A few weeks ago my son was in the kitchen and found a bottle of Tylenol. Within literally twenty seconds he somehow managed to open the bottle, pour the pills out, pick them up off the floor, put a handful in his mouth and eat them.
While he was doing this I was in the living room getting ready for work, and frustrated that I was running late. One second I see him in the kitchen playing with the broom and in the time it took me to put my shoes on he had done the aforementioned act. When I got to him he had crunched into at least one or two pills and still had a mouthful more. I don’t know how much he ate. I don’t know how much acetaminophen he consumed. I don’t know why he didn’t just spit the pills out because those things are gross and bitter.
I cleaned his mouth out. I called the doctor. I called poison control. And the whole time he’s just playing with his toys in the living room, acting like nothing was wrong. He was fine. He was more than fine. He was perfect. He never knew anything was wrong. I hugged him. I wanted to yell at him and tell him again and again not to play with pill bottles. But he’s 18-months-old and doesn’t understand yet. I wanted to cry. I did cry. It was all so overwhelming. Twenty minutes later I was at work and couldn’t concentrate all day. I cried again. I left work. I picked him up and took him home. He was fine. He was perfect. He is perfect.
I don’t know how he opened the pill bottle. I don’t know where he found the pill bottle. It could have been worse. It could have been much worse. He could have found the bottle of half used hydrocodone in the cabinet that I never finished after my wisdom teeth extraction. He could have found the steroids I never finished after I had a bronchial infection. He could have found the bottle of prescription strength ibuprofen that is almost two years old that I never finished after having my C-section. Oh, yeah. There’s still an old bottle of hydrocodone up there from the same surgery. That’s TWO bottles of hydrocodone he could have found. That’s two pill bottles he could have found and knocked onto the floor. That two bottles of pills he could have put in his mouth. That’s two bottles of pills he could have eaten.
It could have been much worse. Instead it was a bottle of Tylenol that turned out to be rather harmless. “Don’t give him any acetaminophen for 24-hours” the rationally calm poison control expert told me over the phone. That’s all. “Oh, and maybe keep and eye on him if he throws up.”
I made a mistake. I don’t know what else I could have done to prevent the situation. I could have put my shoes on in the kitchen. I could have made him play in the living room. I could have made him put the broom down because I’m pretty sure that’s how he got the bottle off the counter.
But I didn’t. I was in a hurry, was frustrated and tired and overworked and just generally exhausted. I thank God it wasn’t worse. I thank God he was kept safe and it was only a bottle of Tylenol.
I’ve come to the shocking realization that I will never be comfortable with parenthood. Just when I naively think “I got this” I very quickly realize I don’t got this. Not at all. It’s hard work raising a kid. After 18-months we’ve made lots of mistakes. We will continue to make mistakes. We will make mistakes with Gibson for years and if we are blessed with another child we will learn from our mistakes. But we’ll still make mistakes. We’re humans. We’re imperfect.
As a Christian, I believe that God is always watching over my child. But it’s also irresponsible of me to believe that God will watch over him and I don’t have to. When Gibson was first born, I would put him in his crib at night and would say “I’ll see you in the morning, God willing” because I was so afraid of SIDS.
I don’t know how you parents with multiple kids do it. I’m so overwhelmed. From day one I have been terrified and as he gets older those fears have evolved. My fear of SIDS has lead to a host of other fears. I can’t help it. I don’t want anything to happen to him. I don’t want to lose my child when I’m just getting to know him. My fears are valid, I believe. I want another child one day and maybe by then the fears will subside; maybe the will worsen. But either way, I can’t live in fear.
I get to a point in my life where all is well. No surprises, no tragedies, no big drama. . . life is just quiet and unassuming. But then something so small — like Gibson finding an innocent bottle and being curious about it — can change everything. My fears have finally gone back down to a normal level and my stress has also gone down. I can get dressed in the morning confident that he will be fine.
So yes. I’m still terrified. I’m still scared. I’m still not comfortable with this parenthood thing. But when my son looks at me and smiles and runs into my arms I know that my fears are valid and okay. This morning Gibson woke me up and he had taken his diaper off and peed all over everything. To top it all off the diaper was dirty, but thankfully he hadn’t had time to do anything about that. Thankfully. It could have been much worse. That’s what I keep telling myself.
It could have been much worse. “It could have been much worse” is what Robert texted me I told him what happened to Gibson that morning. After confirming our son was fine he sent me those six simple words.
He’s right. It could have been much worse.