Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why sometimes I think I might make a decent mom

The summer before my senior year of college, I lived in DC, doing two internships with literary agents. I also held two nannying jobs and a temp job with a nonprofit. So yes, I had five jobs that summer. It was a lot. There was a lot of driving. But it was also pretty awesome.

One of the nannying jobs was for two older kids--I believe they were 15 and 12 at the time. I wasn't really a nanny--more of a summer assistant/chauffeur/mentor/supervisor. I drove the 15-year-old (a girl) to art camp, drove them both to and from friends' houses, ran errands, took the kids on outings, and generally entertained them and prevented them from just hanging around the house all day watching TV.

In short, it was awesome. The kids were awesome and so was their mom, and that made all the difference. I totally bonded with both of them and we had such a good time together. They were hilarious and smart and fun and I actually really miss them.

Anyway, one of the episodes from that job that stands out most in my mind was on, I believe, my second day. The boy, Brad, had a doctor's appointment to get his camp medical forms completed, and his mom asked me to bring him. It was kind of a last-minute appointment as he was scheduled to head to camp the next week.

It seemed like it would not be a problem. Everything checked out fine at the doctor's office... until they got to his ears. One of them had a blockage. Flushing it out didn't fix it. Neither did flushing it again. Or flushing it a time after that.

Finally the doctor gave up and said he'd need to go to an Ear Nose and Throat doctor (ENT). Of course since he had to leave for camp the very next week this had to happen right away. The doctor made some calls and finally got us in with an ENT well out of the city in the suburbs. We got an appointment for that afternoon and headed up the highway.

There was hardly any waiting time with the ENT. In no time Brad was on the table having his ear thoroughly examined. The doctor wasn't exactly the best as far as bedside manner was concerned. Lots of throat-clearing and hemming and hawing, and grave looks. It didn't take him long to say that yes, there definitely was a blockage, it was fairly severe, and you know what? All that flushing out at the regular doctor's office probably made it worse. Tsk.

THEN, and this was the best part, the doctor turns to me and says, right in front of poor, quaking, 12-year-old Brad, "I think we're going to need to put him to sleep."

At first I thought he was kidding, you know? Like the way dogs are put to sleep? Like a misguided attempt at a joke, oh ha ha let's relax the kid by kidding about how the situation is so bad that the only way to fix it is to euthanize him? But no, he actually meant that he felt that we would need to put the kid under general anesthesia in order to remove the blockage from his ear.

My response was along the lines of: Excuse me? Why in the hell would you need general anesthesia to get something out of a kid's ear? You're not cutting anything open, you're not causing any pain... the ear canal is OPEN. That's how whatever this is got IN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

The doctor was all dithering, like, oh, well, with younger kids they tend to move, and then I could stab them in the inner ear, and he's just at that borderline age...

After some back and forth I convinced him to at least TRY to get the thing out of Brad's ear. He could at least go in there and see if it came out easily. If he couldn't get it, and Brad seemed, I don't know, dangerously squirmy, I would call his mother and discuss the anesthesia.

(Even though, really? 12 years old and the doctor doesn't trust him to hold still for five seconds? And also, I've since undergone general anesthesia twice, and can I just say? Absolutely not an experience I would subject my child or a child in my care to for something as simple as an ear blockage.)

So, the doctor pulled out a pair of very alarming looking pincers, dourly warned Brad to hold still, lowered the pincers into his ear... and came out with the blockage, on the very first try.

And what was the blockage? Part of a pencil. A PENCIL. Covered with disgusting green goo. Luckily, Brad was allowed to take it home (wrapped in a napkin) to show his mom. Because what could be cooler than a slimy green pencil that has been residing in your ear for weeks on end, right?

During the car ride home, Brad was marveling about how well he could hear now that the PENCIL HAD BEEN REMOVED FROM HIS EAR. (Shocking, right?) I don't think his sister has ever felt so vindicated as when he announced, "You were totally right! I WAS shouting all the time when I thought I was just talking!"

Really, he was an awesome little brother. And she was a pretty great big sister.


  1. Lol, I love how kids feel like foreign objects retrieved from their bodies are some kind of prize. I'm sure you'll be a great mom!

  2. Reading that story made me shudder. I'm quite certain I wouldn't be able to watch that extraction. I think that's why I married a nurse - he can take care of the icky medical stuff that otherwise makes me squeamish.

  3. omg - that is too hilarious! Good for you for not putting him "to sleep" for something like that. At 12 I would think he could hold still for a second! It would be different if he were 2.

  4. Did you ever find out how the pencil got in there? Yuck!

    Good call on getting the doctor to try it w/out the general - sheesh. So often specialists have no clue about kids!

  5. A PENCIL!?! Good God. Bravo for not flipping out like I might have.

  6. The fact that you didn't puke when that thing came out of his ear proves that you could handle mom situations. Kids do the weirdest things!

  7. I had the same thought as Kelsey... did Brad every tell you how the pencil got in there?

    Some of my fondest memories are of babysitting during college. The little girl was an absolute doll, and I miss her (OMG she's like, a 5th grader now!) all the time.

    But it's moment's like that, or when they cry because they want to take the sleeping hamster out of the cage to play but you say no, and hold your guns, that you realize that being a Mom might be the greatest thing ever!

  8. It does sound like you'd make a good Mom! I have to admit though--I am curious about a couple of things

    1. How did the pencil get in there??
    2. How did it manage to stay in there long enough that the kid forgot what it was that was in his ear--and forgot that there was anything in there in the first place?

  9. Best phrase ever: "dangerously squirmy"

  10. ha! a kid in my sister's class had to be taken to the ER once because he'd shoved those furry little pussy willow buds up BOTH NOSTRILS and no one could get them back out. what is WITH little boys sticking foreign objects in all available orifices? (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID)

  11. How do you forget that you have a part of a pencil stuck in your ear when you are 12? When I was 12, I was babysitting other people's kids. Sometimes young boys amaze me!

  12. Like everyone else who has commented here I'm kind of wondering how the pencil got stuck and he forgot about it.

  13. I'm amazed you can remember that much detail from something that happened that long ago.

    My life is a blur.