My little son cried all day, no matter what I did. I already wanted to take him to the hospital, but then I looked in his diaper and was shocked
Living with family is never easy, as my husband Roger and I discovered when we moved in with his parents, shortly after our son Kevin was born.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to move in with my in-laws, but money was short, and with the baby, we just couldn’t stay in that tiny studio apartment anymore. At first, Kevin was tiny, and it was OK, but as soon as he started crawling the trouble began.
My father-in-law, Austin, is a retired Navy pilot, and his one entertainment is building model aircrafts. Austin was once a very active man, but a war injury has left him with back problems.
He can move around, but he has considerable pain. Unlike so many other people, Austin has always refused to take the powerful painkillers the doctors prescribed. He distracts himself by building model airplanes.
The problem is that he had taken over a part of the family room — it’s a large area so that was ok — but what wasn’t OK is that I often found myself picking up tiny pieces of his models from the floor.
Austin made the planes by hand, not from kits, and everything was handcrafted from sheet metal or balsa wood. The planes are lovely, and Austin hangs them from the ceiling all over the house.
Like I explained — everything was fine until Kevin started crawling. One morning, I found some small metal shavings on the floor and asked my husband to speak to his father about safety for the baby.
Roger was a bit hesitant, he didn’t think Austin would react well and he was right. “WHAT?” I heard the scream from the kitchen where I was feeding Kevin, while Ellen, my mother-in-law, made dinner.
Admitting you’re wrong is the first step to correcting a mistake.
“What do you mean? I must be more careful? I’m very careful!” Austin shouted. Roger must have made some reply we couldn’t hear because Austin roared: “This is my house, and I will do what I want!”
I walked to the door and listened. “Dad,” Roger said calmly, “I know that, we are just asking you to be a little more careful. Kevin is starting to crawl all over the house…”
You think I’d do anything to harm my grandson?” Austin asked angrily, “Never, but I won’t be dictated to in my own house by you, especially after I took you in!
Ellen decided to intervene, and walked into the lounge. “Austin,” she said in her soft voice, “Honey, you could have that workshop you’ve always wanted. We have plenty of room outback…”
“You too, Ellen?” Austin roared, “You want me out of the house? Forget it!” He turned his back on all of us and stomped off to his room. Ellen, Roger, and I looked at each other.
Ellen sighed and shook her head. “He’s in so much pain all the time, you know. It just makes him bad-tempered, but he’ll come around, Anne,” she said to me, “I’ll speak to him tonight.”
But Austin was adamant that the family room was where he worked, had always worked, and was always going to work. From then on I was always extra vigilant around Kevin and watched him like a hawk.
A few weeks after the big blowout with Austin, Kevin, who is usually such a good baby started to cry constantly. I took him to the doctor, but he could find nothing wrong. The doctor told me Kevin seemed to have colic and prescribed some meds.
I gave Kevin the medication, but he still cried night and day. After one sleepless night walking the floor with my crying son I was at the end of my tether. Towards dawn, Kevin finally fell asleep.
When I changed his diaper the next morning I was in for a surprise. In the middle of his stool was embedded a round disk of what I recognized as part of one of Austin’s model airplanes.
I finished putting the clean diaper on Kevin, fished out the very smelly piece of plastic, and marched into the kitchen where Austin and Roger were having breakfast.
“Look!” I shouted angrily, waving the disk in front of Austin’s face, “Look at what Kevin swallowed, you stubborn man! That’s why he kept crying! If it had been metal, it would have injured him.”
Austin’s mouth hung open, and the color drained from his face. “Anne,” he said quietly, “I’m so sorry…I’m usually so careful…”
“That’s just not good enough, Austin. This is about Kevin’s safety, and if things don’t change we are moving out,” I told him.
Austin looked shocked. “Please,” he said, “Please don’t do that. I know I’ve been thoughtless and selfish, give me a chance to make it up to you.”
The next day, Austin removed every piece of equipment and tool from the family room, and by the end of the week, he’d engaged a man to help him build a workshop in the backyard, as Ellen had suggested.
The biggest surprise of all came on Kevin’s second birthday when Austin proudly presented his grandson with a gorgeous, bright red model airplane that spun on an axis as if it was really flying.
The plane was carefully sculpted out of a soft polymer and child-safe. Kevin was enchanted of course. That started his passion for airplanes, and by the time he was five, he was always off to watch grandpa make airplanes
My father-in-law adores Kevin and has proudly told me that he is the cleverest, most beautiful boy ever born and that he is sure that one day he will be a brilliant pilot.
What can we learn from this story?
- A child’s safety is the most important thing. Austin’s stubbornness ended up placing his grandson’s health at risk.
- Admitting you’re wrong is the first step to correcting a mistake. Austin realized he was being selfish and did all he could to make amends.