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Life Lesson: Don’t Swallow Coins

We’ve all said it. We’ve all said it a hundred times, “take that out of your mouth!” or “you’ll swallow that and then you’ll be sorry!”

I’ve said it a million times. From one end of the day to the next. As babies and toddlers, you watch as everything naturally heads mouth bound. My son always took it a bit further, but then that’s him and that’s why I love. He pushes the boundaries. He always pushes the boundaries.

As a child, he ate sand, spiders, snails, grass, slugs, cat litter and basically anything that came within his grasp. I gave up fighting and chasing him. I gave up taking the spiders out of his mouth. As soon as I turned my back he’d do it again. He soon learned they didn’t taste nice and subsequently spat them out. I despaired as no matter what I did or said, it just did’t sink in. Although I wished he would listen to me and save me all the drama, I understood that some children need to learn by making their own mistakes. That’s the way some kids roll.

I knew he would have to learn the whole swallowing thing first hand too. And he did.

One Sunday, my children had come back their grandparents. They ran straight into the back garden and started playing on the swing. It was one of those Sundays, warm, quiet and going a bit too smoothly for my liking. I might have known it was going to change.

Within eight minutes, Bobby had ran back into the kitchen clasping his throat. I gasped.

“What did you do? What did you eat?” I shouted. My initial instinct was that he had eaten something poisonous.

Between staggered breaths he kept pointing to his throat and saying, “stuck, it’s stuck, get it out!”

“Get what out?” I shouted as I started banging hard on his back to try to bring up whatever it was that was stuck there. I banged and banged but nothing was happening. He was breathing but very uncomfortably.

I don’t panic in these situations, I just think about resolving it. Your mind switches to survival mode. I’m used to it.

I knew he could breath, I’d established that and whatever was in there was making him retch but not choke completely even though he needed to get to hospital. I could see that. It wasn’t coming out.

“What is it? What did you swallow?” I shouted again.

“A pound coin!” he gasped, still clutching his throat.

“A pound coin?  How did you manage that?” I shouted, in between trying to get my car keys and get out the door to the hospital. Your mind starts to spin as scenarios rattle around it. Is this the way they are going to die? Is this it? Is this the end? A pound coin?

Water will bring it up. 

“You need to drink water, it’s the only thing that’s going to work. It’s not coming up and it’s not going down. You need water.”

So I filled a large bottle and gave it to him along with a plastic bag and put him in the back seat. Foot down, I kept shouting to him to keep drinking. He was retching the whole way but nothing was coming up. He was drinking and retching, drinking and retching.

And although he was clearly in pain, clearly uncomfortable, I couldn’t help but say it. I just couldn’t help but say I told you so.

“You see all those times I told you not to swallow things, not to put things in your mouth, well this is why, this is exactly why,” I said. Right there, right then, I got that self righteousness that parents get, when you’ve spent years preaching to an empty room. Preaching and threatening about the what if’s and might be’s. Preaching to an unresponsive audience. But then one day, something happens and all that preaching and teaching becomes justified. One day, something happens and they finally see that all that babbling and talking was for a reason. It’s because, we, as parents know. We are trying to help you and lead you down the right path. We are trying to teach you life lessons. This was self righteousness at its best.

“You need to drink that whole bottle,” I said again as we turned the corner, and drove into the multi story car park. I stopped very abruptly as we jumped forward in our seats. In the back I heard a large retch as a great fountain of vomit hit the plastic bag.

“You okay?” I asked turning around.

“Yes,” he answered, I feel fine now.  “I think the pound coin has come up.”

“Can you feel it?”

“No,” he answered.

“Good,” I answered, “shall we go home then?”

“Yes, ” he nodded.

So before I had actually got out of the car, I turned back around and started the engine. This drama is all too familiar to me, living with Bobby. But this particular drama seemed somewhat different. This drama was a milestone in our lessons on life.

I turned the car and drove home, as I babbled and preached until the car was filled with my self righteousness again. I was going to milk this one today. But in the back, I sensed I had a convert, I sensed someone was finally listening.



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