Today, I am unhappy to say that I know what Katniss feels like when she unleashes that nest of mutant killer wasps.
It all started innocently enough. My three girls had joined forces with two neighboring boys for a game of Cops and Robbers. As our little vigilantes sought justice in the woods behind the house, their mother and I watched from the patio. Alas, the true offenders would not be brought to justice.
The youngest boy suddenly started screaming. At first, I thought a branch had broken on him or he’d gotten caught up in a pricker bush, but the screams got louder even as he exited the woods. Two of my girls started screaming and crying and the older boy started yelling. His mother ran to the youngest to assess the situation and calm him. That’s when we both noticed the several yellow jackets swarming around the top of his back, head, and neck. My girls swatted and pulled at their skin as others attacked them. In a frenzy, we all ran in different directions, swatting, swinging, crying, and pulling. Even almost to the front edge of the house, the yellow jackets followed and continued stinging. We ran to the street to escape. My neighbor and her boys went the opposite direction, around and eventually into their house. My only daughter who had escaped the assault, stood well away, no doubt petrified watching what befell her sisters. We all ran to our house a few doors down, where I stripped clothing as needed, applied witch hazel, baking soda paste, and benzocaine, administered antihistamines – all while trying to ignore the stabbing pain in my own thumb where one had gotten me and not start sobbing and repeatedly tell my daughters to stick out their tongues to see if they were swelling.
After checking in with my neighbor (her sons were okay – thankfully), comparing notes, and sharing some antihistamine, I settled my girls in front of the TV with ice packs to take their minds off the emotional and physical trauma (yes, soma for the masses). By the time my husband arrived home from work, I was a limp dishrag hunched over the laptop researching for the next best bee sting remedy. I recounted how I couldn’t tell if I was shaking as a reaction to the venom coursing through my veins or the surge of adrenaline. In any case, the adrenaline had left its host a quivering mass of nerves and worry.
I don’t know if it was the unexpected nature of the event, the anguish I felt for my children’s pain or my own, the dreaded anticipation of an heretofore unknown allergic reaction – or simply the mama bear effect, but the whole experience sucked. I watched the snot run down their faces and mingle with their tears, heard their wails of distress, even ran to their aid to take those striped demons out, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. The one yellow jacket I saw bent and broken, its bright yellow in contrast against the black of my cell phone on the ground where it got thrown, was only dead because it had already driven its sharp stinger into the precious flesh of my children.
My one daughter who didn’t get stung didn’t want us to open the windows. My neighbor said her sons didn’t want to go outside. I myself had shuttled them up the hill and into the house as quickly as I could, slamming the door behind me. Trying to catch my breath in the aftermath, the only words I could form for the helpless feeling I had watching my children in pain was, ‘parenting is scary.’
It’s a wonder any of us want to leave the house, a host of dangers lying in wait. Unexpected. Uncontrollable. Unwarranted. Oy vey.
I decided to pack a more comprehensive first aid kit to keep in the car or in our backpack on hikes. I’m trying to come up with a plan to keep my children from being afraid to explore outside. I’m trying to take away the positive that when the stinger hits its mark, I can and will step up to the parenting challenge.
May the odds be ever in our favor.