Geoff Cochran remember the day his fourth child ate a battery.
This past winter, the metropolitan Chicago area was hit with a blizzard. Nearly a foot and a half of snow dumped on our heads in about 16 hours. Now I can already hear you starting to say, “Geoff, New England has it worse. This isn’t even worth mentioning you old softy. In truth, you are right. Other parts of the country did get worse weather than us recently, but I have something on them. You see, while Bostonians were shoveling and plowing their way through over three feet of snow so they could run around in Yeti suits and dress up as a “snowst,” all the while reveling in the delight that Bill Bilichick’s squishy balls brought them another Lombardi trophy, my youngest child of four ate a fucking battery. You weren’t expecting that were you? No, you weren’t. I wasn’t even expecting that, and I’ve known that kid all his life.
The day started like any other, although in retrospect I should have been suspicious. Our three boys were being nice to one another. Instead of seeing it as the red flag it was, I hoped it was the harbinger of a delightful day for my wife. School was cancelled due to the winter storm, and so I envisaged my sons scampering through our home, delighted by the sounds of “The Magic School Bus” playing in the living room, all the while my wife donning her Donna Reed apron as she whipped up some delicious baked goods for me to throw down my gullet after I came home from work. The fantasy, of course, became a dream deferred, turning into the sour nightmare of some post-apocalyptic hellscape rife with burning oil fields in the background and Elizabeth Banks screaming, “May the odds be ever in your favor”
The first call from my wife came at 9:06AM. Getting a call from her that early in the day is a horrible sign. I knew it before I even answered.
“Hello?” I said.
“Oh my dear God,” I thought to myself. “What. Has. Happened?”
“What’s the matter?”
Her reply, “Four (his birth order, not his name) ate a battery.”
Right then and there I should have just said “Nope” and hung up the phone. I think every human being has times like these, times when the smart move is to just cut our losses and move on. As a parent, those moments increase exponentially. I imagine that is the source of the natural instinct of some species to eat their young. I’m not saying I think it’s a good idea, I’m just saying I get it. Since I became a dad, I am far more compassionate towards and much less judgmental of spiders and alligators. Gobble them up. I’ll get you some sriracha if you need it.
I’m also going to take this opportunity to relay to you how unbelievably brave my wife, and by extension, all stay at home moms and dads are. I get to leave that asylum every weekday to go to work and be around adults. As difficult as people are on a regular basis, there is nothing as real as facing your own children. They are emotionally unstable, loud, and for some reason always sticky. They depend on you for virtually everything and they are constantly sticky. Why are they always so damn sticky? I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know if you are a parent. But to stare that in the face on a daily, armed with nothing but a box of wet wipes and your own wits is like some insane mashup of Groundhogs Day and The Hunger Games where you relive the same battle to the death seven days a week. It goes way beyond band of brothers. It’s a “band of mothers”.
The second call came 27 minutes later, at 9:33AM. “I looked on the internet and it said….” she began in a panic. It was my second and most justified chance at yelling, “I’m out!” and hanging up, because when you or your children are sick everything you can find online ends with someone getting cancer. And that’s a best case. I counted my blessings when she told me she thinks I have “Monkey SARS.” I think there’s a shot for that at least.
She eventually got out of the house with Four, jumped on the El, and made her way to urgent care. For some reason, public transportation really delights my kids. Maybe because it’s at least as sticky as our home and I’m confident we can find comparable smells in one of the rooms. At any rate, Four had a really good time getting there and, from what I’m told, he didn’t put any part on the train in his mouth. Success! Aside from the exclamation from the doctor, “Well that’s a good sized battery!” after he scanned the X-ray. We were assured that the battery wasn’t nestled away in some vital organ festering into some unholy mixture of acid and bile. “If it hasn’t passed in four days, come back for more X-rays.” And so began Poo Watch 2015. Wife suggested an elaborate system of dicing up each nugget with a plastic spoon to search for the culprit. Delightful.
I came home from the gym the next morning to find a steaming pile of brown in the toilet, him lying face down on the bathroom floor with his pants down around his ankles yelling, “I’m finished! WIPE ME!” as only four-year-olds can. In my confused state, I cleaned the up the kid and flushed the toilet. I immediately set into a state of panic as I forgot to put into place our post-defecation plan and dice up the pile to see if he popped out the battery. How could I have been so foolish? This could have been it. I may have missed it. My brain rushed to concoct some story to tell my wife as to why I missed this golden opportunity to piece through human waste. Do I even tell her at all? Maybe I should just play it off like it didn’t happen. I mean it’s not like he doesn’t go two or three times a day anyway. I have no idea how he does it but the kid poops like a rabbit. He’s a turd machine. We’ve had conversations about it, her and I. We have no clue where it comes from because we know he doesn’t eat enough food to produce the amount he does. It’s as remarkable as it is improbable.
The next day my wife texted me, “Four just shit out the battery!” The kid’s a champ. He didn’t even notice it. He gets that from my side of the family. It’s easily my proudest moment as a father. It is truly amazing to me that the human race survived the couple hundred thousand years we’ve been on this planet. Every parent of every child ever born since the beginning of humanity has at least a dozen stories like these, even yours. Yet here you are, alive and well, reading this story. Every once in a while there are moments throughout the loud, sticky days when we are able to stop and appreciate them. Whether we scramble to make sure they are healthy and safe after a spill from their bike, the huge hug we give them after they’ve wandered off somewhere and are lost, or we are struck at a glance by how little they aren’t anymore, we are given these small moments among the insanity to be present with them. Something shifts and we are able to really see how incredible these little people are. In these moments we get to see, not how dependant on us they are, but on how much we depend on them. As ulcer inducing as they may be, these emergencies are gifts. All of life’s challenges are, really. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check if Four developed regenerative properties or can shoot electricity out of his bellybutton. I’m hoping this becomes his super-hero origin story.