Note: This column appears in the 3/31 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/1 issue of the Peoria Times
Things that seem crazy and that I knew nothing about are pretty standard in parenthood.
One of those things: tubes in kids’ ears. Around our daughter’s 17th ear infection, my wife lamented that it may be time to have tubes inserted into her ears. I was like, “Ha, ha … good one. Tubes.” And she was like, “No, seriously.”
She explained to me that tubes are frequently inserted into some children's ears as a means of preventing the frequency of ear infections. I immediately pictured our daughter walking around the house with straw-like tubes projecting out of the side of her head—sort of like the knobs in Frankenstein’s ears—which would leak ear fluid all over the carpet. This did not seem normal to me.
I later came to learn that the tubes border on microscopic, and that their insertion requires a very minor surgery. I began to ask other parents if they had ever heard of such a thing, and the common response was something along the lines of, “Tubes? Pfftt. All five of our kids had tubes. Billy over there had three sets of tubes because they kept falling out. He’s the tube champion. Now he plays the tuba. Weird. Anyway, it’s totally no big deal. Who ya’ got, Dr. Johnson? Good dude. Tell him the Murphys said ‘what’s up.’”
That’s the thing about parenthood. I have lived on this earth for over 32 years and had never heard of something that is apparently very common. It makes me feel both dumb and oblivious. Did I have tubes? Do I have tubes? I need to call my mom. I don’t know what to think anymore. It’s like when we first got our dog and the vet said that he’d obviously need to have his “anal glands expressed” every now and then, and I looked at the vet like he had eight heads. I thought I knew enough about kids—whiny, hungry—and dogs—furry, hungry—but I realize every day that I do not.
But I am learning. In fact, the doctor informed me that a common misperception is that the tubes just drain fluid, when in fact they mostly relieve the pressure in the eardrum which in turn lessens the fluid. This information alleviated my earlier fears about ear fluid carpet stains. So I said, “I’m sold—pop ‘em in there, doc.” My wife interjected to say we would talk it over.
Before we could begin talking it over, our daughter got another ear infection, and our decision was made for us. She had the tubes inserted during a minor procedure last week, which lasted, literally, about 10 minutes. Afterwards the doctor came out to say she did great, and that there was “extreme puss” in both ears. Apparently, we made the right decision. Also, there would be “considerable leakage” for the next 24 hours, so … yeah.
She was zonked and zombie-like from the anesthesia immediately afterwards. This morphed into a brief bout of confused anger, and she destroyed everything in her path. Our little Frankenstein.
Now she’s just another kid with ear tubes, and I’m a wiser dad, and our dog just scooted on the carpet, and I know what needs to be done.
Eventually, we will need a new carpet.
*may not be true