We’ve just been camping with family, and experienced some of those screams.
I don’t mean the excited screams when they see their big cousins.
Or the offended sobs followed by a distraught cry of: ‘Mummy Mummy! Tiddler said I was naughty!‘ (Toddler is now 5 and easily offended).
Nor even the sounds that accompany knees hitting gritstone, gravel or tarmac, which seem to happen thirty times a day.
No: I’m talking about real screams. The ones that make your blood run cold because you know there’s actually something wrong.
The first wasn’t serious; Toddler had an encounter with a wasp.
Here’s the thing with wasps: they aren’t actually out to sting people. The don’t think to themselves: ‘Look! There’s a little person down there eating a sandwich. Well, as a wasp I must give them a sting to spoil their day.’
No. Wasps are like everyone else: out for what they can get. Stinging a human doesn’t get them anything (other than maybe squashed). The jam sandwich in the human’s hand, however…
The Thing is, just don’t wave your sandwich. And when the wasps do notice it, don’t flap at them or make them feel threatened. If they want to walk up your arm, let them walk up your arm. They see a surface near the food for walking along, not a weak spot to sting out of malice. Chris Packham, wildlife expert, told the Guardian that he used to smear jam around his kids’ mouths to teach them this lesson.
Anyway, Toddler listened to my wasp-talk like is was Gospel, didn’t she. No hysteria for her; her calmness and collectedness were cool. While other people were flapping their way through breakfast, she concentrated on more important things, like making sure she got her turn at pushing the plunger on Grandad’s cafetiere.
Then one of the little shits, completely unprovoked, flew down and put its stinger in her hand.
One of those screams. Although, five minutes and a fascinating chat about the inflammatory process later and Toddler had almost forgotten.
I had not. I even considered leaving a jelly out in the sun (a trick of my mothers: the wasps stick to it, then it sets overnight; the following day, you top it up a bit with boiling water and repeat the process. The dead wasps make neat layers. Art.)
A few mornings later I was lying in, when I gathered from voices outside my tent that one of the cousins hadn’t been seen for a while. Perhaps she’d Toddled to the toilet. Someone went to check. They returned: she hadn’t. At this point, I got the impression people were mounting a search so I mounted my own search for some clothes so I could go out and help.
Then there was the scream. A pair of quick little feet scampered past the tent and the voice, still screaming, articulated: ‘Daddy!’
I would have run out of my tent completely naked then, but Hubby was clearly there.
‘Hot coffee from the cafetiere,’ he called. With the adults distracted, Tiddler had spotted his chance to have a turn at pressing the plunger.
‘Shit. Cold water for ten minutes.’
I dressed and followed the screams up the campsite to the hose-pipe.
The thing about Consent is, if someone doesn’t want you to do something, then you should stop doing it. Again, my kid had taken Mummy’s words to heart.
‘I don’t want you to, Daddy,’ he was screaming, while struggling, and kicking. ‘MUMMY! Mummy tell Daddy I don’t want to be wet!’
But when your child’s skin is blistering before your eyes, you just grab them and hold them still as you can for the hose-pipe. He was beyond being reasoned with. Then you remember to check that your missing niece has been located, wrap Tiddler in cling-film, cuddle him them all the way to minor injuries (it hurts too much to get him in the car-seat) and carry him in still screaming.
‘He’s got some very major minor burns.’
There followed a long, harrowing day.
By the time we left minor injuries, Tiddler was wearing a net to hold his dressings in place and had some pain relief on board. He was quiet and cuddling a special teddy (importantly in his favourite colour) that he’s been very attached to since.
By the time we got to the Burns Unit, he was positively cheerful. He spotted lots of toys in the waiting area and had to be told more than once not to ride the scooter into the other patients.
Then the nurse gave him more pain relief
‘But he’s not really painful n – Oh. Is that because you’re going to change the bandages?’
She was. And she pulled each blister away, too.
I have to say that the care was excellent. Tiddler had two relatively superficial burns, one one his inside wrist and the other on his abdomen. There was a lot of waiting about, but that meant we were lucky: a burns’ unit is not the sort of place where I’d want to be at the top of a doctor’s priority list. Tiddler is going to be fine.
Meanwhile, hubby had very soggy feet from the hose-pipe and I was suffering slightly from the disorientation of a short-sighted person who has left their tent with no glasses on.
By the time we got back to the campsite, Tiddler was asleep and it was natural to make a coffee.
But I didn’t quite have the heart.