Few things are more harrowing for parents than having to take a child to the emergency room. New parents are understandably more prone to freaking out and can be excused for their overreaction.
New mother: "Did you hear that?"
New father: "Our son sneezing?"
New mother: "It sounded like a normal sneeze but was distinctly an octave lower."
New father (dropping glass): "God in heaven. I knew something like this was going to happen."
New mother: "I'll get my jacket."
New father: "It's 90 degrees out!"
New mother: "I need my jacket! Why are you arguing with me?!"
As it turns out, with a baby or young child you have the following conversation far more often than you ever thought you would:
Your wife (gasping): "I've never seen that come out of a human before."
You (hands cupped over mouth): "It'sit'sit's just not natural."
Your wife: "Should we call a doctor?"
You: "Probably. And an exorcist."
Since the birth of our daughter, there have been some things that my wife has deemed unsuitable for the emergency room:
Cold, wet green beans stepped on by my bare foot at 2 a.m.
Boogers on my hand
Recently regurgitated bananas on my sock
Something weird in my teeth
Generally anytime during the first six months of my daughter's life when she wasn't completely satisfied.
However when our daughter's body temperature rose to where a droplet of water sizzled on her forehead, it was agreed that a trip to the ER was warranted. When you're in the children's wing of the ER, you find yourself looking around and wondering about the plight of other parents, trying to guess what their children's ailment is and hoping it's just a bit less serious so you're seen ahead of them. You'll find yourself talking with them, reassuring each other that things are going to be all right, even though nobody has any idea if that's true. And then all of a sudden your wife will say something unhelpful like:
"Kelly, why are you over there talking to those strangers when your daughter is over here calling for you?"
Okay, sometimes I wander off when I'm stressed. I need to get that looked at. It's a good thing we're in the emergency room!
I really wish some smart, snazzy gentleman had presented me some kind of list to help me through this whole thing. Thankfully, dear reader, I'm here for you. Here are some Do's and Don'ts for new and expectant fathers when taking your child to the ER.
DO NOT: Tell your child to "suck it up." One-year-olds do not respond positively to this type of motivational speaking. Likewise, having her watch 60-minutes worth of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis yell intense messages to teammates to "fire them up" will only succeed in having her develop a fear of football and computers. But on the plus side, she'll learn some new [expletive] words.
DO: Harmonize with your child's sad, persistent wailing. Be sure to hold a finger up to your ear and close your eyes to help yourself find the correct pitch and look super professional/hot. Your wife will probably tell you "you're not even close" and "singing louder doesn't make you any closer! Can you even hear me?!" Clearly she is just jealous of your talent and soon-to-be celebrity, so you might consider finding a new wife. Anyway, the singing may not be much, but I guarantee it'll keep your mind off the fact that you're completely helpless, if only for a little while.
DO NOT: Ask the ER doctors for vodka as they bring your child juice. They'll just laugh like you're making some kind of joke.
DO: Make her room moist. Apparently no matter the diagnosis, a moist room is the solution. Just don't overdo it like I did. Two humidifiers later her room is now officially a sauna. With all the moisture blanketing the air I wouldn't be surprised if she grew gills overnight.
DO NOT: Take this opportunity to make this situation a "teachable moment." If she looks up at you with tears in her eyes and asks you "Why, daddy?!" apparently it is NOT OK to lean in gently and say "it's because you didn't finish your vegetables." Your wife will not understand, even when you make the perfectly reasonable defense that you "might as well make the best of a bad situation."
Thankfully she's on the road to recovery. I don't want to say she's being a jerk about the whole thing, but I don't know what else you call someone that demands you pick them up, grabs your face and smiles before coughing directly into your eyeballs.
I might as well just roll around naked inside a giant Petri dish.
Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative writer for Briscoe14 Communications (www.briscoe14.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via sign language outside his new plastic bubble, through which he views the world and all of its horrible germs that are out to get him.