Given my haphazard approach to parenting, there are times when I can't help but be amazed, that each of my little treasures has made it all the way to grown-up-hood.
When they were small, it was a relatively common occurrence to find ourselves sitting for hours in the waiting area at A & E. There was the time that Charlie slipped up the stairs and put his teeth through his lip; the day when Ged climbed up and fell off a telephone junction box onto his head, the numerous occasions when Claire had a nose-bleed that simply wouldn't stop.
And there are a few incidents that stay with me more vividly. Like the afternoon when I went into the bedroom to find Charlie tipping back the contents of a Calpol bottle (liquid paracetamol for the uninitiated). My children loved Calpol, particularly in the days when it was still laced with sugar. I loved Calpol, it could reduce a temperature almost immediately. So Calpol was good, but a whole bottle of Calpol, and a potentially damaged liver was definitely not so good.
The nice doctors at A & E took Charlie's bloods and then gave him a hideous thick green liquid to make him sick. Nothing happened. For hours and hours.
'Perhaps you should take him home. Bring him back in another four hours and we'll test his blood again'
I took him home. I waited for him to be sick. Four hours later I took him back to A & E. As I stepped through the door, holding him tight against my shoulder, wondering what on earth I'd do if his blood tests showed something bad, he was gloriously, violently sick - all down my back, down my legs, as far as my shoes. His blood tests showed no worrying signs, his liver was fine, but my self-esteem was seriously damaged.
A few years before that, when Claire was only tiny, we'd been walking together along the road. As we started to cross, a car came careering round the corner. In my panic, I yanked on her hand and tugged her across the road. When we reached the other side, she stood there quietly, her arm hanging limply by her side.
'Oh my god, I've pulled her arm out of its socket'
I picked her up and jumped on a bus (no car in those days) to go to A & E. We waited to be seen. For hours and hours. When eventually it was time for us to see the doctor, my sweet little daughter waved at him. 'It's alright now' she smiled happily. And apparently it was.
The children are all adults now, so I'd assumed, you might think quite reasonably, that my waiting days at A & E were over.
Last Friday, dearest Megan (that delightful, 21 year old daughter of whom I wrote with such loving pride not so long ago) went out to play with her friends. While out having fun, she decided it would be a good idea to take a piggy-back ride from one of her none-too-sober compatriots.
Philip's got a saying that we're all responsible for the predictable outcomes of our actions. I think it's probably fair to say that Megan could have predicted the outcome of an inebriated piggy-back ride. But even if she'd foreseen that she'd end up in a heap on the floor, I'm not sure she would have pictured the actual damage that a hard pavement can cause to a soft arm and a gentle face.
A day later, with her face and arm continuing to swell, and her eye getting blacker by the minute, we inevitably found ourselves sitting in A & E. She trying to hide the worst of her injuries behind her hair, me hoping she wasn't about to feature on the front page of the Sunday papers in an article entitled 'Binge-drink Britons'. Several x-rays and some intravenous anti-biotics later, we were all glad to find out that nothing was broken and there'd be no long-term consequences, other than, perhaps some dents to her pride.
And me? Of course I'm glad that there's no lasting damage, and I'm very grateful to the kind, non-judgemental staff who checked her over so carefully at the hospital, but I can't say I've missed the trips to A & E in the last few years, and I can say with no hesitation that I hope it's a long, long time till I'm back there again.