Toddlers love to make fools of us.
Have you noticed? They wait until you’re in a busy parking lot unloading a month’s worth of groceries to melt down and act demon-possessed. They scream for waffles and you finally break down and make waffles and then they scream “NO WAFFLE! YUCKY WAFFLE!” and throw it on the floor.
You are so hungry from all of the intense parenting that you dust it off and eat it yourself. But then they cry because they are hungry.
They cry because you ate their waffle.
A toddler will proudly recite her full name and phone number over and over, yet when asked to repeat it for an audience (after you have bragged about it incessantly) she remains silent because she’s too busy pooping her pants to be bothered.
Last week, our city was shut down due to severe weather. All of the kids were home, but Robbie was at work because car dealerships never, ever close, even in the face of imminent tornadoes and hail. After all, someone somewhere might still trek out in the middle of destruction to buy a brand-new car, because obviously the best time to make an investment is when you have to drive it home in a hailstorm.
I was already having a hard day because between weather warnings, Asher, the 4-year-old, got super sick and threw up everywhere. I asked Maverick to take his little sister somewhere else in the house to play while I cleaned up the mess. It took me a good 30 minutes to get myself, Asher, and the house back under control, and by the time I was done, the other two were done playing.
Maverick pulled me aside and said, “I think Pepper has one of my marbles.”
I looked at her. She stared back silently.
She had a marble in her mouth.
After I freaked out and removed it, I made a huge production of telling her that only food goes in our mouths. She just laughed.
A few minutes later, I was standing in the play room when she walked up to me with a AA battery in her hand. I took it from her and asked, “Where did you get this?” I discovered that she had removed the bottom of an LED candle that requires two AA batteries to work. I had one of them, and the other one was missing.
I forced myself to remain calm as I searched for the missing battery. It was nowhere to be found.
“Pepper, where is the other battery?”
She looked straight at me and said, “I ate it. It’s in my tummy.”
That is when I panicked.
I made Maverick help me look — his little brother was still sitting exactly where I’d left him, with a mixing bowl in his lap in case he needed to throw up again — and we couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked her again where the battery was and she said, this time more emphatically, “IT’S IN MY TUMMY.”
I called 911.
The nice lady on the other end of the line said yes, my child definitely needed to go to the E.R. I told her to send an ambulance, because I didn’t know which one of my family members I would be able to get in touch with, and I was home alone with the kids … one of whom was projectile vomiting.
The next 20 minutes were a blur of frantic phone calls and adults arriving to help — first, my dad, followed by my in-laws, and finally, the ambulance.
The EMT’s acted like they had ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, meandering slowly up to my house and into my kitchen. I mean, I understand that a child swallowing a battery is not as emergent, as, say, a child who fell in glass. Because that has also happened in our house, a few years ago. But still — to me, this was emergent.
They slowly nodded their heads and said yes, she needed to go to the hospital to get checked out, but they couldn’t take her. Not because taking her would leave us with an astronomical ambulance bill. Not because they needed to leave and assist someone who was about to bleed to death. Nope. They couldn’t take her to the hospital because they didn’t have a car seat.
I’m going to let that sink in for a moment.
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, I’M TAKING HER,” I said. And we left.
The emergency room was packed. Cell phones were blaring with severe weather warnings and they had us all crammed in the interior of the hospital, away from windows and doors, so there was nowhere to sit and there is no telling what kind of illness we picked up there.
Once we were in a room, the nurse was incredulous: “You think this kid ate a AA battery?” And I said, “THAT’S RIGHT” and tried not to snicker as he had this ridiculous line of questioning with her wherein she repeated everything he said and made him look like a absolute moron.
Nurse: “Hi, there.”
Pepper: (Silent stare.)
Nurse: “What did you do with the battery?”
Pepper: “What did you do with the battery?”
Nurse: “Did you throw the battery away?”
Pepper: “Did you throw the battery away?”
Nurse: “Did you put the battery in your tummy?”
Pepper: “Did you put the battery in your tummy?”
We got an X-ray.
Our toddler did not eat a battery. She was also growing increasingly annoyed with us and with the entire situation. I was past my breaking point and started feeding her half-wrapped candy from the bottom of my purse just to keep her happy until we could get the hell out of there.
We paid $150 to the hospital for their services, marking the THIRD TIME WE HAVE DONE THIS SINCE 2016 BEGAN, and went home.
The tornadoes headed East.
Robbie went back to work.
And I mustered, from the very bottom of the deepest reserves, the energy to uncork a bottle of wine.