Tick off

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When the phone rang I was in the middle of giving the “ten-minutes-till-bedtime” warning. But since it was her, I picked up. Because you can tell a real friend hello and goodbye in mere seconds if you need to. Because she doesn’t usually call at almost bedtime. Because I always like to hear what she has to say.

Well, I *usually* like to hear what she has to say. But maybe not when she says, “Hi, um, can you check your texts? I sent you some pictures.” Because, though none of my students appear to believe this, nothing good ever comes from an urgent request to look at pictures on your phone.

Sure enough, I checked my phone and yelped, “That’s a tick! Why are you sending me pictures of ticks?”

As it turns out, the tick had decided to take up residence near her daughter’s armpit.

“Um, that tick is already embedded,” I observed helpfully. Unsurprisingly, they knew that. They had actually called to see if I knew how to get it out. In theory, the answer was yes; in practice the answer was not yet

Since nobody wants to pull a tick out of their child on their own – at least not the first time – and since apparently not yet is better than not ever, they hopped in the car and headed over to my place. Meanwhile, I cleverly googled “how to remove a tick” (pro-tip: pretty much everything except “pull it out with tweezers” is an old wives’ tale) and then called my father.

Now, before you judge me for making an international phone call to a 73-year-old man to talk about a relatively common and seriously tiny creature, I should mention that my dad is an infectious disease doctor. Ok, and I should also mention that I was really just calling for moral support because he and my stepmother basically live in the woods, and I am decidedly a city girl. They have tick experience. Dad told me to pull the tick out with tweezers, but he added some extra things like “watch for fever for the next ten days” to make me feel like the call was worthwhile.

When my friend arrived, we left my boys downstairs, supposedly making their lunches but really listening carefully at the bottom of the stairs to hear if there was any screaming. My friend, her daughter and I headed up to the bathroom with the good lighting to look at the tick.

It was a tick, alright. It  was also very contentedly settled in under the 10-year-old’s arm. With more bravado than bravery, I held the tweezers, her mom held her hand, and I pulled the tick out. That was it.

This result seemed all-too-easy for such a dramatic situation, so we fretted for a while about whether or not we’d gotten the whole tick. Our concerns mostly led us to poke the poor child’s tick bite repeatedly with the (sanitized) tip of a safety pin. She was surprisingly patient with our ministrations, possibly because she was convinced that if we left any of the tick behind undefined but horrible things would happen, possibly because she guessed that her friends were downstairs listening for screams.

Finally, we declared her tick-free, swabbed just about everything we could reach with rubbing alcohol (because that’s what the website said to do), and headed back downstairs. The boys pretended that they had spent the whole time packing their lunches, the girl grabbed the dinner she had brought along (we had rudely interrupted with our concerns about her potentially imminent death-by-tick), and her mom put the bottle with the tiny tick corpse into her pocket – “just in case it has Lyme disease,” she said, though I’m not sure how having the tick body will help. We hugged, they left, and just like that the drama was over.

New definition of friendship: will remove a tick from your child’s body, during dinner and/or at bedtime.

10 thoughts on “Tick off

  1. OM Gosh! I felt the generational parenting divide reading this hyperbolic tick removal event! I recall pulling out my own ticks as a child and going my merry way. I also remember telling my son not to bleed on the carpet after he jammed his head into rebar poking up in our yard. Can you tell I grew up playing in old refrigerators and abandoned cars?

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    1. Hahaha! Generational divide for sure – and also I am embarrassingly “city.” We knew we were making a bigger deal of this than it needed to be, but it was our first tick, if you can imagine that. At least we laughed our heads off at how ridiculous we are. And I can only imagine the frantic run to the hospital if a child today jammed their head into rebar! We aim for “free range” parenting, but I’m afraid our range isn’t especially far.

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  2. Oh wow! My daughter is terrified she will get a tick! Thank goodness you knew what to do!
    I love the part where you write: Sure enough, I checked my phone and yelped, “That’s a tick! Why are you sending me pictures of ticks?”

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  3. Your first tick removal-how thorough you were, Amanda. Since I know nothing about this process, I was fascinated with your slice. I am glad that it had a happy ending. I loved your clever title. BTW, thanks for joining #NYEDChat last night for the discussion on #timelesslearing.

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  4. You would definitely make it into my book of heroes if you had done that for me. I love the way you composed this piece. We all kinda new it wasn’t serious, but we’ve all been in those situations where you’re never really sure until it’s over.

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  5. The things you’ll do for friendship. How lucky you are to have each other. I liked the description of the actual tick removal. I could picture you fretting together. I hope she’s ok!

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  6. Indeed, you are a good friend! You are such a talented writer. I love how you can make a this slice so exciting to read Amanda!

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  7. Bonus points for pun title, plus plenty of regular-credit points for subtle, clever characterizations of the various players in this slice. Fingers crossed for positive long-term outcomes for tick victim — and, for that matter, her medical team!

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  8. I’ve got to admit: I didn’t think this was a very promising topic for a slice. But wow, what you do with it! The pacing, the detail, all quite gripping! And funny. And yes, I would totally call my mom too–after Googling and probably identifying twelve diseases the child already had from just having contact with a tick. (The Internet is a dangerous place for hypochondriacs!) It seems very handy to have an infectious disease doctor for a dad!!! (Says the hypochondriac, LOL.)

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