My toothless offspring has firm faith that the only way to know if something is inedible, poisonous, three weeks old, mouldy, disgusting, dead or a potential source of the next epidemic is to take a bite of it, gnaw or drool as required and await the nearest caretaker’s response. If they remain unmoved, spit it out and move on to the next object. If they have a panic attack, call upon God, and haphazardly run around in circles like headless chickens, consider the said item safe for consumption and refuse requests to spit it out or hand it over. The adults clearly want it for themselves.

And with that logic, our determined XY chromosome-d Dora set out on all fours to explore the wonderful world of bacteria occasionally bumping into furniture and stopping only to enjoy his scrumptious Bear Grylls-inspired protein snacks.

As a first-time mother who is fuelled by strong post-natal maternal instinct, I found nirvana in the wisdom of parenting books. I was overwhelmed by a pathological fear of contamination and infection that dangerously-bordered on obsessive compulsive disorder and germophoia, so I decided to follow in his suit. Antibacterial scare campaigns cheered me on and so, armed with alcohol wipes, disinfectants, repellents, antibacterial lotions and sanitisers, I Adrian Monk-ed my way around the house every morning just the way a homicide detective would.

Exploring and battling the wonderful world of bacteria

Lather, rinse, repeat.
Scrub, sterilise, sanitise.
Wipe, decontaminate, neutralise.
And in some extreme cases, quarantine and annihilate.

With unwavering faith in promise of 99.9 percent protection, I revelled in washing and cleaning rituals, my head held high, imaginary cape fluttering in the summer breeze.

I was all set to proceed to phase two of over-protective, over-bearing mother and bring out the bubble wrap and safety helmet, when the offspring decided to catch the viral. It seemed like the ‘IN’ thing to do. Like the fidget spinner everyone around him seemed to have, and they were more than generous in sharing it by means of their aerosol-power sneezes and infected kisses. My clearly naive progeny decided he wanted to keep up with the trend. 

For his mother, religiously lathering him in sanitisers and bug repellents, it was a clear sign of defeat and betrayal. I was heartbroken, wary of the false promises that had been made. Suspicious of the fine print, I found myself half-heartedly practicing the rituals, but still excusing myself from the infected who was insistent on a hug or a handshake, disinfecting everything that he came in contact with and whole-heartedly accusing Patient Zero for being stupid and selfish.

It was then I realised that there are two kinds of people in this world. The first who catch the virus, call in sick and share their pain with Netflix and a box of Kleenex. The second are the half-wits who will cause the next zombie apocalypse. Thanks guys! Thanks! I’d be sure to return the favour by voting for suspected pathogen-carriers to be tossed out of the fortress with a few basic supplies when the time comes.  

It was then I realised that there are two kinds of people in this world. The first who catch the virus, call in sick and share their pain with Netflix and a box of Kleenex. The second are the half-wits who will cause the next zombie apocalypse. Thanks guys! Thanks! I’d be sure to return the favour by voting for suspected pathogen-carriers to be tossed out of the fortress with a few basic supplies when the time comes.

But that’s a battle for later. For now, it was our version of the Australian outback. Inspired by Steve Irwin, we used the element of surprise to capture and contain our slimy croc long enough to wipe its nose and feed its medicine. We hid behind barriers, slowly crept towards it as it rested in its natural habitat, and pounced at the right moment with a handful of tissues and/or some sugary syrup.

‘‘Crikey, mate. It works!” We’d exclaim before we’d sit back to catch our breaths and survey our scars. It really did work but only for the first few attempts before this smart crocodile with a human brain caught on and learnt to outsmart us. Reinforcements were called in and other creative methods enforced. The common cold has no cure and no antidote. Our only choice was to wait it out. For the next few days, our motto became ‘Sleep is for the weak.’

Eventually the viral decided it had enough of us, and we of it. It succumbed to its death, finally defeated by the fat white army. From the ashes of the tissue-laden battlefield, rose a healthy, happy baby back on all fours, snot and sneeze free, ready to taste the flavours of the world again, starting with his father’s bedroom slippers. Old, chewy and perfect immunity boosters.

Published in Dawn, EOS, October 8th, 2017

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