Jesse was super tired yesterday after summer camp, where they made crystals using a powder that contained egg whites. It’s rare for her to have a slump day; she and Nick are energy titans. But we have been keeping it busy for summer vacation so far, and it didn’t surprise me that she just wanted to lie around watching Ninjago on her iPad and playing with sticker books. The teacher had assured me that she didn’t touch the powder, and she displayed no visible allergy symptoms, so I didn’t rush to connect any dots.
She told me her throat was extra itchy, and she was coughing a little more than usual, but that’s within the scope of normal. A lifetime of reflux and frequent puking (reflux, allergies, anxiety), and also all the screaming, have left her throat perpetually raw.
She said her stomach was hurting. She didn’t eat well. Also normal. I took it all in stride because that’s what I try to do with my little train wreck.
At bed time, she was still a bit out of it, and her perennial butt rash was worse than it’s been for a week or so. Normal. It fluctuates.
It wasn’t until later at night that I had the big DUH about all these little things and thought again about the egg whites in the camp’s crystal-making powder. I went in to check on Jesse, touched her cheek and felt her tummy, gave her a kiss. She was sleeping peacefully so I didn’t do anything. I still had doubts.
I woke up this morning to Jesse announcing she just had a nasty bout of diarrhea. It was the last warning sign. I gave her Zyrtec, to the tune of this conversation:
J: Why do I need Zyrtec?
me: You’re acting off. I think you might be having an allergic reaction to something.
me: But I’m not sure. Remember the crystal powder with egg whites in it? Since you didn’t touch it, I’m not sure what’s going on.
J: Yes I did.
me: You touched it? The teacher said you didn’t.
J: Yes. I did.
me: Did you wash your hands after you learned there was egg in it?
I’m grateful I’m on blood pressure meds. I swallowed my dismay. Jesse took her Zyrtec a little reluctantly. An hour and a half later, when I dropped her off at camp, she told me she was feeling a lot better. When I picked her up 3 hours after that, she ate lunch like she had been starved for 3 days and told me she was feeling a LOT better. She only coughed a little, much more like normal. She commented dryly, almost muttering under her breath, as she stuffed food in her mouth, “I think I was having an allergic reaction.”
I spent yesterday soiling myself with self-pity over Jesse’s egg allergy instead of actually doing something sensible about it, like giving her prophylactic Zyrtec just in case she sustained more of an exposure than she was letting on. Then she wouldn’t have been miserable for a day, her body struggling to fight off the effects of this tiny, tiny exposure. What a moron. Me, not Jesse.
In moments like these, when I’m beating up on myself for being so senseless, it’s my father’s ghost who speaks to me from the corners of my mind. If he was alive, the next time I called him I would have told him about how I screwed up. I would have shared with him how awful I feel, how the failure is just eating at me, dropping the ball on the one significant responsibility in my life – keeping my kids safe. My grumpy, grumpy dad would have just grumbled at me. “Aigoo, Carla,” he would have groaned, a little angry. (Aigoo is a catch-all Korean exclamation, pronounced by Dad as “eye-goo,” which loosely translates to something like “jeez” or “golly”.) He would have chewed me out a little, grumpy with me for being too hard on myself. He would have reminded me it’s okay to screw up, to be human. I’m still a great mom, he would have reminded me, doing the best I can.
Thanks, Dad. I do feel better, except for missing you.
Oh Carla, I hate to tell you…but you’re going to fuck up so much worse than this one day. We all do. I’m glad your dad was (though not) there to talk you through it. The days I fuck up with my daughter are some of the days I miss my mom the absolute most.