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My Latest Lesson

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn. — C. S. Lewis

When I got back to my car and opened the box, I realized I’d bought the wrong Exedrin. Who knew they even made these without the childproof cap any more? I thought to myself as I dropped it into my purse. I was alone that day for a short time, and a long list of errands lay ahead of me. I soon forgot about the little green bottle rattling it’s way to the bottom of my bag.

When Jason asked me for headache medicine this weekend, I remembered I had a relatively new bottle somewhere. I dug around and soon came up with what I was looking for. As I shook two of the little white capsules into my hand, I told myself, “You should really transfer these into a childproof bottle.” But the kids were napping in the room below, and I didn’t want to make too much noise rifling through the cabinets. So back in the purse it went, and out of my mind it flew.

When I found Will with the contents of my wallet spread around him, reeking of my perfume and happily painting his toes with my lip gloss, the first thought that sprang to mind was, “You little scamp! I’m going to make you help me clean all this up.”

And then I saw the empty green bottle. Near it, was the white screw top lid. Behind that lay a jumble of pills. I felt all the blood drain to my feet, and time slowed to a crawl — giving me ample opportunity to imagine my precious boy pale and still on a hospital gurney.

Dear God! How many did he eat? I moved to screen Will and his brothers from the scene as I carefully began counting the pills back into the bottle.

Eight, nine, ten…”No! Stay back! Everybody stay back. Don’t touch!”

Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen…My hands are shaking and the mouth of the jar seems to be getting smaller.

Twenty-six, twenty-seven…How many are still on the floor? Does it look like there are a lot missing?

Thirty three, thirty-four, thirty-five…”Quiet, Jack! Please!”

Thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty. Forty tablets out of fifty. Ten are missing. An even number. That’s a good thing isn’t it? I ask myself. What are the odds he ate an even number of pills?

I grab Will and put him on the counter, somehow believing that having him at eye level might help me discern the contents of his stomach.

“Will, did you eat any of those pills?”

“Wanna eat pills,” he mumbles sullenly, angry to have been denied his fun.

“No, baby. I’m not asking if you WANT any pills I’m asking if you ALREADY ate any pills!”

He examines his shiny pink toes. “Need a wipe, mommy. See my toes? They wet.”

Absently, I grab a dishcloth and begin cleaning his toes as I backtrack. I bought the pills one of the last days Tessa was caring for the boys, so that would have been about a month ago. I took two that day. I gave two to Jason this weekend. I remember digging in my purse last week while waiting for…something. So that makes six. Didn’t Jason ask for headache medicine while we were driving somewhere two or three weeks ago? So probably eight. Didn’t I give some to a friend? I remember them asking me about the active ingredients and me assuring them it was the best thing for a headache. So possibly all 10, but maybe only six. I just can’t be sure.

I call our pediatrician. Then I call poison control. And finally, I call Jason, frantically having him pulled out of surgery to  confirm what I’ve already been told…that everything is fine. That my tiniest boy will be o.k. That we got lucky this time.

When I think such a bright light could have been snuffed out by my own carelessness… well, it’s just too horrible to contemplate. I don’t usually indulge in mommy guilt, telling myself I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got, but today… today there’s simply no getting around it. I failed to do my duty as a mom. Thankfully, none of my babies had to suffer the consequences.

This story could have so easily ended another way. If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews — basically if there is any reason you might come into contact with a child — please learn from my mistake and be sure your medicines are kept secure. Thanks for your understanding…this was a tough one to share.

Posted in Family & Relationships, Kids, Parenting, Uncategorized.

2 Responses

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  1. alonna says

    I am so sorry you had to go through that! I have done almost the same thing. I set out one tylenol p.m. on the counter in the bathroom one night to take and left the room to do something really quick. In the mean time little A walked into the bathroom to use the potty and came out with it in his hand! And said “Mommy what is this?” I thought I was going to die!!! It scared me to death! Lesson learned all things are put way up and if I need to take something I take it then or carry it in my hand. I still haven’t forgiven myself for that. But we both probably should. I use to ride in a car with no car seat growing up and lived 😀

  2. Bells says

    yep, a close call. So glad it ended ok. Such a small oversight with potentially huge consequences.

    Jason is a doctor?

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