Because Leta will not drink milk of any kind — not regular milk, not soy milk, not even the chocolate varieties of either — we give her two Tums each morning as a calcium supplement. When her pediatrician suggested this both Jon and I doubted it would ever work. Have you ever popped a Tums? Tastes like pool cue chalk, doesn’t it? Or is that too kind? I’m feeling generous today.
I remember the first time she ever ate one. We had considered telling her that it was candy, but you have to be careful with that sort of approach because the taste could turn her off candy for the rest of her life, and then Halloween would be a total bummer. Halloween is one of the many privileges of parenthood, very much something to look forward to as there is never another time of year when you have as much leverage, except maybe Christmas. You just don’t go around threatening the bargaining power of candy all willy-nilly.
So I told her it was a Tums because I wasn’t thinking with the creative half of my brain, and I regret that lapse because what better moment to slip the word doobie into her vocabulary? She stuck it immediately into her mouth, and instead of gagging like she usually does when confronted with something edible she squealed with delight. Yummy yummy chalk substance that sticks to the roof of the mouth! Oh that all foods were made of such a revolting texture! Since that first encounter she asks for Tums every morning, and will carry them around for about a half hour in her hand just to stretch out the joy as long as possible. I now declare SURRENDER to this licorice-eating, tums-popping child of her father. I GIVE UP. I CANNOT FIGURE YOU OUT.
Fast forward to today when Jon handed her the ziploc bag we’d packed with a whole bunch of Tums for the trip. I thought it was a bag full of gummy bears, so when she started stuffing them into her mouth I didn’t even flinch, at least not until I looked down and saw the chalk dust dripping from her chin.
“Jon!” I said a little too urgently. “How many Tums were in this bag?”
Jon looked up from his laptop, The Place Where His Eyes Are Permanently Affixed, and answered, “A lot.”
Maggie instantly did a Google search on CALCIUM OVERDOSE, and within a couple minutes Jon was on the phone with a poison control hotline: “Our two-year-old just ate 12 Tums. When can we expect her to die?”
The operator was more than a little helpful, said that she could probably eat 20 Tums in one sitting and be perfectly okay. That is exactly when Leta let out a very succinct burp of satisfaction. The operator then asked for Jon’s name, our location, and the endangered child’s name to put on file in case we called back with subsequent problems.
Bryan, Maggie’s husband, waited for Jon to hang up before he said, “In case you call back, or because you’re being put on a mailing list of Parents Who Are Poisoning Their Children.”