“i’m scared.” “i know, but i’m not.”

There are days, days when you realize that there is nobody luckier than you. Today is one of those days.

Our son had a cold on Sunday. He seemed pretty good (no fever, but plenty of energy to play) on Monday, so I dropped him off at school. When I picked him up six and a half hours later, he looked miserable. He had a low fever, and just wanted to sleep. The next day, his fever was still present, so he stayed home. He told me his ear hurt. Went to the doctor this morning–the poor kid has infections of the outer and middle ear. Got antibiotics to take by mouth and drops for his ears. He was still running a low fever, still so tired. He slept all afternoon. Had a little dinner, played with his sister, had a bath. Then I put in the drops, as directed.

Blood started pooling in his ear. I had a cotton ball, soaked it up, quietly showed my husband… all the while our son screamed in pain. Screamed. I called the pediatrician, described what happened, and the nurse on call said, “go to the urgent care center, he probably needs different drops.”

I told my husband, he got our son ready to go. I had just exercised, hadn’t showered, but I changed clothes quickly and grabbed everything I thought I needed. Our daughter hovered, watched her mother and brother drive away. She was terribly worried. All I could think about was our son. It was late for the kids, they needed to get to bed, so Daddy would take care of her.

Driving to the urgent care center, our son quietly cried. I tried my best to distract him, asked him about a song he had made up, tried to be a goofball, anything.

“Mommy, it hurts.”

“I know, honey, I’m so sorry it hurts. The doctor is going to help.”

“Mommy, I thought there was water running down my ear but it’s blood. It’s on my fingers. It’s creepy.”

“I know, honey, it’s going to be okay.”

“I”m scared.”

“I know, but I’m not. I’m not scared. Be scared, that’s good. I’ll be the one who’s not scared.”

We got to the urgent care center, and for the first time in my long history of form-filling, I failed to complete the form. Key information I needed was in my phone. Which I left at home. Because I’m an idiot. The woman at the desk assured me I needn’t worry.

I held our son as we watched a segment of “Tangled,” on a loop in the lobby. He had calmed down. The blood in his ear and on his neck had dried.

We were called in. A nurse took our son’s vitals. He was in good spirits. His ear wasn’t hurting anymore. We enjoyed an episode of “Dora” and we were silly with each other and he was so much himself… so good and loving and kind and funny.

The doctor came in. A tall, handsome, African-American man with a very deep voice. Our son looked up at him with a half-smile, eyes wide open, as if to say, “You’re going to make me better and I’m so happy to see you.”

Well. The lovely doctor had to cause a little discomfort first, but he did make our son better. (Long story short: our son had some sort of wound along his ear canal that was complicating the ear infections. The doctor had to fix our son’s ear, and that required me holding our son down on a table, my body and one arm over his body, my other arm and hand holding his head steady. There was screaming like I’d never heard before–including the screaming I’d heard when our son had his scalp stapled after a playground injury.)

When the doctor was done, he told us that I’d need to use those drops again, they would in fact help and were not the cause of the problem. Our son moaned.

I promised him–a dangerous thing to do–but I promised him it wouldn’t hurt. A nurse came in, administered the drops, and our son said, “That didn’t hurt a bit!”

“I know! See, I just didn’t do it right. Now I know how to do it, honey. It won’t hurt again.”

“Yeah, now you know what to do.”

On the way home at 9:30 at night, two hours past his bed time, our son said, “I think I want to go to school tomorrow. My teacher will say, ‘where have you been!?’ and I can tell all my friends about the blood!”

We got home and our husband opened the door to the garage before we left the car. (I’ll never forget my phone again: my husband had tried to reach me.) He was a bit nervous, but I smiled and nodded toward the car where our son was climbing out, singing some silly song.

We were home, and all was well.

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