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05/04/2006

The 7.5 percent solution

Drugtube_2 Charlie has always been pretty cooperative about taking his medicine, at least since it stopped being delivered by needle and tube. And he's taken a lot of it: antacids, antibiotics, painkillers, inhalants...

He sits quietly sucking his bottle and breathing from his nebulizer. He opens his mouth obediently for a hit of Motrin. But there's only one drug he's really addicted to. He's started serious teething again, and when he so much as glimpses that little pink-and-purple tube of benzocaine from across the room he lets out a shout and points avidly in its direction. No gentleman junkie here: be quick with his fix or he'll climb you.

All the books will tell you that topical anesthetics aren't that useful, that they wash away in a few minutes and make the rest of your baby's mouth feel funny. Charlie can't read, so Charlie doesn't care. He gives a little coo of deliverance as he opens his mouth for gelid relief. Sometimes he wants both sides, usually just one. As soon as he feels the numbing rush he loses interest in the little tube and goes back to playing or talking or chewing on his spatula.

Every now and then I feel a brief puritanical qualm about dosing Charlie with this stuff on demand, relieving his pain whenever he asks for it instead of teaching him to suck it up and grit his teeth like a man. What if benzocaine turns out to be a gateway drug to the harder stuff, like acetominaphen or ibuprofen? But then I come to my senses. He's already taking the hard stuff. And none of his six and a half teeth even meet. He couldn't grit them even if he wanted to.

There is one place where I intend to keep him from new thrillseeking concoctions, and that's in the kitchen. His newfound love of pesto alla Genovese, for example, I will not abide. He's cutting into my share.

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