Posted by: Kate | January 15, 2009

Find a Penny, Pick it Up…

My sweet, steady, unflappable little boy stood in the middle of the living room floor, fists clenched, visibly shaking, sobbing as though his heart would break.  “I’m gonna die!” he cried.  “I’m gonna die!”

I was ten feet away, doing work on the computer for a friend’s dissertation, and so my attention was not aimed at whatever happened immediately prior to this heart-wrenching declaration of existential angst, but it soon became clear.  Jacob had been playing with a penny through the morning, had at some point commenced that which is commonly known in this household as “Tackle Time with Daddy,” and then, somehow, ingested the coin.  “It was an axident,” he explained.  “And then I tried to throw it up out of my belly, but I couldn’t.”

He came over to my chair, and received copious and lavish Mama-snuggles and soothing, incoherent noises until some of the tension started to ease out of his back and his pupils had shrunk back to a normal sort of dilation.  He had truly, with his very soul, believed that swallowing a penny is a direct route to instantaneous and horrible death, and was suddenly jolted from fun and games with his dad to a direct contemplation of his own mortality.

Kind of a rough morning, for a little guy.

A call to the doctor confirmed that, since there were no signs of choking, wheezing, pain or vomiting, he could safely remain home and just be watched closely for signs of stomach pain or general distress.  I plan to invoke the Rule of Parenting Proximity on this one, which states that the parent who was physically closest to the disaster at the time said disaster occurred bears, when both parents are present, the responsiblity of, ahem, fecal exploration so as to determine the ultimate egress of the coin.  Not to mention, I’m having a root canal in, oh, nine hours, and will be effectively out of commission for the rest of the day.  Get out the wire coat hanger, Willem, you’ve got a job to do.

Jacob did recover admirably, as soon as he believed that he might possibly survive the afternoon.  He is allowed “soft foods” until the coin makes its grand reentrance, and has already been instructed that, upon said event, that penny will not return to general circulation, thankyouverymuch.

He has recovered so well, in fact, that when we went downtown to register for the WIC program today, he told e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e there, “I ate a penny.”  They, women one and all, would give him a polite, half-smile, tilt their heads to the side, and make some sound indicating confusion but interest.  He then launched into a story, which by the second retelling had become an almost-verbatim performance: “My dad and I were counting the clock time, and then we suddenly started to have Tackle Time, and my penny just flew out of my hand and went right down my throat.  I tried to spit it out, but it was gone.  It scratched my froat a little, but I took two sips of water and now that’s all better.  My mom says to wait and it will come out in my poop soon.”

Not the most elegant of narrative, perhaps, but it gets the point across.  And, let me tell you, once his hysteria stopped hurting my heart (because I ached, seeing my baby so out-of-his-mind scared, for a lot longer than his fear actually lasted) and I had heard the story two or three times, I simply gave up trying to maintain any semblance of composure as his recitations continued to anyone willing to make eye contact with this normally shy, somewhat reserved little boy.

Particularly when he explained to one woman, “I found two pennies at the mall.  But I ate one.”

And, of course, there was the part of the WIC registration wherein they poke his finger to get a drop of blood to measure his iron level.  He coped just fine with it – actually, better than fine, because now he has two stories of bodily drama with which to regale his classmates on the next school day – and the nurse announced, “Oh, his iron level is nice and high!  Good job, Jacob.”  I suggested to her that his copper level was probably a touch elevated, too.

Jacob has agreed to curtail all consumption of currency for the foreseeable future, a plan that I can support without hesitation.



  1. I probably don’t need to remind you that, in this case, “show and tell” at school should focus a little more on the “tell” part and not so much “show”?

  2. What a terrifying moment he had. At the very least, it is only fair that he gets a good story out of his scare.

  3. Oh I so needed that story and a bit of the giggle today, thanks for sharing! And before I had read about the copper part that was EXACTLY what I was thinking. 🙂

  4. The 6 year old swallowed a Magnetix ball a couple of years ago. Oh, I’ve never seen her so upset when she realized what happened! She lived, lol.

  5. yeah, its a good thing that you called the doctor and didn’t physically take him in – because when my son swallowed the penny – they had me come in – sent me to the hospital for X-rays, just to make SURE the penny safely made it to the stomach….and then gave me gloves and a tongue depressor to make sure the penny made its way out.

    So – when he accidentally swallowed a nickel? I did NOTHING.

  6. Sounds like Karmyn has a regular piggy bank going on with her son.

    Luckily we have never swallowed any coins. My daughter stuffed foam up her nose one time, but now coins. The foam was easy to get out once I was shown how. Close the mouth and blow in the other nostril – popped right out!

  7. BWWWAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!! *snort* That’s hilarious. Just be glad he didn’t get a tictac stuck in his nose. When the naturally occurring moisture in the nose begins to melt the candy and release the mint into the sinuses, it burns like hell and makes you feel like you’ve sucked water laced with Drano up your nose. Talk about “I’m gonna die!”

    don’t ask me how I know this…

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