A bit of news came home from school last week: “The kids were exposed to a coxsackie virus.” What that is (I learned) is almost anything, from a mild flulike bug to something that causes nasty sores. Whatever: He seemed fine, didn’t show any symptoms, and (once we confirmed that last week’s biter was not the infectious kid) we half-forgot about it.
Then the vomiting began.
A couple of little spitups, and then, when my wife was comforting him in a big hug, a whopper. She was absolutely covered, shoulders to knees. I dived into the linen closet for towels, and we attempted to scrub down the poor little thing (the vomiter, not the vomitee). Eventually my wife went off to the shower, we attempted to hose off our kid in the tub, we checked with our pediatrician, and we put him to bed on a very thick blanket, in hopes that it would catch any last expulsions. It was dramatic, I’ll tell you that. It was also, mercifully for him, over within a few hours. He managed to sleep a more or less full night, and next morning, he was fine, and even ate a normal-ish breakfast. No symptoms since then.
But it was not, as I was going around saying, “projectile vomiting.” That is something that (apparently) requires more than yakking a couple of gallons of stuff all over your mother with a certain amount of force. No, “projectile” means just that–as one Website put it, “it will arc over the end of the crib.” As impressive as this was, it wasn’t that.
I did come out of this, however, noticing that I like deploying terminology like “projectile vomiting.” It gives an incident heft, importance. If it’s projectile, it is Schwarzeneggerian in its violence and faintly military direction. If it’s just throwing up, it’s just stinky and annoying and generally troubling. No fun at all. Not even eighteen months old, and we’ve already got him on a performance track–and he is, or we are, already falling short. Sigh.