My toddler son sniffled and wrestled off the padded table. He was relieved to be done with the test and we were relieved to get the results. After looking at the grid marked on his back, the nurse informed us egg was the offender causing his skin to rise into red hives.
“He will need an Epipen,” she said.
Say what? I turned and looked at my wife with furrowed brows.
“An EpiPen is warranted?” I asked.
“Yes, it is.” she politely nodded.
It didn’t seem right. Overkill. Not necessary for MY child. He just threw up some eggs. Can’t we just avoid them and take allergy meds and call it even. No need for an EpiPen. I can barely brush his teeth, much less stick a needle in his thigh.
The doctor entered the room in her white coat. She explained that two of my son’s systems reacted, skin and digestive, so protocol called for an EpiPen. My wife agreed. I chilled out. But it still seemed a bit much. An EpiPen? The needle you use when someone can’t breathe or is in shock. My son doesn’t need an EpiPen. He’s fine.
I’m the guy that made fun of my sister for having a peanut allergy in the 90’s. You know. Before they got all serious about peanut allergies and confirmed that it was a real thing. I thought she was faking it. Trying to get attention. Yeah, I know, that was a jerk move.
After we got home, my wife called in the prescription. I researched children’s allergies on-line thinking I would prove the doctor was overreacting. Translation: I am really stubborn. Turns out, anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) is no joke even at a low-level like vomiting and hives. It can move rapidly and holds the potential to lower blood pressure and restrict breathing. Something as simple as a bee sting or egg or latex glove can trigger it.
Discovering your child needs an EpiPen is scary. But here is the kicker: the cost is scarier. The doctor warned us to brace ourselves and told us parents reported prices as high as $500. What the?!? After a bit of research, I saw, firsthand, the absurd prices. Also, we learned the EpiPen has increased in cost over 400% since 2008. That’s right. 400%.
So, how could an EpiPen, which contains epinephrine, an old drug, cost hundreds of dollars? How could a drug on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicine for children cost an astronomical amount? I don’t have an expert answer. I’m not a doctor, nor am I a pharmacist and I know nothing about pharmaceutical sales. But I do know it makes no sense for this life-saving device to cost this much money. Seriously, it’s a needle attached to a plastic injector that holds a decades-old drug. I hope you are as puzzled as I am because my head is spinning.
It’s hard not to point a finger at the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture the EpiPen. They made the choice to raise the price. And it’s one thing to overcharge a person for a car or computer or a couch but don’t swindle people for life-saving medicine. Don’t create a financial burden that excludes children from the care they need. Come on. You don’t need to take an ethics class to know this is wrong. Really, 400%?
Fortunately, my wife and I have solid heath insurance that minimized our cost. We are lucky. However, I can’t imagine the choice families without insurance face. Now, we are managing the reality of handling an EpiPen. We had the conversation with the daycare. We have one stashed in the diaper bag. We’ve gotten out the tester pen so our son can play with it.
In the near future, we are doing a food test with my son to determine if he can eat cooked egg. Our doctor has urged us to start now and work with the allergy so he will, hopefully, grow out of it. My fingers are crossed. I really don’t want him to miss out on omelets.
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His unrestrained emotion made me uncomfortable. Something inside me needed it to stop. The more he cried the more I wanted the camera to move to another athlete. I needed distance. And then the middle-aged male coach placed his arm around the young gymnast’s shoulders. Too much. It’s one thing to tear-up with red eyes and another to release them uncontrolled. Did they not know they were on worldwide television? Men do not cry like that in public. No. Couldn’t handle it. Needed it to stop.
Last night, my wife and I sat in the loveseat enjoying our nightly viewing of Olympic competition. She turned to me, “I’m loving this guy’s emotion. He’s just letting it flow.” Part of me wanted to dismiss the crying because it was men’s gymnastics. From a macho, American perspective, this was not a “real man’s sport” like football or baseball. I bet the men who tend to compete in gymnastics are overly emotional. I bet the sport draws this type of personality. As I listened to myself, I could not believe my inner dialogue. I was startled by the hyper-masculine judgment that surfaced within me. A critical voice reappearing from a dark corner. I consider myself a sensitive dude, one of the guys in touch with their feelings. A man willing to be honest about what stirs inside. You know, a forward thinking guy. Yet, I could not deal with the crying Brazilian.
The camera switched to other athletes, but it kept coming back to the raw emotion pouring out of the expressive gymnast. Overwhelmed. Scrunched Face. Tears. He had just finished a fantastic floor routine. The commentator noted the tears stemmed from joy because he realized a metal was within reach. It was only a matter of which one. When they announced the final scores the young man, now standing on his feet, released more emotion with open gestures. He won silver. He exploded with excitement.
As the Brazilian’s emotional response increased, I couldn’t ignore my discomfort. It was relentless too. Hounded me. Reminded me that was it not okay to express this level of feelings. It was not acceptable to accept another man’s freely flowing emotions. Not in that setting. Couldn’t handle it. Needed it to stop.
When I woke this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the young gymnast, hands in the air, tears unrestrained. I thought about his gentle coach who wrapped an arm around him, not trying to calm him or stop the tears. He just sat with the young man. Shared the moment. Offered words of what appeared to be celebration and encouragement. He embraced him like a friend. A family member. A human being.
The more I digested the scene, I realized how perfectly natural the gymnast’s expression was in that moment. Completely appropriate for a young man who reached a goal he worked towards for years. I can’t fathom the sacrifices he made and the commitment and discipline necessary to compete at the Olympic level. He had every right go let the joyful tears flow. And it was my problem that I had an issue with it. Not his.
His emotional display terrified me. Translation: I feared how others would perceive me if I released a similar, unrelenting cry. I worried others would see me as weak, soft, and inferior. Deserving rejection.
I can’t help but view my response through the lens of fatherhood. I am raising a boy. A boy moving through the toddler years and displaying wild flashes of emotion, often emotions he does not know how to control. But the day will come when he will learn he has the power to control them and I hope he will find a healthy way to express his feelings. Not the bottled-up, macho version of American masculinity but something along the lines of the cry released by the young, Brazilian athlete. I hope he cries tears of joy and sadness and frustration. A gushing river. Whatever the moment warrants.
And I hope to learn how to do the same.
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I’m not surprised you elected yourself to serve as resident sleep specialist. There seems to be one parent in every bunch. You know what I mean: the one who reads a handful of parenting books and deems themselves an authority. The one who acts as if they hold a Ph.D. in breastfeeding, teething, or discipline. The know-it-all.
I know you are trying to be helpful. You are sharing your wealth of knowledge, but it is weird how passionate you are about my child’s sleep. I visited your fancy website and read your tips, methods, and strategies. And I browsed your e-books, online courses, and coaching. Oh, how could I forget to note you received Dr. Phil’s endorsement. Dang. Your sleep skills are Jedi Knight caliber.
As I watched your Youtube instructional videos, I could not help but notice how relaxed and energized you appear. By the way, nice teeth. However, I’m a bit suspicious. Do you have children? The reason I ask is because I don’t know anyone who cares for small children that looks as good as you. It would be more realistic if you wore a faded college t-shirt with a blueberry yogurt stain. Okay, I’ll take you at your word, but I’m wondering if you have a nanny. I need to see a look of desperation in your eyes. The hollow look that leads parents to lock themselves in the bathroom with a glass of wine.
Alright, I can move past your near perfect appearance, but here’s the thing that annoys me most: you insist on applying your particular childrearing experiences on other children as if they are the same. It makes me want to shoot laser beams out of my eyes. Look, I’m not a hostile person but your supposed enlightenment makes me want to set the playground on fire. After the kids leave, of course.
I noticed you are fond of fielding questions so I have one for you: How do you resist the urge during nap time to throw your child out the window? This question crossed my mind at three o’clock in the morning. I checked your website but noticed you do not have any answers. And you consider yourself a sleep guru. Really?
Perhaps you think I have too much time on my hands if I am writing this letter. I admit sleep deprivation has done strange things to my mind. Last night, I poured breast milk in my coffee. Sleeplessness places me on edge, exhausts my patience, and causes me to rip other people’s heads off, especially those dispensing parenting advice with utmost confidence.
Why does my child not sleep well? I don’t know. We have implemented a routine, darkened the room, and purchased a white noise machine. In a moment of frustration, I considered giving my son a tranquilizer, but my wife vetoed that idea.
What’s that you say? I haven’t tried your special methods. Oh, I’ve considered them. But do you think I have time for a sleep log? I barely have time to feed the dog and pay the electric bill, much less write down my child’s sleep habits. Do you really expect me to place a blue-tooth enabled device under my child’s mattress and sync it with my smartphone to monitor his night terrors? Umm. That ain’t gonna happen. Do you expect me to believe that improving my child’s self-esteem will help him sleep better? Thanks for the laugh.
I want to share with you my sleep solution. It is called deep breathing. When I want to toss my child out the window I take a deeeeep breath. When I reach the breaking point I sit him down (safely in the crib) and walk into another room. I do not return until I have taken multiple deep breaths. I don’t care if the child is crying. I breathe in and breath out. Drink a glass of water. Eat a Hot Pocket. And wait until I can make a rational decision.
If I think there is a chance my child will go back to sleep I keep trying. If not, I move on. The middle of the night is a good time to watch ’90s television. My son and I are currently finishing season two of The X-Files.
So, on behalf of all over-caffeinated parents with dark rings under their eyes, I decline your sleep advice and suggest you simmer down on the playground bench.
A Sleep Deprived Father
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