The call was disguised panic.
“Jason,” the voice said. It was my wife’s friend Chris who lives in Omaha. She and her husband were watching our children so my wife and I could have a couple’s night out in, yes, Omaha (city motto, “we’re not just corn anymore”).
We’d left the children with them at noon the day before, and everything seemed normal. Well, as normal as a situation can be that involves a boy who lives in the “Star Wars” universe and girl who thinks she’s a cat.
“You’re coming over at 11, right?” Chris asked.
Something was obviously wrong. Since Chris could still speak, this meant one of two things: 1) the kids hadn’t bound and gagged her. Seriously, I was concerned about this, or 2) they held her at gunpoint and were issuing demands.
That was still a possibility.
My wife looked at the hotel room’s clock. “It’s 10:30 a.m.,” she said.
“Sure,” I told Chris. I could almost feel her sigh.
“Good,” she said. “The Boy threw up.”
It’s a helpless feeling to be away from a sick child. As soon as we have children a parent’s main purpose on this planet is to protect them. Our secondary purpose is to embarrass them in middle school, but the Boy and the Girl weren’t old enough for that yet, so let’s go with care. My wife and I packed and checked out of the hotel in about 38 seconds.
Although I drove a little faster than I was supposed to, we both knew deep down the Boy was OK. This has to do with every child’s three superpowers.
1) The ability to surprise us, whether by being polite, or with sweet ninja moves.
2) The ability to know when their parents are about to fool around, then do everything they can to make us stop trying.
3) The ability to throw up for no apparent reason, which they generally follow with running around the house scarfing Cheetos.
Exhibit A: Legoland.
During the summer, after a lunch consisting of one part chicken-like things, one part French fries, one part Coca-Cola, and five parts grease, the Girl threw up in the “build and race your own Lego cars” section. Well, actually she threw up in my wife’s cupped hands. Nice catch, Honey.
A few minutes later the Girl ran around the slide and ball pit area like she hadn’t filled Mom’s hands with her stomach.
Exhibit B: the Store.
Walking down the aisles at the store last week, the Girl let it fly for no reason other than she hadn’t thrown up in awhile. She played a lot on the swing set when she got home.
Although to the childless a kid throwing up this much must make you want to call child protective services. PUT THE PHONE DOWN NOW. For parents, kids throwing up more often than they put their plates in the sink is normal.
As was the Boy, although we kept a bucket next to him for the next six hours. Maybe we should do that all the time, you know, just to protect the carpets.
Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.