A few weeks ago, I decided that I needed to try a natural way of relieving my tension headaches, so I bought some eucalyptus essential oil at a farmers market.
It wasn’t some watered down stuff from a spa or girly bath products store; it was straight up. Like so strong a koala could drink it on the rocks with a splash of soda and a lime wedge, so I thought it best to put a drop or two on a cotton ball to test its potency before using it in earnest.
When I turned the bottle over, my cat Ivan–with the perfect timing that only felines have–jumped on the counter to get himself some lovin’ and set a horrific, unstoppable Rube Goldberg machine into action. He bonked my elbow with his head and sent a gusher of oil out of the bottle’s mouth, drenching the cotton ball and my hands. And in the middle of the fracas, Ivan walked right under the flow and got a perfect stripe of eucalyptus oil down his back.
Turns out, it is toxic, especially when ingested in oil form. And what do cats do best? That’s right. They bathe themselves profusely. I hollered for Wayne to grab the bottle of coconut berry cat shampoo, and we feverishly washed Ivan in the bathtub, passing bottles and cups back and forth as efficiently as a seasoned NASCAR pit crew.
Ivan is normally good natured, but I think he was fairly well freaked out by the strong smells of eucalyptus and panic emanating from me. So he skipped over the steps by which cats show their displeasure (twitchy tail, bug eyes, low growl in the back of the throat) and went to plaid.
He got clean. I got a scar. (See photographic evidence below.)
The evening ended with a wet, furious cat, a bloodstained tub, and a room that smelled so strongly of eucalyptus that we had to shut the door so we could sleep. And while I didn’t have a headache when the escapade started, I sure did at the end.
But no worries. We’re both fine now.
Humor aside, there was something else of note in the evening. The entire time I’m scrubbing my cat’s back in a frenzy, wondering if I’ve killed him with my stupid attempt at holistic medicine, I kept thinking, I’m not fit to be a parent! What kind of mother will I make if I can’t even take care of a cat? They’re self sufficient! All you need to do is feed them and clean the litter box once or twice a week. I can’t even do this right! And the voice in my head grew louder and shriller as I went.
I fretted and fussed over him all night, wrapping him up in a towel like a kitty burrito and praying he wouldn’t die some horrible death because I was an inept pet parent.
The next day, we took him to the vet, but they didn’t see anything to worry about. So after he charmed the scrubs off of every lady in the place and got a rabies shot required by the state of Georgia, we took him home. Now he’s fine as a frog hair split three ways. Yes, he was lethargic the day after the visit, but in my defense, he’s often so lethargic that it’s hard to tell if he’s sick or just being a bum.
Still, I keep going back to that frantic thought I had as a hunched over the tub, scouring my poor cat and trying not to cry. Is that what parenthood is like? Do you constantly second guess yourself and worry that you’re a failure? Are there mulligans in parenthood or do you make one slip up and the little hooman in your charge ends up a “deaf, dumb, and blind kid” (who may or may not “play a mean pinball“)?
These are the things I worry about as the adoption approaches. Up until now, my blunders were my own. Any stupid mistake I made impacted my life (and on occasion Wayne’s). However, we always found a way to work ourselves out of a mess, no matter how royally we hosed up. With children, the rules change. Heck, the entire game changes. Any poor decision I make won’t just throw a wrench in my life; it will impact theirs.
What’s worse, I can even hurt them with my words, my lack of attention, or my impatience. And fixing whatever I break will take something a lot more painful than a quick dunk in soapy water.
Sometimes I think about my kids; I wonder where they are and what they’re going through. The little lives that will be entrusted to me are, as we speak, are experiencing the worst the world has to offer: neglect, abuse, deprivation, shame, and pain. Or maybe that’s over. Maybe they’ve been taken away from the abusive parent (who they still love despite all the failures) and thrown into a system that will bounce them around from place to place, some of which may be less than ideal. I think about what might be happening to them, and I want to scream.
I don’t want to be the next person who harms them. I want to be the one who does everything right, who doesn’t make mistakes, doesn’t lose control, doesn’t break down or screw up or lash out. No matter what.
But one thing this silly moment taught me is that it’s so easy to do. So easy.
I want to hear your thoughts, your advice, and your good counsel. If you’re a parent, especially of adopted children who come from hard places, please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!