminded of this when my two children and I were on our way to the Gold Coast for the holidays. We were on a crowded plane when my three year old became increasingly distressed as we descended into the hinterland. My son has a rare birth defect and lacks an ear canal on one side, so I assumed that the cabin pressure was causing him pain and I did my best to comfort him.
We eventually hit the ground without incident and were taxiing towards the terminal when he finally stopped crying, and I allowed myself a sigh of relief. It was all over. We were almost there. Except that it wasn’t. Mercifully, the crying had stopped but he was heaving and gagging instead, and then it dawned on me with a sickening sense of helpless dread…
Oh NOOOOO, he’s going to – BLEUUURGRHGRHGRHGRHGRHGH!!!
(looks down at warm pool of brown sludge in lap)
Why did he throw up? It could have been travel sickness from turbulence, it could have been that he scoffed all his plane snacks in the first five minutes, it could have been the pressure build-up on descent or it could have been the fact that we had a close encounter with Karl Stefanovic at the departure terminal.
All of that was beside the point.
When you are nursing the semi-digested stomach contents of another human being in the gusset of your skinny jeans all of that ceases to matter. What matters now is that your child has just dropped your sorry arse in a social faux pas of epic proportions. It stunk. Oh how it stunk. And we were trapped in an enclosed space.
It’s an etiquette minefield when your child vomits in public. Here are some tips on dealing with it:
1. DO NOT try and catch it
Kudos! That valiant attempt to catch your child’s vomit like you were taking a screamer at silly mid on is admirable. But… you’re an idiot. You can’t catch vomit and you’re just going to look stupid if you try. *slow claps*
2. DO NOT curl up in a ball of burning shame and die from spontaneous combustion
This one is self-explanatory.
3. DO NOT cry
You will want to cry hot tears of humiliation. Don’t. You’ve already maxed out your embarrassment quota for the
day week year.
4. DO NOT laugh
Your inner sadist will want to giggle hysterically at this misfortune. Don’t. Allowing yourself to indulge in a wildly inappropriate social response does not help solve this problem.
5. DO NOT let out an exasperated “Fucking GREAT” loud enough for everyone to hear
It makes you look like an unsympathetic asshole.
6. DO stay calm
Stifle the urge to laugh, cry, gag, swear and/or die of embarrassment the best you can, while you try to contain the biohazard your child just generated. Think calm thoughts and take deep breaths – but not deep enough to make you dry retch.
7. DO your best to clean it up
Improvise with available resources. This might mean asking your children to remove items of clothing so you can use them as cleaning cloths or it could mean the unorthodox use of panty liners, knapsacks or paper bags. I never carry tissues or wet wipes so I used my five year-old son’s flannelette shirt. Lucky for him it was cold and wet when we disembarked, so he didn’t need it as we shivered our way across the tarmac.
8. DO accept offers of help
If anyone is kind enough to offer their assistance you should briefly choke back your crippling social awkwardness to say “yes”.
9. DO apologise to everyone in the immediate vicinity
Apologise to everyone: Innocent bystanders. Staff members. Cleaning crews.
Apologise for everything: For the vomit. For giving birth to children that vomit. For the Liberal Government. For Justin Bieber’s last single. For the Aniston-Pitt break-up.
Apologise for apologising. And then apologise some more.
10. DO make a special apology to bystanders affected by the vomit splatter pattern
You will need to save your most servile and self-abasing apologies for anyone who is directly impacted by the splatter pattern. In our case it was the lady sitting in front of us, whose armrest was in the path of trajectory. Maybe she was in shock because someone had just projectile vomited into her personal space, but she was remarkably nice about it.
11. DO NOT make direct eye contact with anyone
You are not very popular right now: the last thing you need is to have this reflected back to you in the resentful glares of the general public. Pray that no one is capturing your humiliation on a smartphone and slink away quietly, surrounded by the overpowering stench of shame, partially-digested Cheezels and fermented stomach acid.