Scratch Me If You Can

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We Let Him Drive, Too

We Let Him Drive, Too

It was just another Friday. Dropped off Mark at daycare, called back clients, worked on assignments. Around noon, I left home to enjoy one of the perks of freelancing—grocery shopping without the crowd.

I was hesitating between two brands of frozen pizzas on sale—the only convenience food we buy, always useful in case of a shit-no-time-to-make-dinner emergency—when I noticed the flashing LED light on my phone. I grabbed it absentmindedly. Just another assignment coming through, I thought.

But I hadn’t received an email. I had four missed phone calls. And two voicemail messages.

I often tend to forget that my smartphone is also, well, a phone. I mostly use it to check my email and it’s always on silent mode because the only unscheduled calls I get are from telemarketers.

I checked the log. I recognized the number right away; for someone who doesn’t like maths, I have a weird ability to remember numbers—units numbers, codes, phone numbers, prices, etc.

Fuck. Mark’s daycare.

“You have two new messages.”

One one star, yes, motherfucker, I would like to listen to the damn messages, oh come on, don’t give me the entire menu options, just my freaking messages.

“Mark is… okay,” the voice said. “But he had an allergic reaction, we believe. I’m going to try to reach his dad.”

I froze in front of the frozen pizzas at the words “allergic reaction”. These are probably in the top three “most dreaded words” in North American parenting, along with “pedophile” and “sugary snacks.”

I called back, couldn’t reach the daycare, so I called Feng. “What the fuck?” I asked. “Don’t know. I got the message too. I’ll go pick him up.” “Okay, I’ll meet you at home.”

I left without my frozen pizza—no time for such luxury—and tried to calm down on the way home. Mark has no allergy and I prepare his lunch/snack box myself. Mentally, I reviewed the contents. Pasta with broccoli, ham and cheese cooked by yours truly, a jam sandwich (my motto is “if it’s messy, enjoy it anywhere but at home”), apple sauce, a yogurt, a small sweet bread and a handful of Goldfish crackers. Not exactly allergy triggering.

When I arrived twenty minutes later, Feng had just gotten home and Mark was playing in the living room. He looked fine but for a bandage on his cheek.


“I don’t know, the daycare said he had a bit of a rash on his cheek. Apparently they noticed it after the bathroom break and they freaked out. His cheeks are always red like this, don’t see the big deal.”

I lifted the bandage.

“That’s a scratch!”

We took a closer look. Yep, that was a clearly a nail scratch—several scratches actually, a couple of centimetre long, two on the left cheek and two very small ones close to the eye.

“Yeah, okay, that’s not an allergic reaction. Mark, what happened?”

“… pushed, fall, ouch, boo-boo,” he shrugged, miming someone scratching his cheek.

I was relieved but a bit annoyed, first by the drama, second by the fact the daycare apparently couldn’t tell the difference between anaphylactic shock and a nail scratch.

Over the weekend, I emailed the daycare to let them know Mark was fine. On Monday, the director called me.

Definitely not an allergic reaction, I claimed.

“But his cheek was a bit bumpy,” she said.

“His skin is dry,” I acknowledged. “It’s winter… I mean, spring with winter weather, and his cheeks are often red. But these were nail scratches.”

“Yes… we thought of that. He probably scratched himself.”

“No he didn’t,” I retorted. “His nails are very short.”

I went on explaining that I always cut Mark’s nails short since the scratched cornea experience a while back. And I had checked over the weekend, there was no way Mark could have scratched himself.

“Look, it’s not a big deal,” I said. “Kids get hurt, it happens.”

“… maybe a ‘friend’ did that,” she finally acknowledged. “But he didn’t cry!”

Thank you. See, I hate it when people try to pretend whatever happened didn’t happen. It’s just annoying.

“I’m not blaming anyone, it’s okay, really,” I said. “Mark gets hurt all the time with us.”

Ooops. Probably not the smartest thing to admit to a childcare professional. I don’t need a visit from Child Protective Services. But it’s true, Mark bumps his head, trips or somehow gets his finger stuck into Duplo blocks pretty much every day. Acknowledging the “major injury” he suffered and blowing on it is usually enough.

“…what I mean is that I know kids are a bit rough at this age.”

“I don’t know which kid did it!”

“I don’t care! It’s irrelevant, really.”

Seriously? Come on, even if she found out, what would be the next logical step? Putting Mark and the “friend” in an arena, crowd cheering, and letting Mark scratch the kid’s face? Or going the legal way, lawyering up suing the family and descent for pain and suffering?

“Mark is fine, everything is fine,” I repeated and repeated until the message got through. The director thanked me and we hung up.

So much drama… for a scratch.

Gee. Kids are too sheltered these days.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Good that Mark was okay, probably even good that the daycare made a big deal. I mean if the hadn’t called, that would be more unsettling. My mother still freaks out if I catch a cold or something 🙂

  2. I remember when I was little all throughout my childhood it was completely normal for all of us kids to constantly be covered in bruises and scratches and no one ever really complained about it. I grew up in ’70s-’80s, no computers or video games back then, so we kids relied on just good old fashioned toys and games, bikes etc., you fall – you pick yourself up and move on. We biked with no helmets. No car seats for kids either. We still survived. I think what it is today is that most parents are being way too overprotective and as a result schools fear law suits. I am all for safety but I agree with you, it’s overdone and a bit too dramatic. Kids play, kids fall, kids scratch and sometimes – imagine the horror!- they cry. Glad your kiddo is ok, take care:)

    • Tell me about it! I have so many scars on my knees from falling off my bike. We used to speed downhill and my brakes didn’t work very well 😆 I can’t tell you how many times I got home (… hours later) with blood everywhere. The only thing that scared me a lot was the “treat” of getting stitches. And my mum cleaning the wound with alcohol.

  3. It would have annoyed the hell out of me, imagine having to take the day off believing you need to rush to the emergency just to discover that he was scratched – not cool but not an emergency either!

  4. Wow, I could only imagine how different things must have been like when it comes to parenting a century ago to now. Some people think that we live in environments that are too clean, which makes us more prone to allergies. And now, the things we worry about when it comes to kids are something so different compared to what people were worrying about during our grandparents’ generation.

    I still believe that you are very courageous to be raising a kid like Mark. I feel like I am just too selfish to do that. And I commend you for finding the humor in it, even though overall it might be tough.

    • I’m not exactly Mother Teresa either! I guess making the decision to have a kid is a bit like deciding to live with your loved one. Things are easier when you’re single: after all, sharing your life, a place, etc. means compromising. Yet… there are many upsides too to it!

    • The “B” word is banned at home.

      There was a case a while back in the US where the mother was sent to jail and did time for leaving her son in the car. He refused to go shop with her, he was playing with an iPad or something (so old enough for that, it wasn’t an infant). I found it infuriating given the context. I tried to look for the article again, but my search returns many similar stories and not the one I was looking for… even scarier.

      Fuck. You don’t jail a mom (or a dad!) for that. Context people, context!

      • Martin Penwald on

        In fact, the story you refer to is probably the one which happens a few monthes back to the very author of this article. It is some kind of follow-up from women who live the same situation.
        Here the link for the previous article

        The worst in these stories is that these women have left their children for only a few minutes, so there are assholes calling the cops as soon as they see the child alone and who have probably seen the mother leaving. It is particularly despicable.

  5. im sorry but WTF?! They could not see difference between scratch and allergic reaction? !
    I am impressed you were calm on the phone with director. I would have lost my mind ! But what matters is that he is doing fine.

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