This weekend I was reminded of the immutable truth of parenting that it is impossible to call Poison Control and still feel like a good mother by the time you get off the phone. 

Hubs and I were moving some furniture upstairs while two-year-old Corrie watched The Little Mermaid with Joseph.  Clearly, the melodic siren song of Ariel wasn’t enough to keep our daughter entranced.  We came downstairs to find her sitting in front of the TV with an open bottle of Tums, both fists and both cheeks FULL of the chalky tablets.

While Hubs fished the stuff out of her mouth, I ran to the phone to call Poison Control, all while trying frantically to remember who could have possibly left a full bottle of Tums within the reach of a toddler (the answer?  Me.)

Poison Control:  This is Poison Control, may I help you?

Me: [My voice shaking.] My two-year-old daughter just ate a lot of Tums. [In the background, Hubs is barking at the kids to turn off the TV, while loudly trying to round up Joseph, who had witnessed the event in question.  Truly, we were the picture of parental control.]

Poison Control:  How many is "a lot"?

Me:  Um…I’m not sure.  A LOT-lot.  [I’m so eloquent in an emergency].  Maybe a couple of handfuls.  Ten, maybe?  Even more?  Hang on[to Joseph now] Sweetie, how many Tums did your sister eat?

Joseph:  I think it was 16.

Me:  16?  If you were able to count that accurately, why didn’t you STOP HER?

Joseph:  [Blank five-year-old stare].

Me:  [To Poison Control]  My son said she ate 16, but he’s only five and not very strong in counting yet…

Poison Control:  How long did the two year old have access to the medicine?

[Insert sound of screeching record here.  Ah yes, the million-dollar question, which might as well have been, "How long were you ignoring your child?"]

Me:  Um, five minutes, maybe?  I don’t know how she got the medicine, really….

There were a few more questions about Corrie’s weight, and the very kind Poison Control man assured me that, in fact, as a one-time occurrence, an overdose of Tums is not harmful.  Not to Corrie, anyway–but my confidence and peace of mind took a sound beating.

I laughed nervously at our sloppy drama and, in the dark part of my mind, tiptoed around that frightening, never-too-distant truth of motherhood that life is more fragile than I give it credit for.  And I hugged my girl, because really, what else was there to do (besides put away the Tums)?  It was just another reminder to me of how carefully God holds my children’s future, even when I’m not looking. 

69 thoughts on “1-800-BAD-PARENT

  1. Trixie says:

    I’m glad she is ok! And I’m sure you felt like a bad parent and wanted to crawl under a rock. Remember what you would’ve thought in the days “BC” before children? It is just amazing the crazy stuff little kids do!

  2. Valerie says:

    It is in my moments of utter shame for being a bad mommy that I grow the most as a mommy, I think. What a gift of grace for me that my children survive my foibles and I have the next day to try to do it better.

  3. tas says:

    I’ve had to call poison control 3 times for my (now) 12 year old.
    1- my hubby gave him a little too much cough syrup–Poison Control said that Jr would have a really good sleep, not to worry
    2-Mr clean bathroon cleaner–PC said that if you have to drink a cleaner, MR Clean is the one to drink—that’s all I have bought since 1996
    3-Aqua clean (from avon) PC misunderstood me and said to run all the stop signs between my home and the hospital, which I did. Alas it was a misunderstanding in the name–Aqua VELA is 99% alcohol. We left the hospital with warnings of not giving Jr any water or he would start foaming at the mouth. He had drunk shower gel.
    All this lead to some good one lines at the expense of JR and a really good sleep for one night.
    But it’s scary when kids do this stuff, glad to hear that she’s alright, at least she won’t have indigestion!!

  4. Antique Mommy says:

    Sean opened a child-proof prescription bottle when he was two and helped himself and I had to call poison control. It’s moments like that when you wonder if anyone from high school will recognize you on the nightly news.

  5. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings says:

    I’ve had some of these moments as well – and my oldest will only be 3 next week! LOL It’s scary and an eye opener but we all seem to have “survived” our childhood and so will they! *wink*

  6. Melessa says:

    I have had to call poison control three times-once for each of my older children. So far, my 2 y.o. hasn’t had her own call yet, but I’m not dumb enough to start patting myself on the back just yet. I’ve always appreciated their calm “talk you down off the ledge” voices even though I know they are specifically trained to talk like that. I wonder if we talked to the same center as we are both Okie bloggers? (2 out of 3 calls were answered by a man named “Windy,” you just don’t forget that.)

  7. Jamie says:

    The first time I called was when my 2 1/2 yo son poured antibacterial dish soap all over his 1 yo sister’s head and some of it got in her mouth. The second time I called, it was when the same son (now 8) injected his epipen in his hand to see how it worked (*&@! engineering mind) and the nurse hot line was useless and suggested PC. They were awesome. You do feel like the worst parent in the world, though, even though it’s you projecting that, not them.

  8. Overwhelmed! says:

    Oh, Shannon, how very scary. I would’ve been trembling as I dialed PC.
    Try not to beat yourself up too badly. We, as parents, all have moments such as these.
    Just be thankful that all is well and give your little Corrie a hug for me!

  9. Michelle-This One's for the Girls says:

    When Tru was 2, he ingested (not sure how much???) red oil based paint which his mother had left out with a craft project from the night before.
    I got a TONGUE LASHING from the ER doctor and felt like the Bad Mother of the Year.
    Baby ingested several Tums sometime during the past year. But I knew enough about Tums to know that it wasn’t cause for panic.
    I have a few more stories– but I’ll not hi-jack your blog with them. Just rest easy in knowing that no harm was done and YOU’RE NOT THE FIRST ONE THIS HAS HAPPENED TO!!!

  10. Jeana says:

    Oh man, they treat everyone like their kids are one step away from foster care.
    But this is one situation where I would have known what to do: Let her drink a Coke.
    Didn’t you see Doc Hollywood?

  11. Kelly says:

    I wonder how many calls Poison Control has gotten over the consumption of tums. I only ask because I made that phone call when my youngest was two as well. I would like to say that she only did it once. But she did it a second time at Grandma’s house. I guess those things are like candy to a two-year-old!

  12. Mama Duck says:

    Oh, how scary!! I was laughing about the counting though…. I imagine you’ll laugh about it eventually. Thankfully, I have no idea how, must be God, that I haven’t had to call for my little guy yet.

  13. Kerri says:

    I’m glad it was harmless and you can laugh about it now. My daughter ate poison berries when she was about three, and I had to call poison control. This was another case of no harm done, so now it’s a fun story to tell also.
    I have a five-year-old too. That cracked me up about him saying “Sixteen” like he really knew. My son would do that.

  14. MommaBlogger says:

    Hmm… lets see. Somehow one of my kids thought the empty Pine-Sol bottle made a good drinking vessel. Thankfully he ended up being okay (with some really clean smelling diapers for a day or two!)
    The recent one was my 2 yo, who got hold of his post-surgery liquid roxicet. I wasn’t home, so I’m not sure how he got hold of it, but mil couldn’t tell me how much he drank. Thankfully PC was great. They figured out how much I’d started with, how many doses he’d had, and how much was left. He barely licked the lip of the bottle, so he was good.
    It’s so scary when they get hold of something they shouldn’t though. And just when you think everything is childproofed, they figure out how to get around you.
    The best thing I’ve noticed, is that when it’s quiet, either they’re sleeping, or something’s wrong and needs investigation. Quiet in our house usually means trouble!

  15. Lily says:

    Ahhh, the friendly PC people. I’ve talked to them twice. Once for way eating too many vitamins with IRON (2 yr old daughter) and once for eating Vicks Vaporub (almost 2 yr old son). Both dangerous, but not in the amount my kids had. Whew.
    I’m so thankful they know we don’t do these things on purpose!! I’m still scratching my head on how my kids did that!

  16. Jill @ Who Could Ask for Anything More says:

    How scary – and glad Corrie is OK. Thanks for sharing one of those *taboo* Mommy experiences that you really don’t want to admit but, once you do, you find that so many have been through the same thing:
    kids falling down the stairs, off the changing table, out of the crib, eating bugs, etc., etc. Not that my child has done any of that!
    Love your blog.

  17. Nicki says:

    Oh, nothing gets the adrenaline going like a call to PC! I’m glad that little Corrie is doing alright. We’ve made the Tums call before too.
    I’ve also had to call about the ingestion of quite a few Children’s Pepto Bismol tablets. After all was said and done, the poison control lady asked me to give her my address so that she could send me some poison awareness papers. But, my paranoid self was convinced that she was asking for it so she could send Child Services to take my kids away.
    This parenting thing is not for the weak hearted, is it?

  18. Heather O. says:

    My niece ate half a bottle of Tumes when she was 2. Poison Control said she would be constipated for a while, and have strong bones.
    My son had a vicious night of vomiting when he was 2, and it was all pink and red. Weird. He also had massive diarrhea, which I figured was a part of the “bug” he had picked up. The next day, when I found little half eaten red STOOL SOFTENER capsules under the sink in the bathroom with a half empty bottle behind the toilet, I panicked and called Poison Control. Yeah, I couldn’t even answer how long he had access to the medicene, because I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HE’D TAKEN IT! The nice lady assured me he would be fine, as stool softeners have very low levels of toxicity. She assured us, however, that we had about a week of diarrhea ahead of us. Ah well. I tell myself that surely, they’ve heard worse.

  19. Kim Priestap says:

    I have to say, your description of the event had me laughing out loud, not because it was frivolous or unimportant but because I could so see myself and my household being just as you described, like the Keystone Cops. My son is now 4 and very cautious and compliant, thank goodness. And I have to say, one thing about having an almost 21 month old daughter with severe hypotonia is that when I sit her down in the living room, I can leave for several minutes, confident that she isn’t going anywhere.

  20. Paula says:

    I agree. It is very sobering to see God protecting our children. He’s ALWAYS looking, even when Momma can’t. 🙂 God has protected my children MORE times than I can count, but maybe I will and post it on my blog. It is a good reminder.

  21. Stacey says:

    Wow, that is not good! I know how scary it can be because just two weeks ago my little guy got my tums somehow and took several of them! Glad to hear she’s doing fine though!!

  22. Alice says:

    I’m a pediatrician and during my training the ER physician I worked with who was also a toxicologist loved to tell the story about his own daughter coming down the stairs holding an empty bottle of presciption medication saying “Daddy, these are yummy”. It happens to everybody! Every day I am reminded that it is only by the grace of God that more accidents don’t happen.
    And trust me…everybody at Poison Control has seen/heard much worse. There is a script they have to follow to get information quickly because there are some meds that do fall in the deadly quickly category. But they aren’t judging you as a mother. Although when I did a rotation there we did laugh at the woman who called in in hysterics because her her dog ate a tiny Creme de Menthe bar!

  23. Kara says:

    So true! I’ve called poinon control twice, one when my then 1-yr old drank some Wite-out, and I can’t remember the other that he ate, but even though he was fine, it still made me feel like a bad mommy for allowing that to happen. I am truly grateful that God is watching out for our kids even when we aren’t.

  24. Mommy, the Human Napkin says:

    Well, the one time I had to call poison control, the lady laughed at me. My oldest, when he was about nine months old, managed (while he was in his playpen!!) to find a yellow paintball on the bookshelf. No one knows how it got there, but he thought it was food and the next thing we knew, he was gagging and spitting out yellow drool. FYI: paintballs made of mineral oil are okay, as long as they don’t get swallowed. The laughing PC lady said he would have been in more danger of choking if he hadn’t bitten the ball in half and spit it all back out. His next poop was yellow, though.

  25. Krissy says:

    I’m so glad your little one is OK. There was one time when we called Poison Control because my then-2yr old ate WOOD CHIPS THAT WERE SOAKING UP OIL! Of all things. The pleasant man chuckled at us and said that the only side effect she’d have is that “things would move through her system a little faster”. :o)

  26. Erica says:

    I just came across your blog from another’s and I’ve done the exact same thing. I think my son was 3 and I had no idea how many he had eaten. We were not sure how full the bottle had been. I felt so bad… But alas they said not to worry but continual over eating of tums is bad =)
    We’ve called for a few other eating things incidences!

  27. LeeAnn says:

    Not to laugh at your not-so-pc call to the PC Center…but I can’t stop laughing. I’ve had to call them a few time myself, you are not alone.

  28. Stephanie says:

    My 2 yo dd drank hair spray and also spilled it into her eyes. I came upstairs to find her screaming and reeking of the stuff. I had to call PC and they said she might be a little tipsy and to just watch her. This was in her “Let’s Send SAHM Back into the Work Force” stage. You will laugh one day =)

  29. Karen says:

    I don’t remember if we had poison control when I was a toddler, but I’m thinking I wish we would have. Remember the little Ex-lax chocolate bars? Hey…to a three year old? They look as good as a Hershey’s (ate it all, yessiree I did). I lived…thankfully, your daughter is okay – we’ve all been there.

  30. KimC says:

    My little sister once got hold of a bottle of whiskey and decided to play cowboy. Apparently, cowboys get drunk for fun.
    Poison control’s first question was, “Why was the bottle left where a 6yo had access to it?”

  31. Tara says:

    I’ve learned from PC that peroxide will not hurt the kid, just make them vomit. (Which I’ve experienced with BOTH my older boys at DIFFERENT times.) Crayola crayons are non toxic and the blue toilet bowl cleaner tabs that you put in the tank aren’t going to hurt them. Glad to have that poison control number handy! They’ve always made me feel good, never scolding me for the stupid things I do with my kids!

  32. Shalee says:

    Gah! You WOULD post this one on a day that I posted about one of my worst parenting moments evah!
    And for the record, we found out that a child can consume a whole bottle of Tums and it won’t do them harm. Yeah, I’m not telling how I found that out too.

  33. GiBee says:

    Oh, Shannon … thank heavens God was holding her hand! You’re NOT a bad parent, either … so stop saying that!
    And thank you for the quiet reminder to post the poison control number on my refrigerator and place those stickers on every phone!
    And, on a lighter note … I CAN FINALLY POST COMMENTS on typepad blogs! Yay!!!

  34. Michelle says:

    After Lillian has successively eaten bubble bath, Desitin and deoderant I was on a first-name basis with Poison Control. All are relatively non-toxic if anyone cares.

  35. Jaime says:

    i had to call PC when my just-turned-2 YO fed my 5 month old orajel. that one is apparently a little dangerous, but thankfully not that much got into his system.
    my mom had to call on me when i was about 2 and she caught me eating mushrooms by our house.

  36. Karen says:

    I’ve called poison control twice – and I feel bad because I’m the only mum in our (large) playgroup to have needed to! Gee, I feel great…

  37. Brandy says:

    Two items you really want to watch out for that most of us don’t think about:
    1. Oil lamp fluid: Son#3 drank the clear fluid from the bottle thinking it was water. The danger: vapor in the lungs which would have burned the inner tissue. Fortunately, he turned out OK
    2. Toothpaste (REALLY): Son #3 ate flouridated toothpaste and it was a huge concern because flouride is poisonous to ingest. That’s why ACT flouride warns not to ingest it. (So WHY do some communities insist on adding flouride to drinking water!?!) Too much flouride sucks calcium from bones and causes a painful death. Fortunately, our son ate only a little and is still here today. (phew) Needless to say, we now buy Tom’s no-flouride toothpaste.
    Brandy of The Building Brows

  38. Janet Bowser says:

    My son Rick drank pink fabric softener when he was three. I feel your pain. He’s still alive though. I lock up the stuff now. Kids. They are put on this planet to give us grey hair. Mine are doing their job, apparently.

  39. KellyM says:

    One of my girls ate one of those dessicant packets you find in shoeboxes — you know, the ones that say DO NOT EAT with a skull and crossbones on it!! Turns out they’re pretty harmless, it’s silica gel, aka sand.
    Let me tell you though, I was freaking out!

  40. jeanie says:

    I can’t remember which blogger it was, but someone who has a 1-3 year old daughter had a child that would eat nothing BUT tums – and poison control thought that was okay…

  41. Kristin says:

    Thanks for the laugh – I know it’s not funny. But just 2 weeks ago I had to call Poison Control b/c my 2 yr old son ate an ENTIRE bottle of children’s vitamins. Yep. That was a fun phone call. After 4 children you think I’d learned it all, but hope. I learned NOT to EVER buy the vitamins that are supplemented with iron. Thankfully, the ones he ate were not, so he only suffered a stomach ache. Uggh. What a joy parenting is.

  42. Leni says:

    My child did this EXACT thing about 13 years ago! The nice poison control people assured me that she had her fill of calcium for the day! ;o)
    Hey, my niece ate Ben Gay (ick!) and a friend’s brother drank nail polish remover…a whole bottle! Why, is beyond me. Tums I get, they taste like candy.

  43. Robyn says:

    Oh I’ve done that…actually I had to ring them twice in three days when Emily’s determination to reach the medication box meant that she developed climbing skills I didn’t know she had (the first time was acidophilus tablets in the fridge, the second was a birth control pill – she was fine both times, thank the Lord) and I did feel like the worst parent in the world. So scary too.

  44. Farm Wife says:

    B.B. fixed himself a cup of Children’s Motrin one day. That was scary, but fortunately the nice man at Poison Control did not make me feel like a failure as a human being…God Bless him for that! Turns out he was a good 4 tablespoons away from an overdose. (Not that that was reassuring at all)

  45. Lynne says:

    You’re not a bad parent. And, obviously, you’re not the first one to have to call Poison Control. Glad she’s OK.

  46. Cousin DV says:

    OK, so I’m sure it wasn’t funny when it happened, but that was a pretty derned funny story right there. I don’t care who ya’ are.

  47. Jenny in Ca says:

    glad it was all o.k.! I’ve called 2 or 3 times myself. They were really nice, even when I called because my 18th month old brushed her teeth with the old toothbrush I keep under the sink to scrub grout. It was full of comet cleaner. I was in tears. I so appreciate how nice they were, moments like that you do feel truly like a bad parent.

  48. Jessica L says:

    My mom called poison control on my numerous times when I was younger. She is a wonderful mother… I was just a curious child 🙂 Don’t worry, you will look back at this and laugh. We definitely do about my “mishaps”.

  49. The Single Mom says:

    My now 8-year-old gave her dad and I a scare when she was near 2. He was in the shower; I was at work. He called me:
    “Kiera at deoderant and shampoo!!!”
    I rushed home from work with PC on my cell phone. I told them she ate some deoderant and apparently washed it down with shampoo. They said she’d be OK because it turned out the majority of the shampoo was on the floor and deoderant only had a few teeth marks in it. Cautious dad admitted he overreacted, but better safe than sorry.

  50. Qtpies5 says:

    Hey, most of us have been there, lol. I’ve had one child drink windex with vinegaurd, which is actually safer to drink than the infants Tylenol he drank, and even the albuterol he drank of his sister’s wasn’t too bad. Super-glueing his eye open wasn’t too fun, though, lol. That was all my first child, I have 6 more, so you know I’ve been there, lol.

  51. Charlene says:

    Wow, that’s too funny! You gotta laugh. This motherhood thing is definitely an adventure. Now I don’t feel bad about my son swigging fingernail polish remover. Prayer works! 🙂

  52. Kim says:

    I know how it feels, I caught my son (24 now) and niece (23) when they were 5 and 6 doing shots of nail polish remover. I absolutely freaked. PC assured me that the non-acetone wasn’t toxic to them. Taught me to watch what I buy. Couple of years ago I had a Miracle Grow watering container explode and get me in the face (tastes nasty!). Of course PC guy assured me I would live and to go make me a drink (I’m sure he meant coke or pepsi)and lie down for awhile. He was more concerned about keeping me calm. I guess he knew my panic attack would do me more harm than a taste of Miracle Grow! LOL!

  53. Nic says:

    From reading all the above comments, I think working at Poison Control must be a rewarding (and interesting!) job.
    Thank goodness Corrie is ok!

  54. momrn2 says:

    YIKES! I’m so sorry this happened! Praising God for His protecting hand over her little body.
    This does NOT make you a bad parent in any sense of the word!!
    And just for the record… you could watch my children any day!!! (as if you’d really want extra’s 🙂 )

  55. Shauna says:

    My baby got into diaper rash cream and although I don’t think she swallowed any, I called PC just in case. I drank paint thinner and had to get my stomach pumped as a toddler.

  56. Tammy says:

    Glad to hear that all is okay with your daughter.My daughter was almost 3 when she ate the rest of her Flinstone Vitamins.She was okay but I was more upse then anyone else.poison Control was good in helping me through the ordeal.She had bright yellow urine and a couple bad diarehea moments but is now almost 16.

  57. robin says:

    This just takes me back to when Reese swallowed an undetermined amount of excedrin. As she was being wheeled into the ER at Children’s Medical in Dallas, the nurse shouted, “I have the 18 month old overdose here!”
    Everyone just stared at me. All I could say was, “It wasn’t heroin or anything, just meds.” I don’t think that made it any better in their eyes. We spent 3 days in the hospital. =)

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