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Newspaper & Magazine Articles: Blog2
  • Writer's pictureSusan Flanagan

Little Black Book | The Kids are Alright | Mar. 6, 2012

No. 2 just spent five days roller blading in Detroit. He flew with a buddy to Toronto and then the two of them drove across the border with another buddy. He`s 17 so my husband and I wrote a note saying we gave him our blessing to travel to a foreign country without us. I guess you`ve figured out by now that I am not a helicopter parent. I myself moved out when I was 17. I was a boomerang child though and moved right back in whenever the circumstances made it convenient. Like three years at MUN and a couple of summers working at Cape Spear. Heck, I even spent a few months in my parents’ basement after I was married and had a child but no house. Regardless I figure it’s time the older ones find their place in the world. One thing did nag at me a little though: what if No. 2 gets injured while in the US of A?

This worry was not unwarranted. I often hear horror stories of Canadians getting injured in the States. Billy Bob had to pay $1000 for the ambulance and the hospital was only two blocks away. Did you hear Johnny in Boston got an MRI for his birthday. Now he can get his neck checked out. No. 2 had already visited an American hospital for a hockey injury incurred in Seattle several years ago. I was all for letting him sleep on the immovable arm and driving him back to B.C. the next day but the coach vehemently disagreed and assured me the BC Hockey Association would cover the hospital bill. What a nightmare. More than a year and several collection agency calls later, I finally paid the bill and eventually got most of it reimbursed. It was not a happy process.

The other thing weighing on my mind was roller bladers are prone to injury. It’s the nature of the sport. It’s not uncommon to see a roller blader in a cast. When they watch movies of themselves blading, I often hear: “This is where Danny breaks his wrist,” followed by, “Oh yeah, that was sick.”

And although helmets would be mandatory to compete in Detroit, No. 2 is not always diligent about wearing head protection when it’s not required. There remained a huge risk that he or his buddy could get hurt in this competition which lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

“If you get hurt bad, get someone to drive you back across the border and dump you at a hospital on this side of the line,” I said before he left for the airport at 4 am.

Luckily both came back unscathed. No. 2 raved about the comfort of sleeping on the carpet of the hotel room floor after the unforgiving hard wood in the buddy’s place in Toronto. I thought back to the ‘80s sleeping on hard-packed dirt on the island of Corfu, Greece. And the big bonus sleeping on a roof top in Athens was the heavily laden clothes line that blocked the early morning sun and allowed us a few more minutes of shut eye.

I also thought of my nose in Greece. We spent the bulk of our time sunbathing on the scorching island of Ios while locals attached strings to our toes and wove bracelets that we then felt obligated to buy. I put on my sunscreen every day but my poor nose had just been pierced under a table at a market in London (nose piercing had recently been banned) and I was supposed to put alcohol on it daily to ward off infection. The rubbing alcohol combined with the intense sun fried my nostril to a raw pink.

So I was thrilled when No. 2 came back from his first unaccompanied foreign trip unscathed. I didn’t have to dig out his little black book to record any medical mishaps. To keep track of myriad of medical procedures and doctors’ appointments for my offspring, I invested in little black hard-covered books - you know the ones that have a wrap-around elastic to hold them shut. Each child and parent has his/her own. Actually No. 2’s book is relatively empty compared to those of his siblings. The only serious injuries he’s had are one dislocated shoulder and one broken tibia. And one spare tooth buried up in the roof of his mouth was removed at the Janeway under the influence of laughing gas.

It was because of a mishap involving No. 2 In B.C. that I started keeping black books. He brought home the slip of paper and insisted he had just been jabbed with exactly the same vaccination he had been subjected to in Newfoundland the previous year. Heh. Heh. I failed to take into account that since both health and education are provincial portfolios, the various provinces don’t necessarily offer vaccinations in the same grades. I hope there are no dire consequences to a few extra pokes of Hep B vaccination. Since that incident I have diligently recorded all medical procedures performed on my children. Every time one of us visits the doctor, dentist, orthodontist, endodontist, optometrist, podiatrist, you get the idea I mark the date, complaint and result in the notebook for future reference.

“Which big toenail was the last one removed?” the doctor might ask No. 1. While he shrugs his shoulders, I whip out the handy dandy notebook and read out which toe, the date, procedure and outcome. Because of a double whammy of Hep B, I am now queen of medical organization until one day at the dentist’s office I was dethroned. My only daughter and I had been debating if she had allergy testing done before or after we lived in B.C. I said before. She said after. She was right. It was recorded in the notebook sitting on the table in front of us. And we both knew the notebook doesn’t lie. Yet as she continued to leaf through her health history to pass the time until her turn in the chair, she uttered a statement that shredded my organizational skills.

“Mom, it says here I was born in 1999. I was born in 1998.”

“Are you sure?” I said a look of concentration on my face. How could I have mistaken something like that?

It is difficult to keep track of all children`s medical emergencies. When I moved out my mother presented me with a brown envelope containing my immunization record and report cards. It provided great reading.

I will do the same for my children when they move out for good. Maybe I`ll give it to them as a wedding gift.

Is it enough to keep track of my own offspring`s health or should I be noting when their friends run into medical trouble?

Late last year a visitor to my husband’s office mentioned to my husband’s co-worker how his son had just undergone surgery to put a metal plate and bolts into his predominant hand. It came out in the conversation that the injury was inflicted when aforementioned boy was bumping fists with a member of the Flanagan family.

This was a month after the incident happened and I had no idea my charming child had broken his friend’s hand. I marched downstairs to where the posse was gathered and examined wounded boy’s formerly perfect pianist’s fingers.

“Didn’t anyone think of telling me?” I asked.

Susan Flanagan is a mother of five who ran out the the dollar store and bought a new black book labeled friends. She can be reached at

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