It was 11:08pm as I put my head on my pillow on Sunday night. Later than I would have liked to go to bed, but it was July. We’d had friends over for dinner who stayed too late, and for the first time in several weeks, we had nowhere to be the next morning. No camps, no lessons, no sweaty play dates, nothing. I mean, Tighe has to go to work on Mondays so we can afford to buy Lego’s, but he leaves early so he can play golf in the evenings, so I don’t feel too badly.
Anyway, as I was drifting off to sleep, I was grateful for what would surely be a peaceful morning. I wouldn’t need to rush them through breakfast or pester them to get dressed and in the car. I could sip tea on the patio while admiring the tomato plants and brainstorm what we’d do that day.
And that’s what I dreamt about. Until 3:08am when there was a very polite, but firm, knock at our door.
“My ear hurts really bad.” It was Nate.
Tighe gave him some homeopathic drops that some hippy nurse pawned off on us at an Urgent Care in Central Park a few years back and sent him back to bed.
“There’s nothing more we can do tonight. If it still hurts in the morning, Erin can take you to the doctor.”
“Got it,” he replied, marching back to his room. Nate’s been pretty sensitive to my hormonal rages lately, which has made him super-agreeable and obedient. Now he’s grown into that classic oldest child shouldering the burdens of the world, trying to shush his younger siblings so the Nazis don’t find them hidden in the closet. Or so their mom doesn’t suddenly scream about why there are so many cups scattered throughout the house. That one seems more likely.
“It’s gotta be swimmer’s ear,” I whispered to Tighe as he climbed back in bed.
“Probably,” he whispered back. “We’ll figure it out in the morning.”
And his ear did still hurt in the morning. Remembering that our pediatrician has walk-in hours from 8 to 9am, I rolled out of bed at 8:08 and called up the steps to Nate, who was surely in the third floor playroom.
“It still hurts,” he nodded apologetically, like he knew what an inconvenience it would be for me to have to drag everyone to the pediatrician. But I had nothing on my schedule—let’s do this!
“Wait, yourear hurts?” Sam checks in and out of the real world pretty routinely, and something about ear pain made him pause his Lego construction and perk up.
“Sam, do yourears hurt?” I said, turning to him.
“Yes, this one does…actually they both do,” he replied, tugging alternately on both ears.
The next thirty minutes were a blur.
Nate and Sam were already dressed so that was a step in the right direction, but when I told them we needed to leave ASAP for the doctor, they went back up to the playroom and lost all sense of time. Which is what they always do when I tell them we’re leaving to go somewhere with a firm start time. Church, school, karate, soccer practice, the dentist… And anywhere with no start time for that matter. Target, Trader Joe’s, the pool, the playground…
I glanced down at Tess. She was still in her pajamas, sporting a heavy, low-hanging diaper and bits of chocolate from her ice cream sandwich the night before. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Tess in her two years, five months, and sixteen days of life, it’s that she needsto eat breakfast. If she doesn’t, EVERYONE PAYS THE PRICE. It will result in shrieking and whining and eye daggers (aimed at everyone) and she’ll demand that I carry her everywhere we go.
And though the shelf on my belly is growing rapidly, it’s extremely uncomfortable to carry Tess’s 32 pounds on top of the baby inside. These two are forming quite the rivalry for the real estate on my abdomen and hip and it’s not going to end well.
It’s like any battle for land between an indigenous people and the Europeans who’ve come to colonialize them. Tess is greedy, malicious, and full of foreign diseases while this baby in utero is innocent and naïve, simply going about its business, forming and growing and using me for food and nutrients, not knowing Tess’s wrath that’s about to be imposed on him/her.
Anyway, that’s a really long and twisted explanation for why I needed to prioritize Tess’s breakfast in that moment.
I poured each of us a bowl of cereal and wolfed mine down while Tess swirled hers around in her bowl, observing aloud that our bowls were different colors and that I’m a fast eater. Her musings were amusing, but we were now down to 31 minutes until walk-in hours ended.
As I finished my last bites, I texted a friend who’s a doctor about swimmer’s ear. “Is it worth going in? Or can I just treat it on my own?”
She advised we go in, just to rule out an inner ear infection and get prescription drops.
I shifted my gear into “OMG, WE’RE SO LATE! EVERYONE PANIC! Mom Mode” and immediately started screaming.
“Get your shoes! Grab a granola bar for the car! Do you want water bottles? You should probably grab your water bottle! Did you pee yet? Pee! Come on, we gotta go!”
It was one of those moments when you’re really glad you spent so much money on your college degree and subsequent education and professional development. I’ve worked my whole life to make sure that, in this one instance, we make it to the pediatrician’s walk-in hours on time—a definite life-or-death situation.
We pulled out of our driveway at exactly 8:45, which should have left just enough time to get to the parking garage , usher everyone into the parking garage elevator, shoe everyone into the lobby, and drag all three kids up one flight of stairs and into the waiting room. You really can’t beat the location of our house.
But I didn’t account for the rush hour traffic. Or all the pedestrians leaving Loose Park after their early morning jogs/walks. Or all the cars turning left onto the Plaza—why did I choose this lane??
And so we pulled into a parking spot at 8:59.
“WE CAN STILL DO THIS!” I shouted. “LET’S GO!”
Nate was the first one out of the car. Again, he’s a people pleaser now. He even brought a magazine to read in the waiting room.
I unbuckled Tess, who was still in her pajamas and low-hanging diaper, and tried to shove flip-flops on her feet.
“No, I not like shoes!”
Fine, there was no time to argue, we had to go. I tossed the flip-flops back into the car and turned to Sam.
“Sam, let’s go! Unbuckle! Come on!”
He was shoving the last remnants of a chocolate chip granola bar into his mouth. He tries to hurry when he senses my impending wrath, but it’s just not his nature.
“I can’t find my other flip-flop,” he said in his monotone, John Wayne voice, carefully over-annunciating the “L’s” in flip-flop.
“ARE YOU SERIOUS?!They were both in here before! You better find them!”
His face was alarmed, he knew I was ready to blow. Or maybe I already had.
He leaned over the seat and began to dig through a bag of shoes I had put in there the day before, all ready to be tossed into one of those donation bins in a gas station parking lot.
But nothing in there would fit him. Poor guy, he knew we had failed our mission and he felt responsible.
I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the time. I didn’t want to know. Defeated, I dialed the pediatrician’s office and helped Tess climb back into her car seat. Within a few moments, I was speaking to a nurse and securing an appointment for both boys at 1pm.
“Sam,” I said as I climbed into the back to strap Tess into her seat, “if I find that flip-flop back there, I’m going to be really annoyed.
We pulled out of the parking garage and into the nearest gas station. As the fuel pumped into our massive tank, I sat reflecting on our blurry, fast-paced morning.
“Oh, here it is!” Sam said triumphantly, pulling his other flip-flop out from under Tess’s seat.
“I can’t believe we got all the way down there and didn’t make it in…” I muttered to myself.
“I know, that was pretty bad,” Nate might like to people-please now, but he’s still self-righteous.