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Once again, my inner pragmatist is at odds with my inner hysteric. They've always been at loggerheads, frankly, but the whole parenting thing has thrown their conflict into sharper contrast. And, now, they are having a skirmish about toddler ears.

Before the Diva, my knowledge of exotic words like "Vantin" and "Omnicef" and "Septra" was nonexistent, like the pre-apple Eden where everyone romped around naked and fed the animals. Then, these combinations of letters sounded more like Roman emperors or strange tropical diseases than like what they are, which is, for those still in their halcyon, prelapsarian days, antibiotics for kids. Now that I have fallen, I can spot each by smell. Omnicef is redolent of ripe strawberries and fresh cream. Vantin is a pina colada with a pharmaceutical note. And Septra is sugar and bitter almonds, kinds of what I'd expect arsenic to taste like, should someone ever decide to slip it into my morning coffee.

She has turned into a drug connoisseur, the wee Diva has. Everything but Omnicef was once a struggle to pour down her gullet. We tried mixing these germ fighters with everything from chocolate pudding to ice cream, without any luck. Eventually, I tapped the hive mind of the AustinMama.com mamas and hit upon a system, suggested by AM's editrix. The Hub and I used to have to sit on the Diva, pinning her limbs to her sides, while we forced open her mouth and administered the offending liquid drop by drop. There were vehement protests. We expected visits from some child abuse watchdog agency, summoned by her wailing and well-intentioned neighbors. Her indignation passed, eventually. Now she'll just drink even the most vile syrups. With the Omnicef, she has been known to ask for more.

Yes, I did find that disturbing. Now, I'm just thankful for the peace.

Our whole adventure into the land of antibiotics has stemmed from a seemingly endless series of ear infections. The Diva's big pumpkin head, much like my big pumpkin head, seems to be designed to not drain fluids with any sort of efficiency. Her doc and I are holding our hope that this will change once she turns two. I'm not holding my breath. My folks wrestled with the same stuff when I was a wee Diva. It's just that whole genetics thing again, coming up to bite us in the bottom. I fear what will happen when she is a teen, given that I know how crappy my mental health became at that time. My inner hysteric is ready to get all worked up about that issue now, well before the Diva is even potty trained. The pragmatic is convinced that the Diva has inherited her father's relative joie de vivre along with his metabolism. You can see why they don't get along.

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I digress. Right now, we're all about the ears. There is talk of tubes. I'm told by parents and doctors alike that they are a blessing, most of the time. I'm still not overly comfortable with the thought of someone cutting into her tiny eardrums, no matter how needed. But we won't have to make this decision until the summer really sets in and so I can continue to live in my land of denial, where this most recent round of antibiotics will do the trick and the decision can be put off. Still, I flop between indifference about the tubes and jaw-clenching fear. My indifference scares the bejesus out of the hysteric, who remains convinced that *real* mothers would wail at the idea. And the hysteric irritates the crap out of the pragmatist who knows that it could all be so much worse.

Here's the thing, the Diva is a *knock wood* healthy kid otherwise, so much so that we never know about the ears until they were socked in with green pus. Given all of the horror stories that I hear about the real and dire maladies faced by other parents -- the cancers and the disabilities and the SIDS -- we are roundly blessed to have such a relatively minor problem. While her ability to hear may be damaged, her condition is far from terminal. For this, I am profoundly thankful.

The problem is mine, mostly, as it so frequently is. So many other mamas get through such things so much easier than I. It's not that I'm up nights gnashing and sobbing, it's just that I feel like I should be doing more, that I should give in to the hysteric and spend more time in a tizzy. One of the Diva's playmate's moms keeps suggesting a panoply of natural remedies, from herbs to ear candling, and seems concerned that I'm not frantically investigating every last option. What stops me, I rationalize, is that her kid seems to get just as many infections as mine. Still, there's the guilt. In my defense, however feeble, the mental image of trying to hold the Diva down while getting fire and wax near her head inspires both terror and amusement. The mess would be awe-inspiring.

But here, where the antibiotic meets the bloodstream, is where my inner pragmatist and inner hysteric part ways again. The pragmatist knows that this is but a minor bump in the parenting road, one that is nothing to sweat about too much. The hysteric keeps screaming about the continual infections being yet another parenting failure, one more black mark that will be etched on some cosmic report card. Again, I've managed to make my kid's health a reflection of my self-esteem, which is, to put it clinically, nuts. While the pragmatist knows that not everything is about me, somehow the hysteric always find a way to make it so. Sometimes, I get so tired of me, yet am addicted to myself, like smack or Planters' honey roasted peanuts.

We soldier on, of course, shelling out more cash to Glaxo-Wellcome, Abbott Labs and Pfizer. The Diva couldn't care less, bless her, while I wonder what I'm going to be like in ten years, in 15, in the face of a larger challenge. My hope is that the pragmatist will hog-tie the hysteric into some small dark mental cranny, where she can holler to her heart's content, or that Jimmy Carter can come in and broker a truce. With him, I'd share my nuts.
About the Author:
Adrienne Martini has been a theatre technician, apprentice massage therapist, bookstore bookkeeper and pizza joint waitress. Eventually, someone started paying her for her words and an editorial mercenary was born. She has written theatre reviews and features for the Austin Chronicle, blurbs about tofurkey and bottled water for Cooking Light and a piece about knitting summer camp for Interweave Knits. She is a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse and recently picked up an AAN award for feature writing. During the day, she fields freelance gigs and crams knowledge into the heads of college students in Upstate New York. At all hours, she is mom to Maddy, and wife to Scott. Email Adrienne at: shaken@austinmama.com


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