I'm going to let you in on a little parenting secret. If you already have children past the baby stage, you've probably experienced this. If not, well, consider yourself warned.
OK. Imagine your future child at any point in childhood. Toddler, grade school, high school, whatever. Now, think of a few stupid things that kid might do. Imagine the ways you will prevent those stupid things from happening and how your child will be raised properly in order to avoid such silly catastrophes.
Are you ready for this? Whatever you just imagined will never happen. So go ahead and think of some more really dumb things your future kid might do.
Yeah, those things will never happen either. The parenting secret you never hear about is this: Your children will come up with bizarre antics you cannot possibly predict or prepare for. All of the things you worry about will never happen. Instead, completely different things you never even dreamed of worrying about will sneak up on you and force you to question the sanity and intelligence of your offspring.
Case in point: One afternoon a few weeks ago as I enjoyed a quiet afternoon at home, the telephone rang. Thanks to Caller ID, I knew it was our family dentist. I also knew my mother-in-law, whom we call Nonni, had some dental work scheduled for that day and, perhaps, was too drugged to drive herself home. As always, I was completely unprepared for the true nature of the phone call. A transcript of our conversation follows:
Dr. Dentist: Mrs. Psycho? It's Dr. Dentist. How are you?
Me: I'm good, how are you?
Dr. Dentist: Fine, fine! You know, your mother-in-law was here today and said some things about Secondo that I want to talk to you about.
Me: (caught off guard) Um...Secondo?
Dr. Dentist: Uh, yeah, Secondo. It's probably fine, but Nonni said he told her he ate some dental floss.
Me: (there's no way I actually heard what I thought I heard) What?
Dr. Dentist: Yeah, I guess Secondo had a full container of floss that he found on the counter and, well, decided to chew on it because it was minty and then he, um, ate it.
Me: He ate it? Actually swallowed it? (My kid ate dental floss and I had no idea. Parent of the Year?)
Dr. Dentist: I don't know what it will do to him. If he swallowed it all in one big blob, it might stay that way and just, you know, pass.
Dr. Dentist: But if it came unraveled in his stomach or, you know, on the way down, it might not come out all at once.
Me: (unpleasant mental image)
Dr. Dentist: You might want to talk to Secondo to make sure if, you know, some of the floss comes out he doesn't, um, pull on it.
Me: (flashback of what once happened when our very grumpy, tailless calico cat ate a bunch of yarn)
Dr. Dentist: (clearly extremely embarrassed now) Yeah, so, I guess if that happens and only, um, part of the floss comes out, you should call the doctor and see, um, if there's something they can do. But you know, I just want to make sure Secondo doesn't tug on the floss because that might, um, damage something.
Me: Yeah, that might be pretty bad. (gagging)
Dr. Dentist: (nervous laugh) I never thought I'd have to make a phone call like this.
Me: I never thought I'd get a phone call like this!
After a few more awkward laughs (there really is no smooth way to end a phone call about dental floss emerging from your child's butt), we both hung up. I was home alone and actually blushing from that ridiculous conversation. Then, the Mom Mind kicked into overdrive.
See, when you become a Mom a part of your brain becomes irrational, paranoid, and extremely loud. It doesn't matter how rational, smart, and calm you are before you have kids. There's no escaping the Mom Mind, which insists a child not immediately within your line of vision is being kidnapped. The Mom Mind thinks a skinned knee could be fatal, a fever is spinal meningitis, a rash is an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, and a school bus more than five minutes late has crashed and killed everyone on board.
I usually attempt to ignore the Mom Mind and only listen to the rational part of my brain that quietly reminds me I'm not living in an episode of ER or Law and Order SVU. I told myself to wait until Secondo came home from school so I could ask him about the dental floss before calling the pediatrician.
But wait. What if, right at that very moment, Secondo happened to be using the bathroom at school and happened to notice something odd? What if he had dental floss hanging out of his rear end and tugged on it a bit too hard?
Shut up Mom Mind! That's totally not even possible!
When Secondo got home from school, I asked him about the dental floss. I said, "Dr. Dentist called because he was worried when Nonni told him you ate an entire roll of dental floss."
Secondo looked at me like I was out of my mind. He said, "I didn't EAT the dental floss! I just sucked all the minty flavor off and then spit it in the garbage. Who would eat dental floss?! That's crazy."
I am so glad I didn't call the pediatrician or the school nurse.