Thoughts on Parenthood or: How I Nearly Killed My Cat With Holistic Medicine

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.

photo 5
Assassin in a bottle.

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.)

photo 6
Scars are cool, right?

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.

photo 3
He’s back to his lovely, lazy, tubby self.

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.

photo 7
“Oh, Mother….must you carry on so?”

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!



14 thoughts on “Thoughts on Parenthood or: How I Nearly Killed My Cat With Holistic Medicine

  1. Oh my gosh! This is so great! Especially since I just blew up at my 19 year old who clearly knows more than me since she is 19, two semesters into college and never worked a day in her life…Well,not at a “real” job…

    Oh boy. The bad news, you will screw it up. Regularly. The good news, your kids give you more mulligans than you give yourself. And you are highly unlikely to do permanent damage.

    On parenting a traumatized kid, give yourself a lot of GRACE. Because you will worry over every little thing you say and do…wondering how will they take this, is this okay, Will this trigger so and so…And they perceive you as way up tight and you exhaust yourself…And when something does trigger a tantrum/fight/withdrawing/cry fest, it’s probably not something you could avoid or even guess. So learning to roll with punches and forgive yourself is a good first step. And I’m sure this is a good first lesson.

    1. Thanks, Cindy. I’m glad to know I’m not the only neurotic worrywart out there. And I appreciate the advice. You have some great kids, and I know that awesomeness had to come from somewhere. 😉

  2. There is no perfect parent, we only make the decisions we as parents think is right at the time. It might be right or wrong but we learn as we go. Just hug them and tell them you love them each day. Tell them they are beautiful. Tell them you are proud. And applaud every accomplishment no matter how small. I use to go out and spank the tree because it hurt her or a rock that stub her toe. It’s about loving and protecting them. They will fall and get hurt and that is a learning experience for you both. They learn by making mistakes. Just be there always to pick up the pieces Your children will be a part of you and Wayne and will be fine.


  3. Hahaha!!! Totally awesome…As Allison would say, “This is why we’re saving for our kids’ THERAPY and not their college.”

  4. I’m not a parent of a child adopted from difficult places. I’m a parent of several grown birth children who turned out a-OK with this not-so-perfect mother. However, I am the child of violently abusive parents. Every day of my life I wished my mother loved me. Every day of my life I wished someone would help me. The very idea someone might take me away and love me and treat me kindly was more than I could dream of. If all you do is unconditionally love that child, you will give a gift that can’t be underestimated. It doesn’t matter what you spill or where you spill it. Love without fear, without pain, without abuse, without strings, without bullying — just LOVE. You will be the mother of any child’s happiest dreams.

    1. Wow! Thanks for the encouraging word, Chandra! Yours is a success story beyond measure, and I will take these good words to heart. I bet you were an AWESOME mom too…

  5. Another great post Jamie –
    I can assure you that parenthood does consist of tons of second guessing yourself and worrying that you are completely inept and a failure. However, the good news is (and what keeps me from literally worrying myself sick) is that God is my daughter’s heavenly father and he loves her a thousand times more than I do. He, in all his goodness and knowledge, thought I was just the person to raise this little one AND his grace is sufficient to cover all my snafus along the way. I can’t wait for you to become a mommy. It is both the most rewarding and the scariest journey I’ve ever known.

  6. Very well-written, Jamie–a joy to read. One of my friends has told me several times that no more than we can take credit for a child’s successes, can we take the blame for their failures. None of us are perfect nor do we want to set that kind of model for our children. I have two grown sons that both became substance abusers.after they turned away from the values they were raised with. We do second-guess ourselves all along the way, but if we pray and seek God and do the best we know how–we have to leave the results in His hands. Even God has challenge children. At the same time I must say the joys of parenting are incomparable, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I look forward to reading more about your journey.

    1. That is true. We have several members of our family who (though raised “right”) turned out differently than the rest of us. God really does have a plan for all of us, and some of us have to have the stuffing beaten out of us before we learn better, don’t we?

      Thanks for the encouragement, Patti. Love ya!

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