My new resolve to give my daughter more autonomy this week ended in a call to poison control. I'm a hoverer. I've come to admit that. Like an alcoholic who must state it before recovery can begin, I admit that I (sometimes, okay maybe most of the time) hover over my children. So I vowed that this year, because they are growing older and should be given more opportunities to be independent, I would stand back more and let them be - without my instructions or corrections or jumping in and taking over. So when one of the the baby picture frames broke, I asked Nicole, who is very into crafts, if she wanted to fix it by gluing it back together. Nicole eagerly agreed and began to set up the pieces and get out the glue. I walked into the front hallway for a minute (maybe even less than that) and I hear Nicole wailing the word "Mommy" as if it were an ambulance siren. I ran into the kitchen and saw her holding her hands in front of her, shaking.
She cried, "The glue is all over me!" But I couldn't see any glue on her hands. So of course, not thinking, the first thing I did was to grab her hands to see what she was talking about. Now the glue was all over me. But it wasn't the white, easy to remove with soap and water Elmer's glue which she has always used. It was Super Glue. The kind that has the commercials where a guy's hardhat is glued to a steel beam suspended off the ground and it holds up his weight. That glue. I was furious (at both her and myself), and slightly hysterical as vague memories of dire warnings about not getting Super Glue on your hands flashed across my memory and I could feel the glue tightening on our skin.
while we were still sticky and not hardened, I gently separated our hands and made sure our fingers weren't stuck together without tearing off any skin. I tried to calm down and make sense of what had happened in the nano second that I was out of the room. Nicole has never in her life used Super Glue. At first, I wasn't even sure where she found it. She said that when she didn't see the white glue in our kiddy art drawer, she looked in the junk drawer which doubles as a place for all our hardware - hammers, nails, assorted screws, and apparently, a new, unopened tube of Super Glue - all of which accidentally came spraying out when she used scissors to cut open the tube when she coudln't get it to come out of the nozzle. See how much you can miss in a nano second?
I called Natalie, who was in the other room playing a computer game and completely ignoring the screams from the kitchen (I imagine maybe the sight of blood might have coaxed her from her game, but I'm not even sure about that),and asked her to get my cell phone so I could call someone to figure out what to do. My hands were covered in glue, so I didn't want to touch the phone and end up with it as another appendage. I was able to reach David, but he was in a meeting and could only utter the words, "nail polish remover," before hastily jumping off. I sent Natalie, who at this point was anxious to get back to her computer game, into the bathroom to retrieve the nail polish remover. I poured it into a dish and Nicole and I began soaking our hands in it. At this point, Nicole was crying, complaining that her hands were going numb and asking if the doctors were going to have to cut off her fingers. I pushed the fear down long enough to lie to her and say, no, it wasn't all that bad. But my fingers were starting to go numb as well.
I interrupted Natalie's game again and had her call the emergency advice nurse at Kaiser to see what they could reccommend. The nail polish wasn't working and our fingers were starting to look red and whatever is in nail polish remover that strips the polish, was doing the same with our skin, not the glue. The nurse took down my information, details on the incident and then said without any emotion whatsoever - which is always what people do when trying to keep you from panicking, "I think I should connect you to poison control." That made me panic. Maybe Nicole was right and we were about to lose some digits.
Within a minute, she'd connected us with the state's poison control center and I was talking to an exceedingly calm young man who quickly assured me, "Super Glue incidents happen all the time." Breathing a very deep sigh of relief, I could listen as he told me the very simple and surprisingly easy way to get the glue off. He cautioned not to use nail polish remover - way too harsh - but instead to bathe our hands in Vaseline and then wrap them in plastic for 30 minutes. After that, it would peel off - and it did.
I was angry at Nicole and at myself. I assumed that on her own, she would know that if she couldn't find the white glue she was used to using, she would ask me to help her find it, not investigate and try to use toxic, dangerous bonding agents. She is smart, knows better and should have used her common sense. But the same could have been said about me. I should have stood there and watched her line up all the items for her project, giving her more detailed instruction - like use the white glue - instead of assuming that she would make those choices- and then left her alone to repair the frame. But now we both know.
I started to shake a little when I thought about what could have happened -Super Glued eyes or other vital parts - and I let her know what the consequences could have been, reminding her that we were lucky. I wanted to scare her a little so that next time she would ask before opening something she'd never used before and was unfamiliar with without asking at least if it was something that could kill her. And I wanted to scare myself a little to remind myself that allowing freedoms doesn't mean freedom without guidance. But in the end, the resolution to our sticky situation was in a little bottle of Vaseline. If all of life's problems could be solved so easily.