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Scratch Me If You Can

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.

“So?”

“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.

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