Family Magazine

Life Lesson: Don't Stick Pencil Leads in Your Ear

By Sherwoods
I have no idea why children stick things in various orifices.  I don't understand what causes them to look at a small item (bean, bead, seed, etc) and think, "It would be really fun to stick this up my nose!  I would love to see if it fits!  Of all the things I can do for fun, this would be the most fun thing I could possibly think of!"  But I suppose I'm judging the actions of people who also suck on appendages, refuse to eat perfectly good food, and wear nothing but underwear all winter long (*cough* William). 
We haven't had any things-in-orifices crises for quite awhile.  The last incident was when Edwin stuck a bead in his nose on Sophia's sixth birthday.  Her birthday happened to fall on a Sunday, Eleanor was less than three weeks old, and we only had one car.  It was a lot fun and took a visit to both urgent care and the emergency room to get the bead out.
So I should have figured that it was about time for another incident - we were in fact overdue - and not been surprised when Joseph guiltily sidled up to me last Thursday afternoon.
Thursday is my one free afternoon of the week.  I don't have Russian lessons or laundry folding or play dates so there are three full hours of time to do whatever I want.  This Thursday also happened to be the very first Thursday of piano lessons with our new piano teacher.  Our previous teacher had gone back to work after having a baby, and the new teacher is a friend from the embassy community.
As I descended the stairs to start Doing Whatever I Like, Joseph approached me with a worried expression.  "Mom," his high little voice quavered, "um, I have something to tell you."  It's never good when a child has 'something to tell you.'  That's when you know that whatever trouble they have gotten into is so bad that they can't possibly clean up the mess themselves.  They are in so deep that dealing with mom's wrath is still better than whatever new problem they've created.  
I took several deep breath, composed myself and calmly asked him what the problem was.
"Well, I was doing my school work and while I was writing the lead broke off my pencil.  I was bored and so I put it in my ear.  The last time I did that, I shook my head for awhile and it came out.  But this time I did that and the lead wouldn't come out.  I tried sticking scissors in my ear, but that didn't work either.  What do you think I should do?"
As the words tumbled out of his mouth, I saw my open afternoon evaporate.  I hate medical emergencies.  Our first resource is always the embassy health unit, which is great to have, but is also half an hour away.  Any time I have to take anyone in for the simplest thing, it's always an hour and a half minimum taken out of my day.  So before I change into real clothes and head across town I make sure we really need to go see someone about the emergency.
Unfortunately, I don't have anything better than the scissors Joseph had already tried, so I immediately knew we were in for a drive together.  
The American P.A. was out of the country, and the American nurse was out of the embassy for training, so we got to see Dr. Rustam, the local doctor who works at the embassy.  He took a look in Joseph's ear and confirmed that yes, there was a pencil lead deep in the ear canal.  I silently rejoiced.  The only thing worse than a trip to the med unit is an unnecessary trip the med unit. 
Dr. Rustam pulled out a pair of long, thin grabbers and rooted around for a bit without any success.  Joseph, thankfully, put up with the poking and prodding quite stoically without any tears or complaints.  
I wasn't sure what would come next after the grabber.  Dr. Rustam then pulled out an irrigator that hooked up to the faucet with a gun that shot water into Joseph's ear.  After a couple of attempts, a small black pencil lead came out and Joseph was declared to be pencil-lead free.  
Nobody ever warned me about the completely random things that I would have to deal with as a parent.  As the second of five children, I had a fairly good idea of the usual trials of parenting - sleeplessness, endless messes, vomit, diarrhea, injuries.  I can say that I've definitely had a lot of experience with those things in the thirteen years of my tenure as a mother.  
But then there are the really novel things that nobody would have ever thought to have warned me about.  "Make sure to keep pomegranate seeds away from children.  They fit perfectly up noses."  "Put the microscope slides in a high place.  Two-year olds love to throw them from back porches."  "Whatever you do, don't let the children play with butter knives in the yard.  They always end up on the front gate roof."  
It is not possible to name all the ways a child can get into trouble because children are endlessly creative.  There is no way to keep ahead of them and so instead I just follow behind them, cleaning up the novel messes that they have made while I was doing something else.  Whenever Brandon comes across a mess himself - one that escaped my notice while I was taking care of the rest of the messes - he inevitably asks why the anonymous child has decided to crucify Barbies on the lawn or use the front steps as a dry sled run or climb up the outside of the house using the Fifty Foot Rope. 
 I can never give him a satisfying answer because there isn't one to be found.  The best I can do is give a weak shrug, throwing up my hands in surrender, and reply, "It must have looked like fun to them?"  
And such is the life of a parent - never boring, endlessly surprising.  And one day, when we're old and have forgotten all of the bad parts, it will make for great stories.  Until then, however, it makes for a whole lot of lost afternoons.

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