In Family, On My Mind on June 15, 2010 at 9:59 am

While scanning FaceBook messages this morning, I came across a link to this oped in the Boston Globe by a pediatrician about how babies need their mothers to be in tune with them so they can understand their environment and themselves. Specifically, babies need mothers (or anyone in loving caregiver role) to look at them, or really SEE. THEM. Cell phones were the particular culprit in this case, but we parents can be distracted by just about anything we let take our focus away from our precious (but high maintenance) charges.

The pediatrician’s piece reminded me of a time when my own distraction nearly cost my son his life. It was one of those Saturdays where we were probably trying to fit too much into the schedule. Richard had Madeleine at a soccer game, I stayed home with Dax, who was 2 at the time, to shower and get ready for a party the whole family would be attending. I got in the shower and left the bathroom door open so I could hear Dax. I noticed he came into the bathroom shortly after, but I didn’t pay much attention beyond that. Who knows what I was thinking about…it couldn’t have been that important, ultimately. When I got out of the shower, there was little Dax holding a prescription bottle with a dozen or so pills scattered about the tile floor.

I shouted, asking if he’d eaten any of the pills. He shook his head. “Did you eat any? Yes or no?”


Right there. That’s when I should have called Poison Control, or stuck my finger down his throat. But I didn’t. I took the word of a two-year-old who probably was too worried about getting in trouble to answer truthfully. I shooed him out of the bathroom with a reprimand to never play with medicine and continued getting ready for the party.

He fell asleep at some point on the way to the party, which was normal for that time of day. But something gnawed at me about how he fell asleep. Then when he would normally wake up, he didn’t. I did call Poison Control then, who directed me to call 911.

It would not be an exaggeration to say it was the longest hour of my life between calling 911 and getting to the emergency room — we were on a private island in the Bay and had to take a boat to Kent Island where we waited for paramedics to take us to the hospital in Annapolis.

We were beyond lucky that day. The only thing that happened to Dax was that he slept for about 18 hours straight. He was hooked up to an IV to keep him hydrated and went through about 50 diapers that night, but came out without a scratch. His heart could have stopped. But it didn’t. He could have stopped breathing. But he didn’t.

We were beyond lucky. I was beyond lucky that my stupid distraction didn’t permanently damage or kill my son.

People told me I shouldn’t be too hard on myself about this event, that everyone makes mistakes. But I think I deserved a little guilt tripping. I vowed never again to let anything less important than my children’s safety distract me from them.

As I sit in the midst of LOTS of distractions, it’s good to get a reminder to SEE my children, to be in tune to their needs and let the other stuff wait for my attention if need be. I can’t take the chance of getting that lucky again.

  1. I am probably more guilty of not spending enough time being “present” with my children as anyone. I’m with them a lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving them the attention they need and deserve. Your story and essay are good reminders of that and I’ll take that with me, but not your guilt tripping. You learned a good lesson and obviously it sunk in so I think you don’t need to live in that horrible moment anymore. Maybe you can think about the fact that you are the one who gets to be their primary caregiver every day.

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