Monday, July 7, 2014

Keep Calm and Don't Breathe the Gas

Cool, calm, and collected. I used to be all of those things.
Until the day I had children. Swollen belly enduring two days of labor, middle of the night c-section, and twenty-two hours on an airplane across the world- these pains of mothering have changed me.
The responsibility for their constant well being has consumed me.
I've been overtaken by this lifelong investment, no longer emotionally detached. You could say I've been wrecked by my dive into parenthood- and stuck on the verge of panic ever since.

Way back before kids- I used to work nights at a Level 1 Trauma Center. Twelve hour shifts caring for people in a very busy emergency room. Nothing unnerved me back then. In the five years I did that job- I stayed even-tempered and thought clearly. Wasn't phased in the least by the insanity of life and death chaos.

Quite the contrast to how I now handle situations of uncertainty pertaining to my five beautiful offspring. I take the challenge of getting these little people safely into adulthood as a pretty big deal. But I'm also constantly reminded to keep the balance of letting them live fully and experience cool stuff without senselessly creating undertones of worry and anxiety.

I should actually be embarrassed to share how I reacted to something like this, but oh well.
This was my morning.

I'm upstairs making my bed. Kids are downstairs in the family room watching the most annoying show ever made by Disney channel.  The song drives me crazy and every kid on the planet has it memorized. Being a smartypants, I've made up alternative lyrics in my head, which I would never share with anyone under 18.

So I'm putting pillows on, wondering if I really want to start laundry next or postpone to another day. I hear a little voice coming up the stairs, beckoning me by my three letter word. First thing I do is decifer the tone. Declarative is quick and means somebody's not sharing and it goes like this- MOM!
But this was different. This tone was questioning and it was warily preceeded by an "um".
Never a good sign.

"Your lamp fell."
I breathe in and decide laundry can wait. Might be time for me to drink caffeine instead. Two lamps on either side of the couch are in constant peril with little ones that can't resist jumping on the love seat when I'm upstairs out of sight. The lamps are like much of the furniture in the room - twice as old as the kids. Waiting for everyone to reach puberty before I splurge on any idea of having new decor.  The lamps have survived tipping over more than I can count. No big deal. I smile as I head down the stairs, until I hear the rest of it.
"Oh, and....the light bulb kinda broke all over the floor."

I freeze for an instant as the words travel from my ears to my mind. I think shots and stitches if they step on glass as worst-case scenario. I race down the rest of the stairs and into the family room.

"Everybody upstairs- QUICKLY! Let's go!" When danger is present, I use my drill-sergeant voice.

They sense the urgency and four sets of feet pound their way towards the second floor. I hear them giggling, pulling out toys to play with, and shutting the bedroom door as I brace to assess the damage. I notice the lampshade knocked off its axis, barely hanging from the edge of the side table. My fear gets validated as I see shards of thin white bulb speckling the carpet like fragments of French manicured fake fingernails. I hope for any indication that it was a rounded silhouette. But no. It was one of those. The dangerous kind.

I grab my phone to google a solution. My mind races to find buzzwords to describe the catastrophe.
Article after article comes up.

"The worst toxin in your home exists in your lamp."
"Toxic mercury gas leaks into air from broken light bulb"
"Liver damage and delay caused by kids mercury exposure"

All the years I've exclusively bought organic milk and washed their hair with non-paraben shampoo to avoid little bodies having contact with toxins have become instantly undone with the shattering of one light bulb. I have no clue how much "poison gas" from this is actually swirling around the room.  I throw open the patio doors and turn on the fan full blast.

I decide to call my only hope for comfort. My husband answers and I express how distraught I am over the fact that deciding to use energy-efficient light bulbs has backfired into a dangerous situation and now our kids have been exposed to poison mercury gas. His response was not nearly as concerned as I had hoped. Sometimes having someone panic with you when you think you failed as a parent is validating.

"Oh, one of those broke in my hand once.  Don't worry honey, it should be fine."

His soothing voice and calmness makes me feel instantly less freaked out. I express my adoration of a man so amazing that I love him like crazy. We hang up and I head back to the trusted source of all knowledge- the internet- to make sure I clean everything up the right way. The Environmental Protection Agency gives tips on how to dispose of broken CFL bulbs and I also found suggestions on how to clear the air.  FYI: keep children away from the area for fifteen minutes, turn on fans, open doors, make sure to pick up the broken pieces with duct tape prior to vacuuming.

So now you know. I panic and freak out when it comes to my precious kids.  It is the reason I cut up grapes and hot dogs into pieces that mice could swallow. The reason I am constantly counting them when we are out and about. I could go on and on. Parenthood is riding a roller coaster every single day. Exhilarating and heart-pounding, filled with dips and turns, ups and downs. Dangerous light bulbs and crazy kids shows. And while being a mom might not always be easy on the nerves- man is it the best thing ever. So take a deep breath and enjoy every second of summer!


Listening to: No Strings by Mayer Hawthorne & Maps by Maroon 5
Reading: Charis: God's Scandalous Grace For Us by Preston Sprinkle

More blog posts coming soon.