Taz recently got invited to his first birthday party in a long time. A little girl from his preschool class. I've had one conversation with her mom throughout the entire school year but, hey, I'm not complaining. We don't get a lot of invites.
So just last week we ran into this little girl and her dad at the mall. The first thing Taz says to the little girl, with her dad listening is...
I rode on an ambulance!
He is, of course, talking about our most recent hospitalization. He's never been on an ambulance before that. Now, maybe you think I shouldn't feel shy about sharing the fact that my son needed to be hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for a week, and so, in order to de-stigmatize mental illness, I should have been forthcoming with this information.
You are probably right. But I ain't that noble. And sometimes my little family is more important than the rest of the world. Yes, you read that right. So, changing the minds of millions of people about mental illness is indeed important. But it's not my only job.
So...in wanting to keep this new trend of being invited to birthday parties, I am sad to say I did not do my duty to mankind and fight the stigma of mental illness. Sorry. It's not because I'm ashamed. It's just that telling someone who is barely an acquaintance about my son's psychiatric issues (my four year old son to make it worse) is going to guarantee a lot of questionable looks.
So what did I say instead?
Usually I'm pretty good at thinking on my feet. I've always been a good liar which is why I always appeared to be a good kid because I never got caught. And when I did, I lied my way out of it. Well, I think this parenting thing has killed a few hundred brain cells or so because I was speechless. I couldn't think of a single reason my son could go to the hospital other than psychiatric episode.
Here's how the conversation went.
Taz: I went on an ambulance!
Little Girl: What happened?
Me: Well! (spoken in my best child-friendly cheerful voice (a strategy to distract attention away from the vague answer), Taz had to go to the hospital!
Dad: Who was the paramedic?
Dad: I know all the paramedics that work in (enter town's name).
Me: Of course you do! (spoken sarcastically in my head)
Dad: Was it a lady? It was (enter generic name) wasn't it?
Me: Uhh....no. We were at the children's hospital. Then...we were...transported to another hospital...to...uhh...special unit...mumble mumble mumble....
**** Pause. Anyone ever see the movie Rat Race? There's a part where a guy is getting a ride from a girl to Sante Fey, New Mexico. When she asks him why he needs to go there, he lies. He says that his sister got hurt. She asks what happened. He panics and says shark bite. She looks at him like any of us would, "Shark bite? And she's being treated in New Mexico?" So he exaggerates the lie. Yes, they have a special shark bite unit there. The best in the world. In landlocked New Mexico. Yeah, I felt a bit like that.
Dad: Oh. (Clearly disappointed and confused)
Me: What was that Taz? You have to go to the bathroom? Oh. We better go then. (Pushing kids down the hall). See you at the party! Thanks for the invite!
At least I'm prepared for next time. I think I'll use the shark bite story. That's a good one, right?