It’s 8 p.m. Dinner has long been finished, milk has been drunk, play outfits have been replaced by pajamas. My son is lying on the floor, trying his hardest to watch the Backyardigans while my husband lies across his legs to keep them from moving.
One hand is on my son’s forehead, the other holding his chin. All the while, I hover above them both, waiting for the perfect moment; the moment our son tries to catch a glimpse of the cartoon; the moment in which I can squirt a thin strip of eye ointment into his infected eyes.
If it seems like torture, that’s exactly what it sounds like at our house four times a day for five days. Parents call it pink eye. Doctors call it conjunctivitis. I call it “the infection with the absolute worst treatment ever.”
I should have known the ointment would be a problem when both the physician’s assistant and the nurse cautioned me when they explained the prescription they were giving me.
“You will probably need someone to help you,” each of them had said, eyeing me with what I now know must have been pity.
The first time wasn’t so bad. But that’s because he didn’t understand what we were doing. The next time, he was ready; arms flailing, head turning, and all the while, his eyes were snapped shut.
Seven treatments into it and it seemed using the ridiculous eye ointment was getting more difficult, instead of easier.
This is what I found:
1. Place the fingers of your non-dominant hand along your child’s forehead.
2. Place the thumb of that hand gently on the child’s cheek just below the lower eyelid.
3. Gently pull down on the cheek skin with your thumb.
4. This will cause the lower lid to curl outward — you should see the thin pink “shelf” of the lining of the lower lid.
5. Using your other hand, gently apply the ointment along that thin pink “shelf.” Start at the inner corner of the eye and smoothly move across to the outer corner.
Sounds easy, right? Wrong.
Where in the directions does it address the crying that starts — and continues — as soon as we initiate step 1? What about the wails of torture the child emits as the eye ointment hits the eyelashes time and time again (which means that the medicine has not gotten into the eye, which means you must repeat each step)? And where does it mention that the child will eventually start to wail as soon as he or she sees the ointment tube?
I even checked my precious book — the one I consult for everything from runny noses to speech progress. Nothing.
We tried it with my husband holding him as I aimed the ointment from above. We tried sitting in the floor, me holding him and my husband wielding the tube. We tried it with him in a chair, we tried it with him lying there. It became as repetitive as a Dr. Seuss book. As I smeared the cream on his bottom eyelid with a Q-tip (“This totally counts,” I asserted to my husband) all I could do was laugh. Who, pray tell, came up with the idea of squirting a strip of ointment into the inner eyelid of a wriggly infant? Probably the same person who decided that giving a dog nightly mouth rinses was an “easy” way to keep his teeth clean. It’s as though someone was sitting in a room thinking, “Hmmm, what’s the most physically and mentally trying task that we can give a parent just getting used to parenthood? I know! Eye ointment.”
With the eye ointment glistening on his bottom lid, our now-exhausted son fell asleep in my husband’s arms. The day’s treatments were finished.
Only 12 more to go.