Quinn choked on a carrot. He’s a crammer. I don’t know why I’ve been sent a crammer, but I suspect that some malign, capricious spirit of mischief and unpleasantness in the universe has taken a disliking to me because there is nothing – nothing! – that children can throw at their parents on a day-to-day basis that I fear more than choking. It approaches phobia level. It’s something about the fact that they can’t breathe and I am responsible for making them breathe again, post haste, before their lack of breath damages their little brains or worse, that, you know, frightens me a little.
He choked badly. Not the horrific, “I crammed my mouth so full I have now triggered my gag reflex and will hork my dinner back onto my plate and all over your table in a disgusting example of how nature protects toddlers from their own stupidity.” This was the real deal, the “I am not making a sound or gagging because I can’t get any air past whatever is in my esophagus, buggy-eyed choke.”
I hadn’t been watching him. I was in the room, I had even been sitting at the table eating and feeding Nate just moments before, but the puppy finished his dinner and Garrett wanted more water and Nate had used sweet potatoes and his body as a medium of baby expression in the performance art genre. I hadn’t been watching him and I hadn’t cut up his baby carrots because he likes them whole, oh my god, gnashing of teeth, thrashing of toddler torso, drama! despair! rejection of this pitiful, unacceptable, OFFENSIVE baby carrot that hath been CUT into PIECES by a KNIFE. The gall. The … HERE! HERE IS YOUR WHOLE BABY CARROT PLEASE TAKE NICE BITES DO NOT CRAM THE WHOLE THING IN YOUR MOUTH.
I teleported myself to his side of the table and yanked him up out of his chair except that he had fastened the buckle on his booster because that is what you do when you want to kill your mother with fear. You fasten yourself into a seat and then stop breathing so that she must undue a buckle with her trembling hands before she can throw you over her knee, face down, head slightly lower than your chest just like it says in the baby and toddler choking section of her don’t-let-your-children-die-on-your-watch book and pound you on the back.
If you really want her to lose her shit, after all of this, still don’t breathe. Which is exactly what he did. I hit him twice hard and nothing happened and I had this moment where time ceased to function properly and in about a second my brain saw the page, the exact page, the exact sentence where it says if it doesn’t work, call 911 so that they are on their way and then keep trying, while I simultaneously had a conversation with my panicked self. Now?! Call 911 NOW?! Or try again and then call?! I also whacked him twice more in the same second, I swear to you, while I was deciding.
He coughed up an entire baby carrot. The entire baby carrot, I suppose, that had been recently blocking his airway, pulled it out of his own mouth, turned his head to the side and said, “too much, momma, too much in my mouth.”
I set him in his chair and took my jellified appendages into the kitchen so that I could cry and eat a handful of m&ms. Everyone knows that a handful of m&ms cures everything and what? I want chocolate when I’m shaky. Standing in the doorway of the kitchen, popping clandestine candy into my mouth, watching them finish their dinners, another scene overlaid the quiet one before me. Same room, same kids, but with lights flashing in front of our house through the big front windows, lighting our dining room with an ominous circling red.
Someone will read this; I know it’s true; Someone will read this and think, what a terrible mother. She gives her toddler baby carrots? And then he chokes and she writes about it like it’s funny? It won’t surprise me when one of her kids [chokes to death] [substitute anything here/ drowns/falls/gets hit by a car/pulls something over on himself/breaks his neck in any number of clearly unnecessary ways preventable by the "perfect" every vigilant parent]. I know someone will because I get those emails. This is funny? You find this amusing?
No. I find it terrifying. I find it too much some days when my toddler has just choked or my stroller has just tipped over with my baby in it or my four year old has just fallen from the top of the slide. I find it too much. This place where I am. Too much responsibility. Too much room for error. So many places to go wrong. Too much to remember. Too much to attend. Too many places for attention to slip, so many permutations of fatal errors that one’s brain could seize up into an anxious ball and fail to ever move again.
Too much love. I have so much to lose.
I have so much to lose. So much joy. Such happiness. Endless fun. Days filled with laughter and tears and peanut butter and jelly and snuggles and stories and dancing and bedtimes. I am a great mother, a mother who plays with her kids, a mother who breastfeeds, a mother who is strict about bedtime, a mother who doesn’t do crafts, a mother who occasionally leaves her kids in the car, a mother who yells, a mother who has said to her kids, whether the New York Times thinks it is something to be mocked or not, “Find something to do for a while, I’m writing a blog post.”
Because when it is all too much. Too much to bear. Too much to remember. Too much to hold onto to. Too much to process alone. Too beautiful. Too scary. I set it down in writing and sometimes, someone out there says, I’ve been there too. In the writing of it, in the sharing, I do see the humor. I see the humanity. I see that it is one moment; one mistake; one success; one misstep out of a million moments and mistakes and successes and missteps and even if it had ended another way, with flashing lights and terror and grief, it doesn’t make me bad. Or you bad. It doesn’t make someone “wrong” and someone else “right.”
It’s just life and life can be too much.
M&M? Leave the blue ones, they’re my favorites.