Take my brother Sean's sordid history: He would lie in wait for my mother to use the bathroom, answer the phone or be otherwise distracted. Then he'd lurch for anything he could get his hands on to smear on his tongue or drink, all while emitting nary a sound. "He always used to have no reaction," my mom says. "I thought his taste buds were dead."
A sampling of his toddlerhood buffet:
- Thick globules of acidic Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo
- White, liquid shoe polish rolled onto his tongue
- Ammonia directly from the bottle ("To this day, I can't smell ammonia without having a visceral reaction," Sean reports.)
- Scented Ban roll-on, the only substance that elicited an "ack" from the precocious tot ("My tongue smelled good though," he says.)
It got to the point where my mother's first daily task was making sure the Poison Control phone number was emblazoned on Sean's forehead in thick, black marker. (If you look really closely at his hairline today, you can still vaguely make out the number.)
While I plagued my mother with only one incident of rogue chemical ingestion—I ate nearly a whole bottle of prescription, fluoridated vitamins, necessitating the issuance of ipecac, coupled with orders to keep me up all night—I am now being visited by the ghosts of my family's Poison Control past.
A generation later, I too have entered the Fellowship of the Poison Control. My first foray into this society occurred when my daughter was a toddler and decided to satiate herself with scented baby wipes. Here was a kid who constantly scoffed at perfectly good meals, turned her head away from any form of chicken that didn't resemble a gnarled, sand colored, rock and nearly everything in the vegetable category. And she ate baby wipes. It boggles the mind.
And let me tell you, there's no more stupid feeling than dialing that Poison Control number and uttering the words, "Um, yeah, hi (nervous, inappropriate chuckle). My 18-month-old just ate baby wipes ... No, I don't know how many ... Well, I was, in the bathroom ... peeing. (Did I really just hear laughter in the background?)"
That feeling of stupidity was later trumped when I had to report to my helpline friends that my youngest kid had just fished an orange-scented toilet bowl cleaner contraption—the kind that clips onto the side of the bowl and cleans with every flush—from our toilet and sucked the liquid cleaner out. Nothin' beats finding your one-year-old, an empty toilet bowl cleaner thing laying on the rug next him, and sniffing his mouth to detect a chemical orange scent mixed with a strawberry yogurt smell from lunch.
There have been other instances, alternately horrifying and disgusting, when my offspring have eaten things that would make one's blood curdle and hands reach for the speed dial. The tamest was the consumption of houseplant leaves (I wasn't sure if the plant was poisonous), followed by crunchy Cat Chow for older kitties, various pieces of mystery items from the trash, beach and sand box sand, wood chips, and books (all three literally ate books). The worst: a sibling's poop and crusty cat vomit.
Obviously, we have oral issues here at my house, so please, nice Poison Control people, don't laugh when I call with my next preposterous report that one of my kids has eaten my car keys, a garden slug, or my apricot facial scrub. Come to think of it, maybe I should enter my children as contestants in one of those reality shows. At least there, their vile eating habits would make them look brave and strong, instead of making their mother look stupid.