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Before I had kids I thought problems were black and white. Right and wrong. And in most situations I thought I was right.
I had my 2 boys (4 years old and 17 months) to myself as Pat was traveling. My little guy fell and cut his hand at the playground so when we got home I cleaned it out.
This was my workout for the day: holding him steady through the Triple Lindy he performed to get out of my arms while I ran the washcloth over his small wound. That was BEFORE the neosporin came out.
I’ve always imagined that Olympic sprinters’ mothers knew they had winners from an early age. To see my little dude bolt out of the bathroom like the gold medal was on the line made me hopeful for future glories. But today, I was more concerned about infection.
The 4 year old was trying to talk him back into the starting blocks: soothing him, calming him, patting his head, telling him that he will get him “a Thomas Bandwich” (yep that’s how he says Band-Aid. We know that’s the sort of thing that we’re supposed to correct for his development and wellbeing and… you know what? Instead, why don’t we all just start using “Bandwich”. It’s WAY more fun to say). I appreciated the back-up – all the while marvelling at how calm and graceful he could be when the cut was on someone else.
But after much Greco-Roman wrestling, (a two-sport Olympian?) I got the neosporin on the hand. The 4 y.o. did, in fact, get the bandwich as promised. His eyes beamed with pride as he opened it and gently applied it to his brother’s hand.
The Bandwich survived about two seconds before the baby tore it off – an action the 4 y.o. found hilarious.
That evening as I cooked dinner, the boys were of course only capable of playing in a 12 inch radius of my feet the entire time. But all was well. My big guy announces, “I have to listen to my feelings.” That’s code for Potty time. He ran in. I don’t have to go with him anymore, so I took a moment to enjoy the sensation of release and freedom that having only one child climbing your legs can bring.
After a few minutes, I realize he is taking a little long. It happens a lot… he gets distracted washing his hands and starts brushing his teeth. That or he lays down a white bath towel and starts to make snow angels. But I found a moment when everything was good to simmer and I walked over to check on him.
As I opened the door I see the plastic syringe in his hand from the Infant Ibuprofen. Oh my Lord.
My child got into the medicine cabinet. He’s drinking ibuprofen like it’s a juice box. How did he get there? What else do we have there? I’m gonna find a spoon in the vapo rub! We have to go to the Hospital for the first time ever! RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW! HE KNOWS BETTER HE KNOWS BETTER HE KNOWS BETTER!
“What the heck are you doing?!!!?” I bellowed.
And then the crying started.
He couldn’t get a word in as I freaked out. “What were you thinking?” “You don’t touch this.” “Ever!!!!”
I could see he thought he had an excuse. A perfectly reasonable answer for why he would touch medicine which I have told him to never touch. He kept trying to speak up like a man who’d been framed, but he’d lost his words. Even if he had them, the lump in his throat was closing off his ability to speak.
Finally, I settled. I wanted to know what, in the madman’s logic of a four-year-old, would ever justify going against a clear, bold fonted rule. I sat on the Potty and looked him in the face and very sternly said, “What were you thinking playing with medicine?”
Pause as he caught his breath between cries.
“I was getting medicine to make baby’s hand better.”
Pause as my brain processed what he just said. I looked up. Though the syringe was out, the ibuprofen was still sealed in the box – a remnant from a low grade fever the week before. The medicine cabinet was closed. Even if there was a spoon in the vapo rub, it would have undoubtedly been my husband’s. Everything was fine. Everyone was safe.
Not only safe. I had to face it: my son had been trying to do something wonderful.
That is really what he was thinking. I couldn’t yell. It was so sweet. He wanted to take care of him. Now I know some of you are thinking, “You are naive. He’s manipulating you.”
But in that moment I saw the kid he is. Kind. Thoughtful. Caring.
Wow. One of my kids is going to be an Olympian and the other one is going to be a Doctor.
All I could do was hug him hard. Very hard. Now the tears were now coming from me.
As we separated I looked him in the eye and told him how sweet and thoughtful that is. But “NEVER EVER TOUCH MEDICINE!“
I’m not a complete pushover.
Being a mom I thought most problems are black and white but this was my first foray into gray. I am really proud of him for being so caring and so confused how his little brain thought it was ok to open the box that I left on the bathroom sink the week before.
After some contemplation about it, what shocked me was that in this situation it was clearly black and white. Right and wrong. He was right to let his instinct to help motivate him to action and boy was I wrong to not put that medicine out of reach.