RAISING ELLE | The Illusion of Control
by Martinique Davis
Oct 04, 2012 | 10555 views | 0 0 comments | 711 711 recommendations | email to a friend | print

It is so difficult to sound like you have things under control when speaking with the Poison Control Center.

“Um, so, yes, ah, my daughter just took a bite out of a Finish Powerball,” I utter into the phone, attempting – poorly – to keep the panic rising in my chest from bubbling over into hysteria. “I mean, she seems okay, I mean, she’s acting normally,” I go on, not bothering to take a breath as I speak, “but the box says, well, the ingredients include…”

“Ma’am, you don’t need to read me the ingredients,” the Poison Control man interrupts, using that gentle but firm tone reserved for speaking with people who are about to lose their minds.

“Of course of course,” I spew, “it just says though that, ha, you know, ingestion can cause gastrointestinal distress, esophageal damage,” I continue, trying not to imagine what “esophageal damage” looks like in a two-and-a-half year old.

“Let’s just start from the beginning here,” he interjects. “What’s your name?”

And in this way, the Poison Control Man talks me back from the edge of a mother’s lunatic cliff.

How does a parent get to the low point where her two-and-a-half year old is unsupervised and nibbling on automatic dishwasher detergent cubes? You only imagine things like that happening to other people. That is, before you become a parent yourself and begin to taste what it’s like to manage the ceaseless chaos that is raising children. If my experiences were put into a book, it would be called Parenthood: The Continual Battle to Keep Children from Killing Themselves.

If there is anything I’ve learned in the time since that first child squirmed into my life, so vulnerable and fragile, it’s that you can never really relax. We can be cruising along, sailing across calm seas, sun in our faces without a care in the world… then BLAM! our little ship slams into an iceberg and all hell breaks loose.

Case in point would be the other evening, when I made that call to the Poison Control Center.

There I was, attempting to make dinner. Children have some kind of inborn proclivity to becoming especially demanding the moment their mother steps into the kitchen.

“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Elle begins. “There’s a bee! A bee! A bee in the house!”

“Okay, honey, just a second,” I say. “I’m just going to get this pot of water on…”

“Aaaaaahhhh!” Elle screams.

“What! What happened?” I throw my dish rag down on the counter and whip around to see my four-year-old, holding her hand out to me with big raindrop tears forming in her eyes.

“Did it sting you?” I ask, disbelieving. Of course, the bee stung her. Of course, it took me fifteen extra seconds to turn on the stove and put a pot of water on, and of course, that was all it took for my four-year-old to get stung by a bee.

The next three minutes are consumed with bee-sting damage control. Scraping out the stinger. Running her finger under cold water. Looking for the bee. Getting out the Benadryl, in case she has an allergic reaction…

Well, as anyone knows, three minutes is ample time for a toddler to discover any number of things that could kill her. Or cause gastrointestinal distress. As I’m soothing my eldest, my youngest is rummaging around… beneath the sink… which I had left unlocked… since I was going to put the dishwasher detergent in the full dishwasher as soon as I put the water on the stove…

Emme rounds the corner, an unwrapped cube of dish detergent gripped in her fist.

“Did you just eat that?” I say, disbelieving.

Emme smiles.

Did you eat that?” I repeat.

“Yes,” she says, eyeing me for a reaction.

“No,” she says, running into the living room.

“Emmeline, Mommy needs to see what’s in your hand,” I warn, panic rising in my chest like the water about to boil on my stove.

She unravels her fist. Of course, there is a child-sized bite taken out of the thing. Of course!

And so my first-ever call to Poison Control. The call turned out to be relatively pleasant, all things considered, especially since Poison Control Man (who told me his name, but that is about the last thing I would remember in my state of mind) assured me that things were most likely going to be okay – which they were. We found the rest of the Finish Powerball later, on the floor, where Emme had thankfully spit it out.

I hang up the phone, and Craig and I sit at the kitchen table, catching our breath, keeping both of our daughters in our view.

“What the hell was all of that about?” he asks, shaking his head incredulously.

“I don’t know… I was just trying to make dinner,” I say, feeling my heart rate finally begin to inch downwards. The respite doesn’t last long.

I turn around at the mention of “dinner”, and see the dish rag I’d deserted on the countertop – of course, right next to the stove – ignite into a ball of flame. Of course!

“Oh crap!” We scramble up from the table, and get to work putting out the next fire.

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