Our beach has some big, rocky jetties that attract kids like, well, the whole fly/honey thing. The jetties are prime real estate for crab-catching, funky pieces of oceanic detritus and occasionally a find such as a starfish. But they're also slippery, covered with scratchy barnacles and totally off-limits.
Except when they're not.
So last Saturday, while 15-foot high waves had the lifeguards momentarily distracted, the elementary school set took over the jetties. I was on duty with Seth and Jesse, who spent the day either squabbling with each other ("Mom! He's being annoying again!") or hunting for crabs.
Yup, on the darned jetties.
I let them for a while, then, as the storm-fueled tide was beginning to rush back in, decided that jetty-time was up. "Off the rocks, now!" I ordered Seth (Jesse was already back at the blanket, digging a new home for his crabs).
After a few minutes of negotiation, he complied. But making his way toward me, Seth slipped on one of the barnacle-covered boulders and went flipping over. Wham! He hit his head--hard--on a rock and began emitting a high-pitched, unearthly wail that I'm still hearing in my sleep.
I knew we were heading for the hospital, but figured I'd have 20 minutes to get ready. So I dragged Seth, wailing away, up to the lifeguard stand for an ice pack, eyeballing Jesse to make sure he was still digging near our blanket.
No ice pack, so I headed for the beach office, another 100 feet away. With Seth settled with an ice pack and a lifeguard/EMT soothing him, I ran back to the beach for Jesse.
Nowhere in sight.
With what I can only describe as the hot flush of fear cascading throughout my body, I ran back to the beach office. "My other child is gone," I blurted out, feeling terrified and foolish.
The beach patrol and police were duly summoned as I repeated the description for the various authorities: "Shaggy brown hair, yellow beach shirt and blue bathing suit."
Meanwhile, Seth slumped on the bench, moaning and vacant-eyed.
Within ten minutes, my little runaway was found, paraded down the boardwalk in tears. We hugged hard, cried together and had a brief but very stern discussion.
Then, back to my head-bump boy. I wrapped Seth in a towel, grabbed our overloaded beach cart and began walking the boys back to our house. I had my plan: I'd drop Jesse with my father-in-law, shower the sand off me and Seth, grab my handbag and head for the hospital.
Then Seth proceeded to puke...copiously.
I ran for one of the summer cops who were relaxing nearby, who turned pale and said "I'll get first aid."
"You mean an ambulance?" I asked.
He nodded. "Calm, calm, calm," I whispered to myself.
My older son and father in law met us on the boardwalk with my handbag, everyone at this point either crying or near tears.
The EMTs placed my pale, skinny Seth on a stretcher, I hugged my two crying boys and climbed into the ambulance.
Then we sat, in a hallway of the ER, for the next six hours. "We've all climbed on the jetties as kids," said the doctor."It's a rite of passage. He'll be fine."
The plan was: an evaluation, a CAT scan and home.
But then Seth drank a glass of water.
And...yup...proceeded to vomit, in great arching arcs. All over himself and me.
"Hmmm," the nurse said, frowning. "You know he'll have to stay overnight now, right?"
And so, Seth and I shared a room, him on a hospital bed and me on a too-short cot within hand-holding range. And there we stayed for the next 20 hours, unchanged, unshowered and...thankful just to be safe and be together.
So, we have a rule. If an ant gets inside the house, it's dead meat. Ants that are outside, bothering no one, get left alone. So, a recent invasion of ants had my kids trying to pinpoint exactly what in and out mean and what the rules of ant-killing are.
Jesse: "What about ants on the porch?"
Mom: "If it's only one or two, leave them alone. If there are tons, call me and I'll spray them with the vinegar bottle."
Jesse: "Can I spray them?"
Mom: "That's a grownup job."
Jesse:"Please. I really, really want to spray them."
Mom: "Why? It's not like it's a fun thing to do."
Jesse (jumping in the air): "It is! It is fun! They stop moving!"
Mom (wondering if she should call a therapist): "Just let it be."
Jesse: "Well, what about if I think an ant is on the porch but wants to go in the house?"
Mom: "If it's not in the house and there's only one or two ants, LEAVE THEM ALONE."
Jesse: "What if it's walking toward the door?"
Mom: "ALONE! ALONE! ALONE! What is so difficult to understand?"
Jesse: "What if I accidentally (on purpose is what he really means) bring one inside in my pocket?"
Mom: "Ants don't just accidentally get in your pocket. Do not bring ants inside!"
Jesse: "OK. But what if an ant is on the screen? It could squish itself through and get inside. Can I kill it?"
I'm Diane, the mom of three boys, living in a New York City apartment that's too small to contain all the energy of our five family members. Mick, my sweetie pie husband, and I spend many, many hours trying to understand who our kids are and what they need, with variable degrees of success. In between, we work, pay bills, read semi-voraciously, plan playdates and work on our money pit of a beach shack--where something is always falling apart, much to our surprise.