Pink Eyes, Bare Butts, and a Long Car Ride

Posted: May 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, California, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Summer, Travel | 3 Comments »

The past two months ’round here have been all about travel. And before you get some Brangelina-like image of us globe-trotting to exotic locales, let me clarify. We’re not talking family fun. More like a series of work trips. In rapid succession.

Mark and I have been tag-teaming on childcare like some Spandex-and-rhinestone clad husband and wife wrestling team. Lately our kids have no idea who’ll be picking them up from school. Mom? Dad? Some babysitter? Bueller?

It started with the girls and I spending Spring Break in Palm Springs with my sis. That was, in fact, a vacation. The day after we got home Mark went to Baton Rouge for work. Then I jetted to a writers’ workshop in Dayton. (You know… London, Paris, Dayton, Ohio). And let’s see, we had about a week at home then I left for Miami. Followed days later by Mark doing Dallas. Or rather, going there on business.

Kate’s school camping trip was right after Mark got back from the Lone Star State. And it’s a family affair, not something you stick your kid on a bus for, wave goodbye, then go home, crack a few beers, and revel in sweet childless-ness.

Group events like this don’t rate high on Mark’s social scorecard. Even when he’s not fried from work.

Frankly, even I—the turbo extrovert—was feeling more ‘hafta-go’ than ‘wanna-go.’ But the girls’ve been talking about this trip since we went last year. And we figured once we got there—after the FIVE-HOUR drive—the splendor of the gorgeous river, the charm of the rustic cabins, horseback riding and s’mores-making, and the kids romping in nature like wood nymphs, would make it all worthwhile.

So Friday Mark took the afternoon off work and at 1:30 we set out. Half-dead or not, we were camping.

More than three hours into our journey and deep into a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book-on-CD, Paige bellowed from the back seat, “My EYE hurts!”

I twisted around to take a look and saw green globs of gunk swimming in her peeper.

Kate yelled with a mixture of joy and disgust, “It looks like SNOT! She has snot in her eye!”

I sighed and turned back to Mark, “It also looks like pink eye.”

We were in the middle of nowhere. Twenty-five minutes from a teensy town that was the last outpost of civilization before we got to the campsite.

I called our doctor who phoned a prescription into the wee town’s drug store. Then Mark and I whisper-strategized about what to do. I was loath to give up our plan, but we couldn’t bring pus-eyed Paige to a kid-packed weekend. Slipping her into the crowd and playing dumb would be poor form. (Although for a few minutes I did try to sell Mark on the idea.)

The girls were incredibly mellow and understanding when we told them we were going to have to miss the camping trip. They said, “No problem, Mom and Dad! We get it. These things happen.”

Oh wait, that’s not how it went at all.

No, they completely lost their freaking sh*t. “I have been waiting for this trip ALL YEAR,” Kate moaned like a petulant teen. Paige, ever the follower, chimed in with the same refrain.

There was hysterical convulsive crying. There was kicking of the seats in front of them (which Mark and I happened to be seated in). There was bartering, “Why CAN’T Paige go camping with the pink eye?” (Since getting it once as a toddler Kate calls conjunctivitis “the pink eye” like “the evil eye,” which is actually quite apt.)

And despite how unenthused Mark and I had been about the trip, the realization that we couldn’t go after all was surprisingly distressing. It’s confusing finding out you don’t have to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place—but had already planned and packed and driven hundreds of miles for.

Instead we were facing a pink eye quarantine home-lockdown weekend. Maniacally wiping down surfaces with disinfectant. Incessantly reminding our four-year-old to not touch her itchy eye. And freaking out every time our own eyeballs felt the slightest bit tingly. What fun.

At the strip mall drug store in Downtrodden Town, USA, Mark and I announced, “Paige, we have to put this medicine in your eye.”

We sold it all wrong. We might as well have offered to give her a shot too. She started shrieking, “No! NO. Nooooo!!!” Clipping a rabid badger’s toenails would’ve been a more pleasant undertaking.

So we had to get all parental straight-jacket on her—me leaning into her legs and holding her arms down while Mark pried her goopy eyelid open to squeeze in the drops. Did I mention this took place with her lying down on the sidewalk? Classy stuff.

To ensure no passers-by missed this scene Paige kept up a hearty howl, thrashing and kicking demonically. A teen-aged couple who’d stopped to crack open a Mountain Dew for their baby looked at our little sidewalk scene with disdain.

Not our finest hour of parenting.

Back in the car, an hour’s drive later—headed back toward Oakland—we stop at an In-n-Out Burger for dinner. By then Paige’s eye was swollen near shut and the skin half-way down her cheek was pink and puffy.

While waiting for our food at an outdoor table, Kate had me time her while she ran between garbage cans. Paige sat snorfling snot and eye goo onto her lovey Panda-y, which had become a teeming breeding ground of conjunctivitis bacteria. (Mental note: Douse Panda-y in gasoline and torch him at first possible opportunity.)

When Mark came out with our food, he pointed out a couple who were changing their baby’s diaper on a nearby table. Sure, we had a kid with us whose face was inflamed, seeping pus, and as contagious as the Ebola Virus. But STILL. A diaper? On a restaurant table?

I don’t think that’s what In-n-Out had in mind when they coined the term “animal style.”

Maybe these brilliant bio-hazard spreaders, the parents of the Mountain-Dew drinkin’ baby, and Mark and me with our sidewalk-splayed straight-jacket approach to eye care could form some Pathetic Parenting Alliance. There’s so much we could learn from each other.

I dove for our camping-gear crammed car. I didn’t care how long the trip home took, I was hell-bent on getting back to civilization.

After more than two hours of hellish highway driving (and more mind-numbing Mrs. Piggle Wiggle audio books) we pulled into our driveway. It was 8:30 on Friday night. Seven hours after we’d left.

It was the longest drive ever taken for a fast-food meal.

But by Sunday I realized the miraculous. We’d spent a wonderfully mellow two days all together. At home.

The girls and I planted flowers. Mark hit golf balls. We went to bed early and slept late. Kate brought Pink-Eye Paige breakfast in bed, and showered her with home made Get Well cards. We made s’mores on the gas stove. And Mark even found a way to administer eye drops that made Paige giggle not scream.

Sunday evening—when P’s eye was returning to normal—an impromptu cocktail party sprouted up on our porch. Neighbors brought cutting boards loaded with cheese, olives, and bread. Mark whipped up cocktails and handed out beer. And the neighborhood kids jump-roped and biked up and down the block while we peered through sheets of mylar at the eclipse.

It was exactly the weekend we needed.

Sometimes the universe just takes care of you, and points you in the right direction. Even if it takes a seven-hour car ride to get you there.

* * *

Want to read a truly terrifying travel tale? Check out my original Travel Don’ts post. It’s a *motherload* classic.


3 Comments on “Pink Eyes, Bare Butts, and a Long Car Ride”

  1. 1 MJ said at 9:28 am on May 22nd, 2012:

    I must say, my eye started itching as I was reading this. Lovely post, as usual!

  2. 2 Mary said at 10:44 am on May 22nd, 2012:

    Yeah! Good end to the weekend. Also, I loved the “whisper-strategizing” and Kate entertaining herself by running from trashcan to trashcan.

  3. 3 kristen from motherload said at 11:41 am on May 22nd, 2012:

    Oh MJ, I am still totally itchy… And of course, this morning when we were geared up to send Paige back to school, her *other* eye started to crust up. ARGH!

    Mary, let’s play the garbage can game when we see each other next. Kate found it hugely entertaining, and I tend to trust her judgment on these things.

Leave a Reply