My kids love to be outside. L-O-V-E it. As I type this, it’s 32 degrees and they’re all out there, but only after they protested angrily while I tried to dress them appropriately. Because I was delaying their outdoor gratification. Seriously, their dream in life (collectively) is to wear as little clothing as possible while communing with nature via digging in dirt, capturing bugs for scientific study, peeing on fences, moving rocks around the backyard, and generally destroying any and all attempts at landscaping on my part.
Luckily, we live in a part of the world where the weather is appropriate for outdoor play pretty much year-round. Also luckily for them, they’re weird unsocialized homeschool kids that have plenty of time to play in our (securely fenced in, with a 5.5 foot privacy fence and locked gate) backyard.
Sadly for our youngest, Spike, he gets left out of these excursions. He’s still in the oh-look-there-is-an-object-that-I-would-like-to-immediately-put-in-my-mouth phase which presents issues of both choking and disease. I’m pretty okay with germs and dirt, to a degree, but anyway you slice it a 16-month old needs more supervision than just being let loose in a backyard to dig and lick weird shit. Aaaaand, I don’t want to spend hours chasing him around making him cry because I removed rocks and dirt from his mouth, like the horrible wet blanket that mothers tend to be.
Spike tends to stand at the door or window and stare longingly at the boys (and usually also the dogs) playing. He will turn to me and point at them, saying, “Brother!” Actually, I’m not really sure what he’s saying because it just sounds like “bwa!” but let’s go ahead and pretend that translates to brother.
How do I get this door open?
All of this is to say that a couple of Fridays ago the weather was BEAUTIFUL and the older boys had already spent hours in the yard and had already come inside to get cleaned off and set up with a new activity to grab their attention. Three o’clock on a Friday seemed like a good time for my kids to play with some stickers. Thank god for the pre-made craft kits because without them my children would never do crafts. Who wants to get all that stuff ready? Not me.
I took this chance to give Spike some precious outdoor time. We went out and I sat on the patio where I could see the other boys inside, working away with foam stickers of robots and letters and hearts and whatnot, and where I could also keep Spike from doing anything too gross and/or dangerous. It was going swimmingly for a few minutes and then the 3-year old (Chuckles) wandered outside.
That’s cool, his attention span is short. The stickers were probably boring to him. Then a minute later the 5-year old, Mini-Me, came outside and was quickly followed by the last brother. I could tell from Fidget’s face (the 7-year old) that something had gone awry.
Mini-Me says, very matter-of-factly, “Fidget put a robot arm in Chuckles’ ear.” Then he walked off to do some digging. But looking at Fidget, I didn’t think I should ignore it. “What did he say?”
This is when Fidget went into his song-and-dance (I mean that almost literally, he can’t stand still when he’s confessing something and his voice gets very frantic and high-pitched as he tries to explain that he did something but he didn’t mean to do something) about how he just put a robot arm in Chuckles’ ear and he didn’t know it would go IN his ear and he didn’t mean it and he didn’t know and he’s really sorry.
I was still stuck on “robot arm” because what???? So I asked him to go get another one so I could see what he meant. I thought they meant a Lego piece but as it turns out they had ripped an arm off of one of the robot stickers and, allegedly, put it into the 3-year old’s ear. So I did what anyone would do and asked Chuckles if there was a sticker in his ear.
Ughhhh. So now I drag everyone inside so I can investigate further. This leads to the baby crying because I took him away from Mother Nature, the 7-year old crying because he knows that he really shouldn’t put stuff in someone’s ear and also because he cries a lot, and the 3-year old crying because I’m pinning him down and trying to look into his ear for a piece of paper using only the flashlight app on my phone. In case you were wondering, this is NOT an effective way to look for a foreign body in your kid’s ear.
This is when I called my mother at work, praying she was between patients, and would answer.
“Ummm, on a scale of 1-10, how bad is it if Chuckles has a piece of paper stuck in his ear and he can’t go to the doctor until Monday? Because it’s already after 3 on Friday and the pediatric clinic won’t have any more appointments today and I really, really don’t want to take a kid to the E.R. on a Friday afternoon when I’m not even 100% sure there’s something in there.”
My poor mom, this is not a normal way to start a conversation when you answer your phone. We debated the merits of getting the alleged paper removed that day and I searched for my cousin, the pediatric nurse practitioner’s, phone number. And also thought about another friend of mine that is a pediatrician except she was India saving kids’ lives, instead of being available to take my phone call about the protocol for foreign bodies in ears. My ineptitude as a parent is pretty far reaching, but I won’t attempt to call someone in India for this. Even I have boundaries.
Finally I called my husband and work and suggested that he come home early, to help me hold down Chuckles so I could get a better look in his ear (This is also when I called yet another medical professional friend to ask if she knew if CVS had otoscopes for sale… she didn’t think so. About this time I started to feel really under-educated. So many medical professionals and me with just a history and criminal justice degree… this is not helpful for parenting. Truthfully it’s not helpful for much, but that’s neither here nor there). Sergeant Handsome came home and helped hug the 3-year so I could look better. I still didn’t see anything but I wasn’t even entirely sure which ear the paper was supposed to be in. So we called and as it turns out, the peds clinic had Saturday hours! He’d be fine for a night.
So the next morning I took Chuckles to the doctor, explaining to the front desk, the nurse taking his vitals, and finally the doctor, that yes- I am an idiot. And no- I wasn’t sure which, if any, ear had a foreign body within it. I felt pretty stupid, but I figured that a big part of parenting is being humiliated for the sake of our children. If I had ignored it and it got infected, I would have felt incredibly awful. So… humiliation it is.
It got worse (for me) when the doctor took about 60 seconds to determine that THERE WAS NOTHING IN HIS EAR AFTER ALL. Sigh. That’s what I get for trusting the word of a 5-year old. They are notoriously unreliable witnesses. Crisis averted.
Moral of the story? Let the baby live in the cruel, dead world of the great indoors for a little while longer. Sunshine is for suckers. Also, don’t give kids stickers.