You hear your kid’s door open at 3:45am and, no matter what is about to happen, you know it won’t be good. At all.
Beanie ran into our room, where we were thankfully up after a 3am feeding for Baby Squish. She choked on her words about needing to go to the potty, which could only mean one thing: mass amounts of vomit.
I jumped out of bed, shooed her into our bathroom, lifted the lid with my left hand and held her hair back with my right, and let a mess of meatballs and cherry popsicle empty into the toilet.
In that moment, I had a flashback to another night: the worst night of my parenting life.
Several months ago, The Best Mom went out of town for a bridal shower, leaving me home alone with Beanie and Bug.
We had a tremendous Saturday. We slept late and snuggled through a morning of their favorite cartoons. We ventured over to the local farmer’s market, where they nibbled yummy apples. The main event of the day was a friend’s birthday party at a gymnasium, where they had a tremendous time running and flipping.
After the party, we came home and I made them a light dinner of meatballs and broccoli, to balance the pizza and cake they had earlier. They both went to bed easily and I was able to watch a basketball or hockey game or something.
Around 11:30, I went outside to let the dog out.
Still standing on the lawn, waiting for the dog to finish, I heard a low rumble on the monitor.
Over time, you learn the tones in the your kids’ voices. This was a code red emergency tone, a sharp combination of fear…and fear.
The dog and I ran inside and up the stairs as fast as a blur.
We found Beanie standing in the middle of our hallway bathroom in the midst of 360-degrees of vomit. In every direction. On the floor. On the walls. On her. On the shower curtain. On the cabinets. Literally everywhere in the bathroom. Even behind closed doors. It was the most aggressive amount of throw-up I’d ever seen.
And my four-year-old daughter was standing at the epicenter, shivering with illness and fright.
How do you even begin to deal with this?
I devised a two-step plan, and I’m surprised I was able to get that far.
Step One: Remove Beanie. Step Two: Clean.
With my marching orders in front of me, I grabbed a pair of old sandals and tossed them in between me and her, so I could snag her out of the room.
I stripped her clothes off and put them in the laundry immediately. Then I cleaned her off with a wet towel and set her up on the floor of my bedroom and put a show on, so I could begin the real work.
Using a combination of every single cleaning product in my house, I set out to clear the chunkage and disinfect the bathroom. I Mr. Cleaned. I Swiffered. I mopped. I Lysoled. I spent nearly an hour in that bathroom.
And then the monitor rumbled again. It was nearly 1am.
It was my son.
I ran into his room. Still in his crib at the time, he had covered it with the same vile stinky vomit that I had just spent an hour cleaning in the bathroom.
Two sick kids.
I set Bug up next to Beanie in our bedroom so I could tend to his room.
As I was pulling the sheets off his bed, I heard ANOTHER rumble. This time coming from my room.
Beanie was running to the toilet, with Round 2.
I went to help her only to hear another rumble from the room.
Bug was on to Round 2 himself. With no toilet for him, I dragged him into the shower, to he could be sick, tears streaming down his face as he wailed in confusion.
Then I ran back to Beanie, who was throwing up again.
Then Bug threw up again.
I called my wife, disrupting the celebration, but I needed some emotional support.
“This is something I’ll laugh about one day, right?” I asked her.
Eventually, around 2am, I got them both out of the bathroom and onto a waterproof picnic blanket on the floor of the bedroom. I brought along a stash of small hand towels to catch anything else that may come up.
Once they were settled, I finished cleaning the hallway bathroom and processed two loads of laundry. Towels. Pajamas. Sheets. It was not a pretty sight.
With the laundry rolling and the kids calm, I turned on a movie, thinking the worst was over, hoping we could all get some sleep.
Good thing I brought those towels, because I used just about every one of them, as Bug was sick for hours, coughing up who-knows-what-he-had-left into them.
Finally. Finally. Finally, we all fell asleep on the floor around 4am.
By 7am, I had somehow moved myself to the bed and was woken up by two kids bouncing on me.
“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Let’s go to IHOP! We want pancakes**!”
The sun was up. Morning had dawned. I survived the worst night of my parenting life. So far.
With three kids now, I’m certain there will be worse nights ahead. But whatever comes, I know I’ll be just fine…as long as I take things one step at a time. And don’t forget the waterproof picnic blanket.
**No, I did not take them out to breakfast. They ate toast and plain pasta for the next 24 hours.