Somewhere My Mother is Laughing Herself Sick: Payback is a Toddler

by Charlotte on November 15, 2012 · 46 comments

A trip. A fall. All for the love of a twisted, slippery, seasonally inappropriate jelly sandal. A tragedy of toddler proportions.

This is how my day started.

I carried Jelly Bean out to the car, sobbing into my hair about her “owie foot”, carried her into the house, carried her upstairs to get her beloved blanky, carried her downstairs to get her baby, carried her all around the house, like a pony at the fair. At last I was exhausted with this game and placed her gently on the couch with a movie and a baggie of Peanut Butter Puffins (i.e. toddler crack).

Nap time came and went, filled with heartbroken wails of how much her “yittle yeg” hurt. (And I have to admit, hearing her still mispronounce her “l”s makes me giggle. “Mommy, I YUV you!” “Can you make me my YUNCH?” So serious in her unaffected silliness.) I thought perhaps once her brothers got home, she’d give up the Princess-on-her-pallet act and do her usual rounds of calling them “poopy head” (to her it’s a honorarium), rooting through their lunchboxes for uneaten treats and basically driving them nuts. So when she continued to cry and refused to leave her spot on the couch, I started to worry. But only a little – she is my fourth, I am a veteran parent.

I know all the toddler tricks. And toddler brains are notoriously weird places – just the other day she announced loudly, out of nowhere, “I’m not going to pee in the hot tub.” A good plan, I mused, considering we don’t even have a hot tub. (And then there was a recent shopping trip where she asked the man at the taste-testing table if he was a boy. When he answered in the affirmative, she boldly replied, “Oh! You has penis??” “I should hope so,” he said with such equanimity that I am sure he is a parent.) Yet when my husband came home she would not even be tempted to walk to him with a Crunch bar from a Halloween bag. This might be serious, he said. But it was watching her crawl like a soldier through barbed wire, dragging her useless leg behind her, just to get a drink from her water bottle that clinched it for me.

I called the pediatrician. They referred me to Urgent Care. Who referred me to the hospital clinic. Who referred me back to the radiology department at Urgent Care. So I packed up the boys and sent them to cub scouts and then took my crippled, crying baby to the doctor. Standing penitently in front of the triage nurse exactly 20 minutes before closing, I explained why I’d waited so long to bring her in. “Well it’s not bruised or swollen and I thought she was just milking the situation to get more Peanut Butter Puffins and toddlers, frankly, are squirrely…”

My voice trailed off as the nurse told me sternly, “Kids aren’t dumb. If their foot hurts they won’t stand on it.” She held up the pain ranking chart made up of progressively sadder smiley faces and asked my darling to point at which one was most like how she felt. Suppressing a moan, she picked the sobbing face on the far right, the 10 on the pain scale, the one that was captioned “unbearable.” I shrunk a little even as part of me thought it was probably just because that face was the most graphic, ergo the most appealing to her sense of drama.

We waited. We weighed, measured, temperature-d. We consulted. We waited some more. We marched down to radiology and then back up to orthopedics. We watched the clock tick way past bedtime. We watched Angelina Ballerina on my phone (what did I ever do with my toddlers before smart phones?). We watched them pour over x-rays of her tiny still-forming bones. While we waited she peed through her diaper all over my lap. (And of course I hadn’t thought to bring a spare diaper or clothes. She’s my fourth, I am a veteran parent. I’m too good for diaper bags. And pants.) She ate a sucker and then suckered the nurses into giving her a whole roll of stickers which she then used to cover every square inch of exposed flesh – which was a lot seeing as I’d had to strip her down after the pee incident.

Finally: The verdict. “Well I can’t see anything,” the doctor started. “But sometimes, if it’s a hairline fracture, especially in such a young child, we don’t always catch them.” Looking sympathetically at my daughter who was now sweetly coloring princess pages with the crayons the nurses had dug up for her, he added, “She’s clearly in pain. Kids aren’t dumb. If it didn’t hurt she’d be standing, putting weight on it.” He brought out a splint that would brace her leg from hip to foot, explaining to my shocked self that we had better be safe than sorry.

As I tried to wrap my brain around having to carry Jelly Bean around for the next 3-6 weeks, the ever-loving nurses brought yet another present. An ice pack. Jelly Bean’s eyes lit up as they showed her how to crack it to make it cold and then how to place it tenderly on her “owie.” (They even wrote “owie” in her chart. I know because they asked me how to spell it. “O-W-W-E-E?” “No, O-W-I-E” “That doesn’t look right.” “Nothing does at 10 o’clock at night.”) Proudly, Jelly Bean iced her foot. After several seconds she declared, “All better!”

Then she hopped off the exam table, ran to the center of the exam room and did a perfect Angelina Ballerina pirouette. On her injured foot. Her mischievous giggle assured all of us that there was no more pain.

The medical professionals were right: kids definitely aren’t dumb. An evening alone with mom, a buffet of stickers and suckers, a photoshoot surrounded by the entire adoring radiology department, and – of course – her very own ice pack. Nope, she’s not dumb. But I was also right: toddlers are squirrely. She’s my fourth, I’m a veteran parent. …Who just got owned by a newly minted 3-year-old.

At least she’s not hurt. At least she had a good time. At least I didn’t have to put my boys to bed. These will comfort me, at least until the several-hundred-dollars bill (thanks to our high-deductible crappy insurance plan) arrives in the mail.

That is how my day ended.

And now I’m writing this down – for your entertainment, for my catharsis, by way of explanation – but mostly so I can show it to her 20 years down the road when she has a toddler pulling the same stunt. Which she will, because I famously did the same to my mother. Hilton family lore still loves the story of 3-year-old Charlotte helplessly cradling her monkey-bar injured arm all the way to the ER, only to be magically and instantaneously cured with the application of a band-aid.

I can feel my mother’s laughter, all the way from the next state. Payback is a toddler. Who is just like you.

This is why you don’t get a real post tonight.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire November 15, 2012 at 1:27 am

Hahahah. Thank you so much for sharing that. I know you’ve had a rough night but I’m giggling so from a purely selfish standpoint totally worth it :P
Teaching kids you learn they’re really not dumb. They may choose not to read instructions or tie their shoelaces but they can manipulate adults to meet their desires like a charm.
Here’s hoping the owie doesn’t reappear tomorrow! x


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Thankfully the owie seems to be gone for good! I’m glad you enjoyed it;)


Karen November 15, 2012 at 2:40 am

Yes my mother has a great time watching the “payback” that is my 2 boys, and since I used to hold my breath till I turned blue in the face and passed out I can’t say it isn’t deserved ! They really are experts at getting us between a rock and a hard place – and then somehow, make almost everyone forget with one of those grins. And while the Dr’s bill may be steep at least you can rest easy – I know of at least 3 veteran parents who ignored various owie’s only to find out several days later their children had a broken bit !


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:08 pm

True – and I’m the kind of mom who’d worry endlessly that something really was broken. Twas worth it for the peace of mind alone. And the story;)


Cbuffy November 15, 2012 at 7:22 am

Oh, that WAS a real post. Real life is just that. REAL. Thanks for sharing it with us. And good luck today! (My 18 month old held his breath til he passed out – at RS. The nurse in the crowd was convinced he was having a seizure – so off to the hospital – 24 hours and $2500 later – he did it again because he didn’t want bubbles in his bath… Dad fixed it.)


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Oy! Both to the RS episode and the seizure that wasn’t. Gym Buddy Allison’s second son pulls that same stunt!


Crabby McSlacker November 15, 2012 at 8:37 am

Well, at least it makes a GREAT story!

And I gotta say I just hope Dr. and Nurse were there to witness the miraculous recovery after all their “kids aren’t dumb” patronizing remarks.

Glad she’s okay and hope there’s no more crying wolf! But, um, good luck with that.


Azusmom November 15, 2012 at 9:23 am
shelly November 15, 2012 at 8:39 am

Charlotte, you are a hoot!
I totally did that to my parents when I was a kid by faking like I needed glasses because I was pining for a pair of mickey mouse glasses like my friend have.
Myt parents were not thrilled to shell out for an visit to the optometrist only to be told that my vision was perfect.


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Ooh – thanks for the heads up! I’ll be on the watch for this one now;)


Azusmom November 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

Oy to the vey! What a day you’ve had!
Is it petty of me to REALLY like the part where she let those Medical Professionals know just how smart toddlers are?


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Ah, that was my fave part too!


Renée November 15, 2012 at 10:13 am

Thanks for the laugh this morning, I love this very real story in your REAL Post! I was the child of veteran parents who didn’t take me to have my arm x-rayed until the school nurse called them the next day and insisted – and yes, it was broken.
Prior to having children I worked in a hospital ER and knew how they triaged, so as a mom I loved the advent of Urgent Care centers for the breaks and sprains….so much easier when your child’s break or sprain doesn’t have to compete with car accidents, heart attacks, and gun shot wounds :-)


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:14 pm

So true! I grew up without Urgent Care and it is SO much better than having to wait in the ER for 6 hours… Sorry about your broken arm! Oy!


Bekky November 15, 2012 at 10:20 am

Ah, the magical ice pack. That worked better than even a mother’s kiss at our house growing up. We never had baby blankets or pacifiers but the ice pack was kind of like a security blanket for us.

And sorry about those nurses guilting you! My old vet was like that. “See, I don’t have a vehicle right now, do you think this might just go away on it’s own? Or could I at least bring her in tomorrow?” “Well, if it’s serious and you don’t bring her in as soon as possible it might be too late to help her tomorrow.” Yeah, real conversation. Just because my dog was throwing up.


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Yeah well now that I know it’s magical…! Glad your dog survived vomit;)


Mom November 15, 2012 at 11:26 am

I love YOU forever and like for always. For now and forever: my beautiful,kind, loving, wonderfully funny, sweet daughter you’ll be.


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Aw, thanks Mom! I love you forever too:)


Meg November 15, 2012 at 11:47 am

I understand the high deductibles :(. I am always the last to go to the doctor…even when my two year old broke her arm at my parent’s house last month. Nothing like Urgent Care trips when you are out of state and out of network. I always assume she is fine and I am 0/2!


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Oooh yeah – at least I was in-network!!


Happier Heather November 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Beautiful post. Jelly Bean is just so awesome!

Seriously, without kids and animals in the world, we’d never get any awesomely entertaining stories. What exactly did we do before we could find this stuff on blogs and Facebook?

Glad she’s not injured!


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm

“without kids and animals in the world, we’d never get any awesomely entertaining stories. What exactly did we do before we could find this stuff on blogs and Facebook?” AMEN to this!


Amy H. November 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Glad your little Jelly Bean is okay!!

While not a “seasoned” vet of a parent (we have an only child), I grew up where we went to the ER only if we were dying. And I mean, pretty much flat lining all ready. So I don’t really bat an eye over injuries.

Quite the attitude of the docs/nurses there at your urgent care clinic – kids ARE smart, and they are smarty-pants. Humpf! Glad Jelly Bean showed them her brains at the end! ;)


Nicole November 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I hated the doctor. I had some toe-sprains and once a sinus infection that was so bad I got a black eye, all without seeing a doctor (but when my sister’s orthopaedic surgeon saw mr with the black eye, he was slightly surprised, and then told me parents to stick my he’s over
A steaming bowl of boiling water. Worked like a charm!)


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Wait – you got a black eye from a sinus infection!? I had no idea that was even a possibility!


Nicole November 18, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Yeah, neither did I until it happened. And everyone at school was sure my sister had just punched me! It took a good week to 10 days of pure misery for that to happen though.


Quix November 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Ha! This is one reason I’m not certain that I’ll be having children. I am due some serious payback as I was an incredible BRAT in my younger years :). Thanks for sharing.


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Ah, don’t let this rule out kids. I have plenty of worse stories for that! Kidding! Kids are awesome and I have (mostly) never regretted choosing to become a mom:) Besides – you and Zliten would make adorable babes!!!


Marla-Deen November 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Our usual saying to our three boys is “rub some dirt on it”, so I’ve so been there! It just keeps it real! If you can’t laugh, what can you do?


Pam November 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm

What riot! This sounds like validation of your ability to raise a bright kid! I’m bracing myself… My little one is just a baby. A few hours after she was born my mom exclaimed “I’m so glad you had a girl!” (We didn’t find out the gender in advance). Her tone was not congratulatory, but more along the lines of “Payback’s a bitch… Bwahahahaha!”


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Hahah! There should be a whole site dedicated to labor room conversations….


Bek @ Crave November 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Hahaha, are you trying to scare me off having kids? I’m glad she’s okay definitely…but ohhh my teeth would grit haha. I wonder where she gets it from ;)


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Oh no – I have WAY better stories to scare you off having kids;)


Matt November 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm

LOL This reminds me of when my grandmother was laughing as my sister was giving my mom a hard time when we were kids. My mom asked her what was so funny and she said

“My dear, I always wished you would have the same sort of stubborn daughter you were and now it’s come to be.”

What goes around comes around I suppose. But then again, I’m sure you were a perfect angel when you were growing up ;)

Thanks for the laugh Charlotte!


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Oh yes, me = perfect angel. Either that or my family has short memories;)


HEAB November 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at this post. Three under the age of two…I’m scared.


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Honestly I’m scared for you:) I had three under three for a bit and that was hard enough!


Hay November 15, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Longtime Lurker Here,

Nearly the same thing happened to my son a year ago when he was 2.5 years old. He’s autistic and non-verbal, but he wouldn’t bear any weight on his leg. My mother is a pediatric ER nurse, so we simply drove down to the hospital where we skipped triage and ate Halloween candy in one of the back rooms while my mother’s friends fawned over us. :)

They never really were sure if he broke his bone or not, but the decided to put him in a cast anyway. After a day or two, he completely adjusted to his cast and ran around the house with it like a normal little toddler. He could bathe with his cast too! All in all, it turned out alright.

Best wishes to you and Jelly Bean!


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm

So glad it all worked out for the best with your little guy! It’s never fun but it’s especially wrenching when they can’t tell you what’s wrong:(


Laurel November 16, 2012 at 6:08 am

That’s great! Been there, done that, but mine bit me in the butt, and my daughter still reminds me that I made her walk around on a broken foot for close to two days. I think you have a little actress on your hands!


Sylvie @ StruggleswithaFatA November 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Thanks for sharing! Definitely put a smile on my face. :)


Jess November 16, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Hahaha love this! Toddlers arent dumb, but mothers instincts are usually right! You did the right thing getting her checked. I have also been peed on because I forgot nappies, change of clothes etc and I only have 2!


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Glad to know I’m not the only mom who does that!


Melissa November 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Oh I loved this post! My Laura can’t say her Ls either – and also pronounces them as the y sound. And I love it. :) Glad Jelly Bean is okay. :)

When our oldest was just over a year old, my mom gave me a card that read, “Remember, DIAPER spelled backwards is REPAID.” LOL! Very true, I’m afraid.


Charlotte November 18, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Hahah – I never noticed that before but that’s awesome. So fun that Laura has the same little speech impediment;)


Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily November 17, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Hahahahaha…this just made my night! I’m glad that she is ok and the magic ice pack cured her owie :)


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