Children naturally explore the world with their mouths.  I cannot recall the exact instinctual reason why, but I also recall it assists with teething.  As my daughter gummed my finger a few days ago, I noticed, oh, that’s sharp.  So my daughter has started teething.

Our doctor recommended we purchase in advance a name brand children’s liquid acetaminophen to have when needed.  (We decided to bypass the brandy suggestions.)  The first use turned out to be very early Christmas Eve morning.  My tired frustrated wife awoke me out of a deep sleep after being unable to console our irritated daughter.

Preparedness is the lesson here.  First it is important to understand which drug you purchased:

  • Infants’ Acetaminophen (80mg/0.8ml)
  • Childrens’ Acetaminophen (160mg/5ml)

Our purchase was labeled “Infant Acetaminophen for Children“, with the former in very big letters and the latter in tiny print underneath. Huh?  That is confusing notwithstanding being awake for ninety seconds and still blinking in the cold bathroom light.

The packaging says to reference a doctor’s instructions as the dosage is dependent upon weight and age.  Math and recall at 2am–again a challenge.  Pause.  Breathe.  Be patient.  Work the problem.  Do not add to the drama.  How much does my daughter weigh?  I leafed through her medical binder, found the instructions, cross-referenced the bullets above to the drug’s concentration and then calculated the dose. To this point, for a little syringe with only four markings, this was a lot of work and my daughter is still wailing.

(First note: post the doctor’s instructions with the medicine and highlight the dosage before you need to know it.  Second note: verify the dosage before administering in case your child’s age/weight has changed.  Any overdose, in an adult or child, is critical and requires prompt medical attention–even without symptoms.)

The clever bottle is inverted to fill the oral syringe with the viscous, purple, sickeningly-grape-smelling liquid.  Be careful administering to your writhing, fussing child in the dark in the vain hope the three of you can return to sleep.  My daughter grabbed at, and teethed on, the syringe as I dispensed it.

Pause.  Breathe.  Be patient.

Beware! If you dispense it too fast, your child may cough since it is unexpectedly thick.  At which point I learned the next lessons: (1) the liquid indeed tastes like grapes and (2) it stings the eyes.  The good news is it works quickly at quieting your child.

(Third note: Poison Control is 1-800-222-1222.  No, the liquid is not injurious to the eyes.  Yes, it stings. Yes, take out the contacts you fell asleep in before you flush your eyes with water for approximately15 minutes.)

In hindsight this is humorous, In the moment it was a mixture of amusement, ridiculousness and a dab of frustration.  Just as we can watch our children domino and cascade into a screaming melt-down, we ourselves can do so too—especially at night.  Be patient, calm and be a role model.  Getting frustrated, cursing, yelling, adding to the drama and noise does not address and resolve why my wife woke me for my assistance.  Just as our children grow, so will the complexity and gravity of the situations before us.  How we react in these moments shows the true strength of our character.  In the end, my daughter quieted, my wife and I shared a hug and a darkly amusing chuckle, and we all went back to bed.