Sorry, Ma’am

June 9th, 2022


Phoebe has swimmer’s ears for the third time this year. It’s a problem when your kids’ absolute favorite thing to do is swim, but every other time they go swimming, one of them gets swimmer’s ear. 

The only thing that makes it go away are these antibiotic ear drops the pediatrician has to prescribe, and the pediatrician, for whatever reason, acts like she’s doling out opioids. “You’ll have to bring her in for an exam,” the bouncer on the phone tells me.

“But she has the same symptoms as last time — remember? Just a few months ago? When she went swimming, got swimmer’s ear, and you guys examined her? Screaming ear pain? Kid crying? Sound familiar?”

He is implacable. “You’ll have to bring her in.”

She’s already home from school today, because in addition to having swimmer’s ear, she also has a cold or allergies or maybe COVID but we’ll never know because the tests aren’t exactly accurate. But unfortunately, they can’t see her in the regular clinic if she has the slightest whiff of a sniffle (thanks, COVID). They have to see her in the respiratory clinic… meaning I have to expose her to COVID for her standard-issue swimmer’s ear… and they’re all booked up today.

So now I have to wait until tomorrow to get her seen, but there’s another hitch: they can’t make appointments for the respiratory clinic in advance, so I have to call back tomorrow and see what they have available. Which means I have to keep her home from school tomorrow, too, so she can be on-call for an appointment. And can’t get her the eardrops until tomorrow, so she just has to live through it for now.

“Can you possibly just give us the ear drops without an exam this time? I will have to take another day off work to do that tomorrow, and it’s just swimmer’s ear.” I am trying to act calm and cajoling as I watch the emails pour in from my clients who really wanted this 25-page paper on climate change and retail leadership yesterday. Then I have to do the customer story, the blog post, and the ebook for the other three customers patiently waiting for me to come up with new parent-related excuses every single day for why I’m late on a deadline.

“Sorry, ma’am,” he says, rubbing salt in the wound by calling me ma’am. “Have a nice day though.”

“Thanks, I obviously won’t,” I say petulantly. 

I imagine that our pediatrician is worried I am taking the ear drops recreationally? If she could only see the reality of me trying to get Phoebe to let me put the ear drops into her damn ear, she would understand that I am not going to give them to her for no freaking reason. Little kids apparently don’t like having liquid poured into their ears; it’s weird. It involves major cajoling, and sometimes bribery.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Meanwhile, from the other room, the patient demands, “CAN I HAVE A SNACK?”

I am a fulltime freelance writer with very demanding clients moonlighting as a waitress to an insatiable customer who doesn’t tip. I am advocating for ear drops with one hand while letting the dog in and out with the other. I am grumbling about how much food my “sick” kid has eaten by 10:30am while simultaneously feeling awful about complaining about it, since really, I’m lucky that my kids have such great appetites. Meanwhile, Phoebe is on hour two of TV. I do not even know what she is watching. Every few moments she randomly shouts out something like MAMA WHAT DOES CHEERIO MEAN or MAMA DO ANTS HAVE EARS.

I call Jon to vent. He is a nurse and understands both sides of this story. “It’s like they think I’m hooked on antibiotic ear drops,” I whine. “What do they think I’m going to do, snort it?” He promises to walk over there on his lunch break and see if he can wheedle and charm his way into some freaking ear drops. Spoiler alert: NOPE.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Swimmer’s ear is a very minor annoyance in the always terrifying life of having children. When they are older I suspect I’ll barely remember that it was a thing. Also, since I started writing this I have wised up and invested in a handy product they apparently make called Swimmer’s Ear Drops, and now, every time my kids go swimming, I dose them up with alcohol in the ear straight away. If only there were drops for warding off all the other terrors of being a mom.

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