My wife is the surgeon in our family.
Last week she removed both a splinter and a tick from my 5-year-old son's body. (She is also expert in pulling teeth, trimming blisters, clipping toenails and treating open wounds.)
I, on the other hand, am the anesthesiologist. By that, I mean I'm in charge of distracting the patient with On Demand TV shows and Popsicles.
In normal families, I imagine flicking away splinters and ticks is considered routine body maintenance. But my kids are so high-strung that removing a splinter the size of a gnat's eyelash is like amputating a toe.
My 5-year-old son was in the back seat of the family car riding home from the swimming pool one day last week when he noticed a microscopic spot on his left index finger.
"Let me see," said his 10-year-old brother, grabbing his wrist. "You've got a splinter, Bubber."
"WHAAAA, I'VE GOT A SPLINTER!" my younger son wailed. As a watchful parent, I couldn't help but notice that he had been feeling no pain until big brother got involved.
Suddenly, this tiny sliver of wood, barely visible to the naked eye, became the source of excruciating pain.
"Buddy, calm down," I said from the driver's seat. "When we get it home, Mommy will get it out."
"NOOOO!" he demanded, twisting and turning in his car seat. "IT WILL HURT! WHAAAA! I'VE GOT A SPLINTER! I'VE GOT A SPLINTER!"
Once at home, I had to talk him off an emotional cliff before he would allow his mother to look at his finger. He sat in my lap with one of my hands covering his eyes while his mother pinched his fingertip and surveyed the splinter under a table lamp.
"I'M SCARED," the boy moaned. "DON'T TOUCH IT. DON'T TOUCH IT. DON'T TOUCH IT."
At that point my wife slipped away to fetch her tools, a pair of tweezers, some nail clippers and a safety pin sterilized with a match.
My son pushed my hand away from his eyes and caught a glimpse of her instruments. He smelled the match, which my wife had lit in the kitchen, and freaked.
"WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO BURN!" he said, as he started bucking up and down in my lap.
"Look," I said, "'Duck Dynasty' is coming on TV. Look. You love 'Duck Dynasty.'" This bought me about 30 seconds, as we watched some Louisiana rednecks eat pinto beans.
In the meantime, the boy had an idea.
"Mommy, do that thing where you say, 'Do you want me to take the splinter out?' And I say, 'No.' And you say, 'Well, too bad, it's already out.'"
"Yeah, Mommy, do that" I seconded.
"OK," she said. "Looking up from her work. It's out."
The boy pulled his hand back, leaped from my lap and began to do the happy dance.
The good vibes lasted for about 48 hours until my wife whispered to me that he had a seen spot in his private area during bath time that she assumed to be a baby tick.
The boy overheard.
"WHAAAA! I'VE GOT A BABY TICK! I'VE GOT A BABY TICK IN MY PRIVATE AREA!" he shrieked.
While I comforted him on the living room couch, my wife called our pediatrician's nurse-on-call and got instructions, which included a cotton swab, a bottle of dish soap and a debit card.
By the time we got the operating area in the master bedroom, my son was a basket case.
"WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?" he bellowed.
"Good question," I said. "Mommy is going to convince the tick to go home."
"What?" he said.
By that point, the surgeon was at work as I shielded the boy's eyes from the action.
Thankfully, it only took a few seconds before Mr. Tick had been removed with a Regions Bank debit card and deposited into a Baggie.
Years from now when the boys are grown and the house is quiet, is it possible we could actually miss these moments of utter chaos?
As incredible as it seems now, I'm guessing the answer is yes.
Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...