The 90% of Parenting

Parenting is 90% deciding what the next steps are in the middle of a situation you have never experienced and have no education in. It’s troubleshooting with minuscule information where the ripple effects directly impact an entirely separate person’s life.

It can be as small as creating boundaries for your tiny human or establishing positive body image practices by teaching them the proper names of private parts. These things end up being 1 choice made in a life time of choices that may ripple into a WAVE of adult behavior in 20 years. Who knows.

And sometimes parenting is about making decisions when your kid collides with another kid at daycare pickup, like what happened to Kamel on Wednesday. A normal pickup routine. He was chatting with the daycare lady about Gabe, getting the skinny, as you do. The kids were playing, running about, and Gabe smacked into another kid, their knees banging on each other and they fell to the ground. Gabe went into that wide mouth silent cry before his eyes rolled back into his head and he went limp.

Kamel was right there. Our lovely daycare lady was right there.

“Gabe wake up, wake up, Gabe. Gabe!”

And he did after a moment. And Kamel scooped him up and after another few moments Gabe went limp again, passed out again, but this time on his shoulder. Kamel pulled him off of him and saw his limpness, his head loose on his neck. Gabe was pale and sweaty and when he came to he cried and cried for water.

So what the hell do you do? Do you call 911? This all happened in less than 5-7 minutes. Once Gabe had some water and Kamel took him outside he seemed normal. Super sweaty, pale but his color was coming back, and normal. He looked at the ants on the sidewalk like he always does. He held is tiny plastic cup of water and sprinkled it on the cement while Kamel called me and they sat out on the curb.

“Ok….” was my initial response.

“Did he throw up?”

“Is he disoriented?”

My brain was visualizing the situation like a movie, trying to see if there were any pieces Kamel maybe hadn’t noticed.

“Well, do you THINK you need to call 911?”

“Well, SHOULD we go to the ER? I feel like it wouldn’t hurt…”

“But he seems fine?”

“I think you should call the pediatrician, explain everything that happened and let me know what they think.”

Meanwhile I’m texting people I know who know more than me about these things. They are giving me more questions to ask, but also reassuring me my kid probably doesn’t have a brain bleed. Me and head wounds – my biggest parenting irrational (rational) fear. We all have them. For you is it drowning? Is it choking? What are your worst dreams about? Mine involve head wounds, the kind that change you forever. The kind that aren’t very visible. The kind that sneak up on you later and have permanent consequences.

The pediatrician sent us to urgent care at Children’s. My parents were kind enough to jump in the car and pick me up and we met Kamel and Gabe there. They were already in an exam room when I walked in. Gabe had a tiny medical bracelet on and I could tell he had been crying. He was nervous and sitting on Kamel’s lap while the doctor talked to them both. She was the third person to examine him since they arrived, and for that I am very grateful.

They explained that sometimes toddlers hold there breath or can’t catch their breath when they are really upset and they pass out. She felt his head, she checked his eyes and ears, she observed him walking and interacting with us and her. The telltale sign of the diagnosis? That Gabe fell down, pulled his knees up and went into a silent scream before going limp. There was no head tenderness, there was no bump. His knee where he had collided with the other kid was fine. We said thanks and we walked out the door.

I mean, what the fuck parenthood? No one tells you that sometimes your child will just… be upset and not breath. And then pass out in a scary way! Twice!

No one could possibly explain what it feels like to go through all of the worst case scenarios trying to figure out which one matches up with what’s happening right in front of you.

No one tells you about all the times you’ll go to the doctor thinking one thing and then walk out with oops a double ear infection – didn’t realize that! Parents of the year… that explains his insane grumpiness lately. (Happened to us… oh, I don’t know, a million times.) No one talks about how little you know and how much of the time you don’t know it. You think one thing and it’s another, you are going about your day and then wham, blindsided by whatever it is that you now have to deal with, something that wasn’t even remotely on our radar 5 minutes before. “Did you know that your son has a yeast infection?” No… How about a double eye infection and croup? How about food allergies or skin issues or a million other relatively benign things that you could never expect. What about the not benign things that you can never expect?

And even if they did tell you, if you’d been properly prepped and warned that this was parenthood, you’d probably laugh and shrug it off. It can’t be that crazy. You’d know, you’d see some of it coming, you’d see MOST of it coming. I mean, you’re the parent! You’re with them all of the time, you know them better than anyone in the entire world.

And then your kid bangs into another kid and is suddenly limp on the floor in front of you. It happened in the space of a moment. And we’re back in the 90% of parenthood… troubleshooting situations we have never seen and have no training in. What do we do? We call people who know more, we use our resources, and maybe we have an unnecessary bill from urgent care that says, “Your child passed out because he held his breath too long, bet you didn’t know THAT was a common toddler activity, did you? That will be $200.” And then we go home and eat crackers and have bath time. And that’s just how it is.

7 thoughts on “The 90% of Parenting”

  1. I’m so glad everything turned out ok!! Man, parenting you crazy. My irrational other person fear is drowning. For sure. In fact I spent about an hour on the internets last night researching the youngest I could get this kid in swim lessons and why. Sounds like you guys absolutely made the best call given the circumstances. And I know it’s not about money in those situations but an urgent care is usually like 10x cheaper than an ER.

    Fun fact: as a toddler I did the tantrum-hold-my-breath-thing so often I had to wear a helmet for almost 6 months!! Toddlers, amiright??

  2. “They explained that sometimes toddlers hold there breath or can’t catch their breath when they are really upset and they pass out.”

    WTF, evolution? WHY IS THAT A THING

    Byron and I have always joked about the fact that, should we ever have kids, I’ll be the one who’s like, “OMG what are you putting on him DOES THAT HAVE PARABENS,” while he’ll be the one saying, “Wait wait wait he’s going to be near a table with sharp edges WHY DOES HE NOT HAVE HIS PROTECTIVE HELMET??”

  3. I had a science teacher in high school who told us about this. (He had a toddler.) He said it was good training for the later “I’m gonna hold my breath until I DIE” threat you sometimes see from older kids (and young teens!). “Go ahead,” he said, “you’ll just pass out and start breathing again, and I’ll get some quiet for a couple seconds.” He said little kids can easily have the wind knocked out of them and so too little air can happen quickly. Still, scary scary scary. I doubt I would remember that conversation if it were happening to my kid.

    Apparently I still do this, according to Jon. If I’m upset and have a panic attack I’ll sometimes pass out for about 10 seconds. Go figure!

  4. so very glad he’s okay! that sounds terrifying. i am a nurse, but terrible in emergency situations, lol. so i love that with parenting there’s someone else to bounce ideas off of in scary situations 🙂 parenting…. y’all seem to be doing great! *internet fist bump*

  5. This happened to my sister when she was about Gabe’s age – she got knocked down and passed out. It was terrifying, and my parents rushed her to the ER and they did a CT scan (if I remember right), which was incredibly upsetting to her and all of us. And… then they concluded that she was fine and had probably just held her breath. Sometimes I feel bad when I think of all the curveballs we threw at my parents… who handled it all (and continue to do so) with aplomb.

  6. So well-put!

    Cora’s had 2 febrile seizures. After the first one, we learned that they aren’t actually a big deal/protect the brain from quick body temp changes, so I figured that if it happened again, we definitely wouldn’t rush to the closest ER again. So of course the 2nd seizure 18 months later was a different type (uh, she went limp-noodle rather than shaking), so again we had the panicked discussion of do we call 911? Drive to the closest ER? Wait it out?… Drove to ER, still not a big deal.

    I don’t know if I have one scary fear that’s bigger than the rest. I worry a *lot* about the ripple effect stuff you talk about in your 2nd paragraph. I worry that doing battle over dinner now will lead directly to an eating disorder later; the kindergarten cutoff date will ruin them for life; that sort of thing. All very rational.

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