I like to imagine that people who have children have their shit together. I mean, generally. I know some people don’t intend on having children and it just kind of happens. I mean pee pee go in vagoo and out comes a child or two. That exhausts my knowledge of reproductive science but it’s elementary and it’s strange how some people don’t seem to notice this. These are the people who sit with their friends over a steaming bowl of corn and asparagus chowder and a tall cappucino and shriek “JONATHAN WAS AN ACCIDENT! A STRAIGHT UP MISTAKE!” like they didn’t realise having unprotected sex might lead to you becoming pregnant.
However, this post isn’t about them. It’s about the people with their shit together. They’ve planned for this, they’ve read the books and bought the car seat fourteen years in advance and have so many sets of romper suits they could knit a parachute and jump out of a cessna onto a bullseye 14 centimetres wide. No lamaze class is safe, no conversation with their friends can end without the inevitable boast about how they’ve childproofed the house so well that they themselves cannot get into the jam jars. Yes, these people are ready to be parents.
So, fast forward a couple of years later. They decide to take little Timmy shopping. With their rucksack full of books and spare clothes, they make the daunting trip out into the big wide world. Timmy, meanwhile has vomited six times and is in the process of taking off his seat belt to play with the button of the door that he saw makes the window move up and down. After wrestling Timmy back into his seat and finally arriving at the shopping center the inevitable happens. Timmy is hungry. Actually they are too, so it’s time to head up to the food court.
Now, before you begin writing me angry emails, this isn’t about screaming kids in public places. Any idiot knows sometimes kids just can’t be controlled and they scream like they’re an alarm in Buckingham Palace and a guy just broke the window looking for the fabled lost jewels of Windsor. No, this is about kids coughing.
There seems to be this perfect age range from about 3 to 6 where kids just cough for no reason. I have seen it time and time again. They could be perfectly fine, running around slamming their power ranger into the dogs face and suddenly they’ll just stop dead in their tracks and let out this horrible wet, scraping sound. It’s like someone is dragging rusted metal across an equally rusty floor and it comes in short bursts and then they go back to flying around the room like a methed up baby goat.
This was something I observed today and it takes us back to little Timmy. So, there he is with his parent. Let’s say the parent is wearing his rucksack full of kid safe goodies and a kevlar vest because he’s seen way too many episodes of A Current Affair to trust those teenagers at the next table. This guy looks ready for anything and he is doting on Timmy. He looks like a great dad, really attentive. It was a nice sight. Suddenly Timmy just lets out this horrible cough. That scraping sound I described earlier. That wet, gurgling rasp that echoes through your rib cage if you’re standing less than 10 metres away.
So, instead of saying, “Hey, buddy cover your mouth when you cough” or something the dad just kind of sits there looking at his kid and that’s it. I mean, I am not trying to pick on the dad’s parenting skills or anything but according to Jane Kostelc, a child-development specialist, “the more encouragement you show, the sooner he’s likely to accomplish these skills.” That’s all the dad needs to do. This kid looked to be about 3 years old. By 3, according to Kostelc, a child should be able to put on shoes and put dishes in the sink. I think asking them to cover their mouth when they cough isn’t a big stretch from those tasks.
I don’t think I should need to explain why it’s a good idea to cover your mouth when you cough but here I go anyway. The CDC in the United States wrote an entire article on why you should cover your mouth when you cough or nose when you sneeze. Basically the gist of it is, do this and you won’t spread diseases and viruses. It’s pretty simple. However, always prepared dad doesn’t seem to be too bothered by this fact. I mean, one of the most basic tenets of personal hygiene and people seem to be averse to teaching it to their children. I was brought up to fastidiously cover my mouth when I coughed. It was just polite amongst the other admirable notion of not giving someone the fucking flu if you have it.
So over and over I see this. Every time I leave the house to go on a quest for lettuce or taco shells or something. Kids in chairs, kids in shopping trolleys, free-range kids. Whatever form they come in. I hear that same, uncovered wet, rasping expulsion from somewhere.
So please, if you have kids and you’ve read all the books and done all the classes, don’t forget the important fact that if your kid doesn’t cover their mouth when they cough you might just end up wearing a nice little cold.