My line of work can sometimes present a dilemma as a parent. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one, as I've had the conversation many times with my colleagues-how easy it is to think about the reasons behind behaviors from 8:30 to 4:30; yet how difficult that becomes when we arrive home to our own children. It is SO HARD!
Years of experience, education, research, and reading has lent itself to a mindset of always thinking about the "purpose" behind behaviors. It's understanding the purpose that can lend itself to supports and interventions to help change behaviors that are disruptive or unsafe.
But good lord is that hard to do at home.
It is so difficult to step back from the difficult, loud, time-consuming and sometimes just plain annoying behaviors of our own offspring for long enough to think about the purpose. What comes easily at work is absolutely the opposite of easy at home.
What is easy at home is to get swept up in how inconvenient and frustrating a behavior is. It's easy to react, to overreact or to engage in any desperate attempt to just MAKE IT STOP. I cannot tell you how many times I've been in the throes of dealing with a tantrum and have thought to myself, "I do this for a living... how the hell do I feel like I know NOTHING?!"
I started working on an article with Sumitha from A Fine Parent quite some time ago. Her website/blog is simply amazing- the articles are detailed and research based (my kinda thing); yet reader friendly and relatable. The writing not only focuses on helping the reader think about parenting in a different way, but provides action plans that can actually be carried out in our millions of tough, real life parenting situations.
I'm thankful that Sumitha took a chance on my writing and this little idea I had to turn my "work mode" mind into something that can perhaps be helpful to parents.
Without further ado, please take a peak at How to Alter Your Child's "Problem" Behaviors Like a Specialist.
...and make no mistake-it is also a much needed reminder to this Mama!
Please check out all the other writing on A Fine Parent- there are others far better than mine! This article about how to stop judging other parents was particularly impactful. Cause, be honest- we all do it!
I’ve done this drive a million times.
It can be slow and painful, my vision filled with the red blur of brake lights.
This morning it was quick and calm, the road empty and open.
Sometimes it is dark, the sun asleep and the world lit by the moon or nothing at all.
This morning the sun had just risen, the cold wind making the trees dance and my car swerve.
Sometimes there is a brunette or blonde head in my rear view mirror, nonstop chatter and giggles.
This morning I’m solo, only Christmas music in my ear.
Often this ride leaves me anxious, butterflies in my stomach at the thought of having to say goodbye.
This morning the butterflies came in the form of excitement; anticipation of the surprise on faces as Santa lives on.
The drive. The drive. The drive.
Many families wake up to presents, half eaten cookies and coffee in pajamas.
We do too. But first we gotta do that drive.
To all my fellow coparents and blended families out there- know I'm with you on that drive.
Right there with you.
Much love and Merry Christmas!
Let me tell you about my day.
Have you ever gotten into bed at night and wondered if it was possible to have a do-over? Like that movie with Adam Sandler where he can use his TV remote to rewind or fast forward parts of his day- what's it called? Oh yeah, Click.
I wish I had that remote today.
It started mundane enough. The normal, stubborn toddler who doesn't want to put a shirt on, wants mom to carry him everywhere and oh yeah, doesn't want to wear that coat either. The usual 8-year-old who can run a football field at lightening speed, but is as slow as a sloth eating molasses while sitting on a turtle in the mornings. And the cute pig-tailed girl whose first tattoo will likely be "looks can be deceiving."
Let's not even go into detail about the fact that I don't have before school care for my son right now (long story), or the ridiculous commute and traffic we sit in to get him to school (even longer story), or the fact that work lately has consisted of days that feel like they last forever, yet still end with a "to do" list that is longer than when the day started.
Let's just fast forward to the moment I got a text that surprise, my son has basketball evaluations this evening. At his school. Which, as previously mentioned, is a ridiculous commute with horrible traffic. Which meant that the only solution was to rely on his dad to get him there, cut my one night to go to the gym down to a workout that pretty much consisted of walking into the gym and then walking back out, rush to get home, rush to grab basketball shoes, rush to get above mentioned cute pig-tailed girl buckled in behind me, rush to grab a super healthy happy meal and lemonade and rush to... sit in traffic.
And then let's fast forward to the exact moment of the day that made me wish I had Adam Sandler's magical remote.
The moment that I looked at my son on the court and could see the nerves breaking him, tears streaming down his face. The annoyance I felt welling up in me- because he's eight and he's an athlete and he's good at this stuff and damn it, he's too old for this shit. And at that exact same moment, a squeaky 3-year-old voice saying "Mama, I sorry, I sorry," as I feel a tug on my jacket and look down find myself standing in a small lake of lemonade.
That moment... and the emotional and physical cleanup that ensued... lasted all but a few minutes. My son got himself together and went back on the court. The lemonade was cleaned up. We moved on and went home. Eventually, I sat down at the computer to tell you all about this horrible, awful, no good, very bad day.
And then I realized something.
That 8-year-old tumbled out of bed this morning and immediately sought out a big bear hug from his mama. That cute pig-tailed girl belly laughed as I made her teddy bear talk and dance while helping her get dressed. And my baby boy- he reached for me from his crib and snuggled his blonde head into my neck as I carried him to the living room.
There were I love you's and kisses and hugs. There were phone conversations in which two people are so familiar with each other, minimal words are needed but "I love you" is always how it's ended. There was laughter with co-workers, small successes and things crossed off the list (even if more things were added).
And I realize, sitting here and typing this, how easily we can let one moment overshadow the entire rest of the day.
Because this really wasn't about a horrible, awful, no good, very bad day. This was about one small horrible, awful, no good, very bad moment.
And just like all moments do, it passed. And that one moment was surrounded by lots of pretty great moments.
So take a breath, Mama (and Daddy). The crappy moments will pass and the beautiful moments are plenty.
Even if you are walking around with sticky lemonade shoes for the rest of the evening.
I was at the doctors a few weeks ago, discussing a headache that just wouldn't go away. After doing an assessment and determining that I wasn't going to keel over and die on the spot, the doctor asked me if I was stressed out.
I have 3 kids, a full time job, a not-so-simple co-parenting situation, football and baseball, speech sessions, forever waking toddlers in the middle of the night, and a basket of laundry that is like some magically filling pit of despair.
Na, I'm not stressed.
Despite the slight sarcasm that I couldn't cover up in my answer, the doctor went on like she didn't notice.
Do you meditate?
Well, doc, I run.
She looked at me. I looked at her.
She half smiled, as if I had told a joke.
No, I mean do you meditate... like do yoga to help relieve stress? Running isn't meditation.
I’ve been a runner for a long time. It started with my mom telling my sister and I, as elementary school kids, to run laps around the house in an attempt to cure our nighttime restless legs. I started running middle school track in seventh grade, varsity cross country and track as a freshman in high school, and then on to Division I at one of the colleges that recruited me. I’ve been privy to some crazy-hard training programs and insanely tough workouts. There is nothing easy about running.
But that doesn't mean it always falls short of meditation.
Back in my prime training days, there were workouts so tough that it wasn't possible to even think about anything other than the pain. The burn in your legs, the gasp of your breath. It took every corner of your thoughts to keep putting one leg in front of the other. And while I can easily say that back then I didn't have nearly as much stress as I do now, there is something to say about an action that forces you to offer up every little part of your mind.
The day my parents dropped me off at college, I laced up my shoes the minute they left. It was either that or allow myself to be overtaken by the fear that comes with knowing life had completely changed. By the time I stepped back into my dorm room, sweaty and out-of-breath, I was ready for the challenge.
I worked through my divorce with my feet pounding on the sidewalk. I mourned the death of my grandparents while sweating out tears. I've mapped out future conversations with a million different people to the white noise of my feet hitting the pavement.
I’ve questioned how much I’m screwing up as a parent and reassured myself that maybe I’m not doing that bad all over the course of some miles.
And then there are those runs that just happen. When your mind is blank and your body syncs with the road. The feel of a cool day with the smell of leaves in the air. The feel of your muscles working together, reminding you how very alive your body is. The miles pass by, erasing worries and concerns with each one. You suddenly reach the end and realize that you had not had a thought in miles.
And although your legs may be heavy, you feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
I don't run competitively anymore. I do 5k's because I love that my 8-year-old will do them with me. I look for fun races that involve costumes or glow sticks or powdered paint blasted at your face. I register for them, not thinking twice about what our splits will be.
And when my son glances over at me with a grin on his face and takes off in a sprint for the last 100 yards, I laugh and chase after him; wondering why it's so damn hard for my legs to move that fast.
Yet after all these years... after a million injuries, after 3 babies and hernia surgery, after many pairs of orthotics and shoes, knees that sometimes hurt and sciatica pain that often flairs up... I'm still meditating.
Just not in the form my doctor expected.
And a hell of a lot slower.
It tends to come in all shapes and sizes.
That frozen peanut butter and jelly that gets thrown in the lunch box instead of a beautifully made sandwich. Choosing to go to the gym for an hour after work instead of heading straight home. Turning on the TV so that you actually have two minutes to do something, literally anything, without tripping over little bodies as they follow you around, constantly chattering about God knows what.
This week, it came in the shape of an invitation to join my son's class on Friday for American Education Week.
Having just taken off to go with him on a field trip and already planning on taking off to see him play in a flag football turkey bowl with his aftercare program next week, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to swing it. Not to mention an IEP meeting scheduled for the same time, a due date for progress notes and a week of days that had me swearing it was a full moon. Oh, and my need to actually keep my job... there was just no way.
The week blew by with work, school, daycare, meals, baths, grocery shopping that never happened over the weekend, laundry that looked like it never happened over the weekend, stubborn toddlers, whiny three year olds, and never ending games of football in my living room that always, always end in someone getting hurt.
Friday morning comes, I sit down at my desk after the rat race of the morning and I suddenly realize that I had not once talked to my son about not being able to make it.
Cue the mom guilt.
I immediately pictured him sitting in class, wondering why I wasn't there. I had an image of all the other kids in his class with their parents there and the lonely silhouette of my baby sitting at his little desk, the only one without a parent.
As much as I forgot to tell him I wouldn’t be able to be there, I also didn’t tell him I would be there- so of course he wouldn’t be expecting me. And there was likely many other parents who were in the exact same boat as me and couldn’t take off work in the middle of the day, the Friday before Thanksgiving week.
Yet despite my sensible side screaming these things to me, that damn Mom guilt took over. I spent the day with an unsettled worry in the back of my mind.
With my son being at his dads for the weekend, I immediately picked up my phone and called him when I left work. His chipper voice answered the phone with “hi Mom” and immediately launched into a story about a football move he created while practicing for the turkey bowl. When he paused for a second, I cautiously asked about the American Education Week event and apologized for not being able to make it.
It’s okay, Mom. But that football move was a good one, right?
And just like that, the guilt went away.
Because reality is, us moms do more than what is humanly possible on a daily basis. We take care of a million needs that are not our own from the second we wake to the minute the last little eyes close. We multi-task by making food with babies on our hips, doing laundry while playing baby dolls and packing lunches while helping with homework. We kiss boo boos, give baths, make snacks and nurse babies while doing all of the above. We wake sleepy, grumpy kids who mysteriously can’t sleep past 5am on weekends, wrestle them into clothes and deliver them to various locations, often at the crack of dawn.
We care so much that we want to be at everything. So much that we’ve looked up “cloning” on Google and when that didn’t sound promising, we’ve manipulated schedules and lost sleep and eaten on the run, just to try to make it all work. We care so much that we have visions of our baby crying in class at American Education Week because his mama wasn’t there.
When really, it was no big deal. Now that newly discovered sweet football move... that was a big deal.
So take it easy on yourselves, mamas.
They know you love them, even if you couldn’t make it to American Education Week.
See this peaceful little thing? You want to know what was different about her last night than any of the 1,305 nights before last night?
If you rolled her over, you would see chubby little cheeks and long dark lashes resting on those cheeks…or more likely, a massive amount of dark, knotted hair obscuring your view of any of this because her Mama forgot to tie it back before bed. You know what you wouldn’t see anymore? A pacifier.
Yup, she's 3 1/2 and yup she still had a pacifier… until last night.
See, sometimes you just gotta go with things the way your kids show you they need you to.
Like how I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that between my two boys, the likelihood of being woken every night by one of them or sometimes both of them, is quite high.
For the toddler, usually it's in the form of a high-pitched "MAAAMAA I UP," in the middle of the night. His squeaky voice will progressively get louder and higher pitched, until ultimately it wakes up the entire house. The only way it will stop is if I drag my ass out of bed, go into his room and assure him that it is, in fact, still the middle of the night and NOT time to get up.
For the big kid, it usually means being startled awake in the middle of a deep slumber to find him standing by my bed, staring at me. Just standing there. Staring at me. Like something out of a freaky-ass horror movie. After shitting myself, I'll say "what's wrong buddy," to which his usual response is, "I can't sleep." Can't sleep as in you've instead been standing there for an hour, just staring at me? I hate horror movies for good reason.
So when this little girl came into our lives and slept through the night from only a couple months old, it was like a dream that I never ever thought I'd be privy to. She's a play-hard, sleep-hard type of chick. Her feet and her mouth are always going a million miles a minute; but when she's out, she's out.
And although she is a drastically different sleeper than her brothers, she has shared the same love of a pacifier. As she’s gotten older, the “paci” became a “ninny,” (easier to say) and the ninny doubled to one in her mouth and a second smooshed up against her nose. Somehow, the feel of cold, hard plastic against her nostrils has provided a weird comfort to her.
And while she hasn’t used it during the day in a very long time, come bedtime it has been the first thing she's asked for. Over the past few months, we’ve increasingly talked with her about giving it up. And while the thought of being a “big kid” like her older brother has been enticing, it hasn’t been enough for her to want to take the plunge.
So we haven’t pushed it. We kept telling each other, she’ll do it when she’s ready, right? She started peeing on the potty only when she was ready, so why push the ninny?
And let’s be honest- what kind of crazy-ass parent would willingly push their only great sleeper over the edge into a possible sleepless meltdown?
Yesterday afternoon, when my kids saw their beloved Ms. T pull into her driveway and get out of her car, they banged on the glass storm door, jumping up and down in excitement like they hadn't seen her in years. Only a cold-hearted person would ignore that kind of cuteness, so of course Ms. T walked over to come in and say hello.
My girl, in her sweet little voice, promptly told Ms. T that “I big now, I not need my ninny.” When my husband suggested, as he’s done many times before, that if she really doesn’t need them, she should give them to Ms. T, she disappeared into her room for a second, marched back out with said ninnies in hand and gave them to Ms. T with NO HESITATION and a sly little smile on her face.
Come bed time, there was no fuss, no tears, no fighting. I could see a passing look of worry on her face, but I could also see that the desire to be a “big girl” was overpowering the worry. We watched on the monitor as she tossed and turned a few times, spurted off a few random and unintelligible things, sat up once and then laid back down and passed out. When she emerged from her room this morning, she had a huge smile on her face and immediately made sure to tell me that her little brother was a baby, but she was surely not one anymore. Cue this mama fighting back tears and swallowing the lump in my throat.
Now, of course, it’s only been one night. Who knows what we are in for tonight, as I’m sure that not having a nap and the random chance that it was daylight savings time ensured that she was especially sleepy at bedtime. There will likely still be some future asking for it; maybe even some tears and regret that she handed them off (for both of us).
But she did it and she did it in her own time.
...of course, the “prize” she was promised in return for giving up her ninnies probably helped some too. A big win for bribery over here.
Time to take a trip to Target!
Oh God. Here goes nothing.
Should I try to bring this coffee in? Two arms, three kids. Something about that math doesn't sound like it works... but math has never been my strength.
Coffee it is.
Ok, then get out of the seat yourself. Seriously kid, can we please get out of the car sometime today? Ok, this is ridiculous, now I'm just getting you out.
Great. Screaming kid before we even walk in the doors.
Okay, all little bodies in the cart. Oh my God, WHY do you two always want the same spot??
Yup buddy, there's a Paw Patrol towel. Nope, we're not getting it.
Did you really just ask if we are done yet?
Sit down in the cart, please.
How do they not have size 4 diapers? Seriously, how is that possible? Oh, there's some. Ok, let me just climb up the shelves right here to get them.
Yeah, buddy, I see the Paw Patrol pajamas. Nope, not getting them.
Sit down in the cart, please.
You want to get out and walk? Ok but I swear you better keep your cute little tush right next to this damn cart.
Sit down in the cart, please.
Dude, just pick out what yogurt you want. It's not like you're picking out Pokémon cards. It's yogurt.
JUST PICK ONE.
Get back here next to this cart!
Sit down in the cart, PLEASE!
Yes, I see the Paw Patrol fruit snacks! Yeah, we can get them. No. We can't open them yet.
Let go of the box. Let. Go. Of. The. Box. How the hell is he so strong? He's like, barely 2.
Why is everyone staring? Have they never heard a child cry before?
Ok, just take the damn fruit snacks. Oh good lord. Everyone just take some fruit snacks. Mama will just be arrested for shop lifting and y'all will have to walk home.
You have to pee? Like right now? Can you hold it?
Ok, we're going to the potty. I didn't bring any extra clothes so you gotta hold it girlfriend.
Run. Run! Dude keep up with me, your sister is about to piss herself!
Holy hell, we made it. How do you have that much urine in you? Your bladder is tiny, where do you even store it all?!
Omg don't touch that.
Ok crisis adverted. I think I missed some things on my list. Wait, where is my list? Did you delete my list? Just forget it. We're too close to the check out to backtrack anyway.
For the love-of-all-things-holy, why are there only 3 registers open? You're the biggest superstore chain in the nation... how do you only have 3 registers open?!
No, you can't have that Snickers.
Or that pop.
Or that gum.
Yeah bud, Paw Patrol balloon. Pretty cool. No, you can't have it.
Okay guys, seriously, put everything back. Please? Please or I'm gonna rip it out of your pretty little hand... 1... 2... two and a half... thr... oh thank God, she put it back.
Hey, where's my card? I swear it was just here... oh, you sly little bugger, how did you get a hold of that?
Here, give it to mama. Ok, ok, relax. You wanna help me swipe it? Ok, here swipe it! Ok, here, try again like this. You gotta turn the card like this. Dude, let me turn your hand so it will work... Omg, here give me the damn card and just let me do it.
Okay, do I have everyone? Can we get out of here?
Where are my car keys?
Where is my phone?
And where the f%$# did I put my coffee?
That means a lot of things that I love. The smell of leaves and crisp air that inevitably always brings back memories of cross country season.
Halloween and the excitement of my kids as we engage in the weird ritual of dressing up and asking for candy from complete strangers.
Pumpkin lattes from Starbucks that turn into peppermint mochas and the promise of the holidays fast approaching.
And as my son's baseball team switched over to pink and black jerseys and we laced pink shoelaces through his cleats, I found myself explaining to him something else about October. The reason why he's wearing that color.
Although October has been breast cancer awareness month since 1985, awareness has become more public and prominent over the more recent years. MLB and NFL fans watch their favorite teams play in pink, industry production of pink products are everywhere and brave survivors now have social media to share their stories.
I do not have a family history of breast cancer. My exposure to breast cancer was extremely limited until just a few years ago; but now I suddenly find myself with many friends who are current fighters, survivors, or both.
And although I have not had to personally fight that battle, the significance behind this month has hit me harder than usual the past few years. Of course because of those friends whom I know are personally fighting that battle... but for another reason too.
Boobs. Such a funny word that makes my kids giggle every time.
A young girl can't wait for them to grow. Another young woman wishes they were smaller because they draw too much attention. An athlete curses them as she squeezes into two sports bras in an attempt to keep them still. A bride pushes them up to make sure they just look just right in her wedding gown. A soon-to-be mother marvels at how big and painful they've become.
And then the baby comes and it just all makes sense.
Now don't get me wrong; I'm a huge advocate for feeding babies. Breastfed, bottle fed, formula fed, pumped milk fed... fed is always best.
Personally, however, I was lucky to have babies who breastfed well and blessed to have enough chances that I became much more relaxed by the third time around.
About a year ago, there were "breastfeeding tree of life" pictures floating around the internet with instructions on the app to use and how to create the pictures. Still breastfeeding my youngest at the time, I immediately downloaded the app and played around with it. I never posted it because... well, I'm not really sure why. The pictures were beautiful. The ones I saw online and the ones of my own blonde babe nursing. How could they not be?
I adored nursing my babies. When I found the picture on my phone, I realized how much I miss it. And having found it during this particular month of the year, I couldn't help but think about how some mothers have been or will be cheated out of such a beautiful experience.
My heart goes out to all the mothers who were not able to breastfeed their babies because of a disease. My heart goes out to all the mothers who nursed their babies, only to find out later that a disease has taken over the very part of their bodies that gave life to their babies.
And my heart goes out to future mothers and future women who will get a phone call or sit in a doctors office and hear those words. Even without a family history, none of us are immune. Breast cancer affects one in eight women; that's our mothers, our sisters, our friends. Any one of us could be one of those future women.
It's scary and sad and cruel and unfair.
I paused when I found this picture on my phone; my heart in my throat as I saw the beauty in what our bodies can do.
And I explained the meaning of the month to my son because he needs to understand. I explained because I don't want him to wear the color simply because he sees all his favorite pro athletes with pink shoelaces. I explained because he is our future and our future NEEDS to find a cure.
Feel like helping? Check these options out below:
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Susan G. Komen
Have you ever heard the sound of spring peepers? Wikipedia describes them as "chorus frogs" (yup, I looked it up), which is pretty fitting for the musical chirps they make through spring and summer.
Growing up across from a goldfish hatchery, there were plenty of opportunities to listen to their serenade. Hundreds- maybe even thousands of them chirping and peeping together, with the occasional loud croak of a bullfrog mixed in.
It's a noise that could be irritating when you are a quiet-room type of sleeper, as I was while growing up. Three kids and a house 3 miles from an airport later, I've perfected the art of falling asleep with any and all types of noise. Those spring peepers have become not only a sound that doesn't bother me, but a welcomed one.
Over the years since I've moved out, the goldfish hatchery has closed down. Amish bought the land and although they can't build on the soggy soil, it houses their pigs, goats and sheep.
But the swampy ground and outlines of the ponds are still there... and along with that, the spring peepers.
What was once the sound I remember hearing while playing outside at dusk as a child, became the chatter floating through the air as I pulled my car into the driveway after a track meet as a high schooler. What was once the background music for bonfires and cocktails as a young adult, became the melody floating through the windows during late nights of nursing babies.
And those nursing babies turned into small children and I found myself again playing outside at dusk to that noisy harmony.
I'm not a sentimental person when it comes to material things and the memories attached to them. My husband would likely argue that I'm drastically the opposite, as he has witnessed the crazed look in my eyes as I run frantically from room to room, purging everything that hasn't been used in the past month because "our house is small and there is too much damn stuff in it."
But sounds... it's the sounds that get me. The sound of an newborn crying or toddler giggling. The sound of loved ones voices and songs that played during certain life events. Even the sound of that creaky basement door in my house that makes me feel like all will be right in the world, as long as that door keeps on creaking.
And those spring peepers.
After 36 years, my parents are selling and moving out of their house this week. And much like the "firsts" of my last baby, I'm sure we are all feeling the bittersweet tone of this move. My parents are moving to a beautiful new home, with a better layout and in a great location. My kids are going to think that exploring a brand new house is an exciting adventure. But my dad built those walls, my sisters and I slept in those rooms and I logged thousands of miles on those roads.
Yet it's not the house or the roads or the rooms that get me.
It's the sound.
Memories of my childhood will forever be wrapped up in those little "chorus frogs" and their serenade. And that is perfectly fine with me.
I'm going to lose her.
I heard a noise from the bathroom. The bathroom where my daughter had been happily singing the ABC song, and had just shouted over to me, "I almost done cleaning up Mama." I had left her in the empty bathtub to clean up her toys, as I dressed her little brother in the bedroom across the hall. Actions and routines we've done a million times before.
Something did not register right in the noise. It was a noise but too quiet of a noise. Loud is always a good sign with kids. Quiet is not.
She was hunched over in the empty tub, her arms and hands extended in panic, her head thrust forward and mouth open. The noise coming out her open mouth was too quiet.
I grabbed her wet body and flipped her over, hitting her back. Again and again. I stuck my finger in her mouth and felt nothing. I could see the distress on her face and it confused me. I knew she was choking but on what? The bathtub toys were not small enough to fit in her mouth. She doesn't even put toys in her mouth. She never has, even as a baby.
Her lips were blue.
I'm going to lose her.
I ran. I ran with my naked, wet daughter belly down on my arms. I ran without shoes. I shouted to my little boy "stay right there, Mama will be back," and I ran.
I screamed. I screamed louder than I've ever screamed. I ran and I screamed; out the front door, across our lawn, across my neighbor's driveway and up the stairs to their front door. I screamed and ran because I knew I needed help. I screamed and ran because I didn't know where my phone was and I needed someone to call 911. I screamed and ran because I needed someone to save my little girl.
I'm going to lose her.
Ms. T, our beloved next door neighbor and daycare provider, heard my scream. She was opening the door as my fist made contact with it.
I think she's choking, she can't breathe. Please help me.
As I fell forward, Ms. T caught my girl in her arms. Her feet were white. Her lips were blue. Her noise was too quiet.
It took one more pound on her back and the toy flew out. The toy that was not a bathtub toy. The toy that I didn't even know was in the bathtub. The toy that my 3 and 1/2 year old had played with dozens of times and had never once put in her mouth. The toy that somehow went in her mouth and lodged itself in her throat. The toy that almost killed her.
She took a ragged breath and started coughing. The beautiful peach color flooded back into her feet and lips. She looked at me and started crying. I grabbed onto her small, trembling little body with all I had.
I didn't lose her.
But I could have. It could have ended so differently. It could have been longer before I realized what was happening. My fear could have caused my body and mind to freeze; a very possible bio-mechanical reaction. My amazing neighbor could have been gone. All of my amazing neighbors (neighbors who are former EMTs and firefighters) could have been gone. I could have lost her.
I'm not writing this because I enjoy revisiting those terrifying moments. They will be on loop in my mind for a very long time, haunting my thoughts throughout the day and my dreams throughout the night.
I'm writing this because I want you to feel it. I want you to feel the panic I felt and I want you to do something about it.
Not every parent is lucky enough to have a neighbor who has 35 plus years of child CPR and first aid training. Not every parent has a firefighter or former firefighter living across the street. Not every parent lives in a neighborhood with a fire station down the road or first responders who can arrive quickly enough to save the life of their choking child.
Not every parent has CPR and first aid training that would allow them to save their child's life.
Not every parent, including me.
If you babysit when you are young, you may have it. If you decide to take a parenting class for your firstborn, you may have it. And like me, those ifs may have been 8, 10, 15, 25 years ago.
I hope you read this with a racing heart and tears in your eyes. I hope you breath a sigh of relief knowing my little girl is just fine... and then I hope you move through the rest of your day with my words nagging at the back of your thoughts. I hope you find yourself on your phone, your computer, your tablet searching for a CPR course and registering for it.
I hope you never need it to use it. But I hope that you know how to, if you do.
I didn't lose her.
I'm registered for class this November.
Please, please, please join me. I beg you.
The Red Cross
American Health Care Academy
American Heart Association
National CPR Foundation
For all my Baltimore local friends:
Anne Arundel Medical Center
Anne Arundel County Fire Department Training Academy