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Faith in Vermont: First Things...and Wedding Rings

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Posted on September 20, 2016 | Blog Category:
By Faith Gong



My immediate thought, after my three-year-old daughter swallowed my wedding band, was: Well, I guess there really IS a first time for everything!

This past month has been full of firsts for our family, which is typical of early September. There were the first days of the new school year, with one daughter entering a new third grade class, one daughter beginning kindergarten, one daughter starting part-time preschool, and the remaining daughter resuming homeschool. We visited new classrooms for the first time, packed our first lunches, navigated the first day jitters (and completely forgot about the requisite first day photos!)

Three weeks into the school year, and everything still feels new as we struggle to find our footing, figure out who’s going where and when, sign up for extracurricular activities, and help our exhausted daughters transition out of their lax summer sleep schedule.

We are experiencing additional firsts since moving to a new home in early August, figuring out how things work in this house and how our land is best managed.

And, in less happy news, one of our daughters is undergoing treatment for her first bout with Lyme disease.

So many firsts, so much newness! But the wedding band incident trumped it all.

What happened was this: I was sitting at the kitchen counter with two of my daughters, who were eating a snack. My three-year-old, fresh from her first few days of preschool, asked, “Mommy, can I see your plain ring?” (By this, she meant my wedding band, not to be confused with my engagement ring, “the sparkly one.”)

After eight years of parenting, I didn’t consider this to be an unusual request; each of our daughters has, at one time or another, asked to look at one of my rings, to hold it, to try it on their little fingers.

So I handed my ring over to my daughter, who promptly popped it into her mouth.

“Don’t put that in your mouth,” I warned her. “If you swallow it, you’ll be in big trouble – especially with Daddy!”

For some reason, she found this statement incredibly funny. One minute she was giggling, then she was gagging, and then she was holding her throat and looking baffled.

“Where did it go?” she asked.

After eight years of parenting, I’ve learned to remain calm in moments like this. I thought: Well, I guess there really IS a first time for everything! I said: “Uh-uh. No. You did not just swallow my wedding band!”

Her seven-year-old sister was already pounding her on the back, but the ring was long gone.

“Is she gonna die?” asked big sister (with either concern or hope – I couldn’t tell.) The ring gulper burst into tears.

“No, no, no,” I tried to reassure them both. “She’s going to be fine.”

“What’s going to happen to the ring?”

Aha, a teachable moment! “Well,” I asked, “what usually happens to things that you swallow?”

A beat, and then my older daughter’s eyes grew wide with comprehension.

As unconcerned as I was, I deemed it prudent to check in with a professional. So I called my former college roommate.

My college roommate, whom we’ll call Dr. K., is now a pediatrician in Indianapolis. My daughters love her both because she always gives them wonderful books, and because she teases me mercilessly about my squirrel phobia (ergo the pine-scented, underpants-wearing squirrel air freshener currently hanging from our minivan’s rearview mirror.) I try very hard – really I do – not to mix friendship with health care, but Dr. K. has graciously fielded a handful of panicked emergency calls from me.

This was not an emergency, but I called Dr. K. instead of our wonderful local pediatric practice because I remembered her telling me a story about a patient of hers who had swallowed a quarter. When she told me this, I was pregnant with my first child, and was no doubt silently judging the quarter-swallower’s negligent parents. What a difference eight years and four children make!

My older daughter had already grabbed the camera and was aiming it at her younger sister, shouting, “Say ‘Ahhh!’” when I reached Dr. K. at her desk. She reassured me that the wedding band should pass through my daughter within a week. She also said, “With four kids, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner.” She’s a good friend.

As of this writing, we are still waiting for my wedding band to appear. According to Dr. K., if it doesn’t show up after a week, we might need an x-ray. The biggest question, of course, is whether I even want the ring once it makes its way through my child. I still don’t have an answer to that. 

This parenting gig has involved more close contact with bodily fluids than I could have possibly imagined.

It’s also involved guilt. While I wasn’t particularly concerned about my child, boy did I feel guilty. I should’ve stopped her sooner, said something that didn’t make her laugh, never have handed her the ring in the first place!

Guilty thoughts buzz around my head like gnats, and they’re not limited to the ring-swallowing preschooler. I feel guilty about my daughter with Lyme disease, another daughter who’s having a difficult adjustment to school, the blueberry bush transplants that started dropping their leaves mid-summer. Surely I could’ve – I should’ve -- done something to prevent this.

But whether I could’ve or should’ve done anything, the only thing to do now is to wait. So much waiting in life! We wait for the ring to pass, for the antibiotics to work, for the next growing season, for things to get better.

It seems so passive, so wimpy, waiting does. But anybody who’s ever waited can tell you that it requires immense effort. It’s like a duck: calm on the surface, but paddling like hell under the water. Because waiting, done right, runs on hope. And hope is hard work; maybe the hardest work of all.

 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. She lives in Middlebury with her husband, four daughters, and one anxiety-prone labradoodle. In her "free time," she writes for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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