Wednesday was normal. It was regular. I did what I do on a lot of normal, regular days during the witching hours of 3pm-6pm when I am about to my max out with mothering and just need a minute of quiet and no complaining or arguing before dinner and dad’s arrival home. I turned on a movie, popped some popcorn and handed three kids a bowl of normal, regular, Wednesday witching hour snack.
While munching on that normal, regular Wednesday snack, my middle child, a beautiful blond hair blue eyed self-professed mama’s boy did something out of our normal, regular Wednesday witching hour routine. As he mindlessly munched, he got to the bottom of his favorite snack only to find unpopped kernels of snack time deliciousness, the bottom of the bowl, all that was left. One kernel in particular caught this engineer minded little boy’s attention. A kernel that was perfect in its size and shape. One that would fit somewhere easy and familiar. His ear canal. And so this blue eye, blond haired middle child stuck that perfectly normal, Wednesday bottom of the bowl snack time remnant in his ear without prompting or informing those around him. And there it sat. It was the first in what I’m sure will be a string of poor life choices.
At about 8pm, he alerted me to the fact that there was something in his ear. The consummate picker, I assumed it was a good chunk of earwax (TMI I know…) that required my expert skills with a cotton swab so I got my tool ready for use. Only to find it wasn’t what I was thinking, but rather one lone kernel of unpopped popcorn. Dad had just walked in the door so we began to do what one does in this scenario. We began to weigh whether or not this constitutes an emergency situation and proceeded to contact every medical professional we knew that would take a call at 8pm without offense. And thus began what I will affectionately always refer to as Kernelgate 2016.
45. That’s how many hours Kernelgate took to resolve. 8. That is the number of medical professionals it took to finally remove the kernel.
Medical professionals #1-3 suggested trying to float it out with water and so we submerged a boy in water to no avail.
Medical professional #4 began with an uncontrolled fit of laughter in a small, ugly pink pediatrician’s office. She would return with medical professional #5 who would try to unearth the kernel with a small, scoop like instrument. With no luck. #4 would then return a second time with #6, all the while still giggling and trying yet another fruitless attempt with a syringe of water and a bowl designed to catch things coming out of ones ear. #4 would strike some fear with mentions of sedation and ear vacuums.
Medical professional #7, a salty ENT nurse, would throw some shade in my direction as she gathered information as to what had been tried. Water! That can make it swell. Well lady, it’s what medical professionals #1-7 suggested and #4-6 tried. She would give me the rundown of my role, sit in the chair and wrap his legs under yours while holding his hands across his body, and give me the worst case scenario, if this doesn’t work, you’ll be in the OR tonight.
Enter Medical professional #8, an ENT doctor, an expert in the exact crevice my boy inserted a popcorn kernel in. Not a man of many words, just a quick how did this happen? (Side note: seriously…do we even need this question? He is three. He has an ear hole the size of a popcorn kernel. You have an advanced medical degree. Take a wild guess.) And an explanation of what we were going to do. A thin metal pick like tool was going to be strategically placed in the ear behind the kernel. It’s not going to hurt if you don’t move and let me work. If you do move, we are going to have to go on to something harder.
Eight medical professionals later, the popcorn kernel was skillfully excavated without an OR visit. 45 hours after one bad decision led to a slew of phone calls and doctor visits. For a popcorn kernel. For. A. Pop. Corn. Kernel.
[The chair of redemption]
It got me thinking though as I schlepped my boy from doctor to doctor over the course of three days: Aren’t we are all just shoving popcorn kernels in our ears? Those little, seemingly innocuous nuggets that just seem to fit perfectly: that thing in the schedule, that relationship, that additional role or responsibility, that one decision that seems so small. Things that on their own have no inherent harm and we ultimately shove them in because they fit. Only we discover, if we leave them there, there is a chance for some serious damage to take place. Destruction to that which is most precious: our ability to hear. But, inside each of us is a three year old boy, who isn’t really thinking through the ramifications of putting that kernel in our canal, but who is only thinking but. It. fits.
Here is what I gleaned from Kernelgate 2016, priceless little kernels of truth for us crammers of things that seem to fit just right:
1.) One small bad decision can lead to a pretty intricate redemption plan: If faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain, then poor decisions the size of a popcorn kernel can interrupt and rearrange life like a tidal wave. Hours at the doctor’s office, calls to multiple friends and babysitters to work out a logistical plan for other children, disturbances in the only two calendar days in months that literally had nothing on them. All because of a popcorn kernel. Something so small causing such a great amount of work and grief and requiring the most skilled of professionals to keep it from leading to permanent, irreversible damage.
2.) Even though it fits easily, it doesn’t mean it’s meant to be there: Just because I can take on one more task or just because a relationship is available, doesn’t mean I’m supposed to fill a space. That small little kernel has the potential to swell, given the right set of circumstances, or to get lodged further down, in the depths where our precious ability to hear what we are supposed to can get threatened. A schedule crammed to the max, a relationship that constantly brings us to the brink, another responsibility that just wasn’t meant to be there will clog us up and block our capacity to really hear. And it all starts because we say to ourselves, but it fits.
3.) In the midst of a bad decision, the remedy requires being held tight and following the instructions of the ultimate professional to a T: There is only one way out of this mess of stuffing our earholes with popcorn seeds. Sit still. Very, very still. Even though it goes against your squirmy, wormy nature little one. And let the one who knows exactly how to take out the thing you’ve perfectly lodged in your space do what only He can do. If you listen, really, really listen and do the things He tells you to do, allowing yourself to be held tightly in the process, He will take it out. If you don’t, this saga will continue and that skilled master will have to strap you down and start operating. Don’t let that kernel lead to an avalanche of unnecessary pain.
I’m guessing this was a beginning of sorts. Helping my little guy maneuver his poor decisions as he grows into a man. This one was fodder for funny Facebook and Instagram posts and illustrations for blogs, but the next ones might not be. The next proverbial kernel shoved in his ear, or mine for that matter, might cause a lot more damage. May we all learn just because it fits, doesn’t mean it’s meant to be there and that when we do face the consequences of what started out as something so small and meaningless that there is one professional, ready to help us fish out those things we’ve shoved deep in crevices on a perfectly normal, Wednesday afternoon. Sit still. Listen carefully. Let Him do what only He can do. And this whole crazy, whirlwind of a story will come to an anti-climatical ending.
Here’s to all the kernel stuffers and poor life choices that teach us a little something in the process…
Until next time,