Anyone who is a parent can pretty easily think of many times when things have not gone smoothly. It doesn't matter how prepared we think we are—life happens. But most of us have one or two stories that stick out in our minds as particularly awful...
Mara's Bad Night:
Malia was around three, and she was sick with the flu. This was also around the time when a) she refused to throw up anywhere near the toilet, and b) she would projectile vomit on a regular basis. I think we all know where this is going.
So late one night I heard Malia crying. My husband Brad kindly got up and went to check on her, but Malia wanted her mommy. So I staggered out of bed and waded through the mess on her bedroom floor.
Typical for a toddler, Malia had toys scattered around her room. In my bare feet, I tried to carefully tip toe my way through a pile of large plastic bugs that Malia had decided she wanted from a recent trip to the toy store. She was going through a bug phase and everything was covered in bug stickers from the bug book she had convinced her Papa (my dad) to buy her. But the hard plastic bugs were the worst—little bug shaped GI Joe-type figures that were hard plastic. If you stepped on them (which I did all the time), they hurt.
Having maneuvered my way through the bug pile, I made my way to her crib. I could see her lying pathetically on her little toddler bed. As soon as she saw me, she reached out her arms and whimpered "mommy," and then projectile vomited all over me.
I don't remember exactly what I did except it involved taking a step backward from her. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my big toe. I'd stepped on one of the plastic bugs! Argh! I looked down at my foot and saw a very large white bug near my big toe. No, it was attached to my big toe and it was wiggling. "Ahhhh!!!!" I screamed and kicked the real live bug across the room.
Malia was crying, because she always cried after she threw up, and I was screaming because some kind of crazy giant bug had just taken a bite out of my toe.
Brad came running in and I tried to explain to him, without further scaring Malia, that there was some kind of monster bug that had bitten my toe. And, oh yes, I was covered in vomit.
What happened after that is a blur. Somehow Malia was cleaned up and put back to bed, and I think I trapped the bug in a bowl and took it to the garage. I wanted to throw it in the bushes and never see it again, but I didn't know what it was, and I was worried I was going to be allergic to it, so I thought I should keep it in case I needed to take it with me to the doctor if my toe suddenly fell off or something. It looked like an alien, but it turned out to be a harmless potato bug and we all survived.
That's definitely a night I will never forget! I also threw away all the plastic bugs the next day.
Toni's Bad Day:
This happened when Mara's brother, Jamal, was in the 5th grade at elementary school. I was attending law school across town from his school. Law school had been a stressful experience for the whole family. I'd been out of school for so many years that I had no confidence in my ability to do okay, so I was studying all the time and this took me away from the family. I felt guilty about it...and then this happened.
One day while I was in class, Jamal's school called. They'd tried our home phone but there was no answer (Jamal's dad was, in fact, out of town). The message was that he was in the nurse's office because he'd fallen on the playground and appeared to have broken the little finger on his left hand.
Instead of going to a dean or someone else who had the authority to get me out of class, the receptionist put the phone message in a student folder for students whose last name started with a "B." (Yup, that's me.) Some time after class ended, I made my way to the student folders, which I dutifully checked a couple of times a day. In it, there was the phone message from Jamal's school.
I drove there immediately only to discover that he'd been sitting in the nurse's office for THREE hours. The school couldn't take him to get medical care without parental authorization because they didn't consider this to be an emergency. Right away, I noticed that the broken finger was quite bent. Off we went to the doctor who told us that because so much time had elapsed since the break, the finger had already begun to set in place bent. He'd do his best to straighten it before setting it, but thought it might remain bent...which it did.
This was a day when, to quote the title of this piece, parenting got the better of me. I felt as if I'd let Jamal down, and that I shouldn't even be in law school with two small children at home.
And now for the good news! Two positives came out of this experience, the second one an unexpected treat. First, what happened led to a change in the law school's policy. If there's any question about a student needing to care for a family member, they look up the student's schedule and send a staff person to the classroom to get the student.
And second, when Jamal decided to play baseball in high school, he became a pitcher, that bent pinky finger gave him a wicked curve ball! He likely would have been the star pitcher in his senior year too, but he broke the pinky finger on his other hand in a basketball game just as the season was wrapping up and, as a result, was unable to play most of the baseball season.
I have other parental memorial moments (no surprise) but this is the one that comes to mind.
We'd love to hear of yours!