The internet has given us many wonderful things, but it hasn’t helped with my parenting paranoia.
While we may now have access to limitless knowledge, such as what Sally round the corner had for lunch today, we also have an abundance of information that WILL scare the shit out of you if you have kids.
Why does my toddler have diarrhoea? Dairy intolerance.
Why doesn’t my toddler say more than a couple of words? Learning disability.
What’s that rash? Meningitis.
That’s not to say that the internet doesn’t at times do a good job of providing us with our very own at-home triage. It’s just that there are so many utterly grim diseases, conditions and horrifying consequences that flash up alongside the more rational, likely solutions.
The other day I found a tick on my three-old-year’s tummy. It had buried in there pretty well for a feast.
I had spotted it the day before but thought it was a tiny scratch or a bite that she had itched and caused to bleed. It looked like a teeny tiny scab. But something about it bugged me, pardon the pun.
I’ve always had a bit of a tick fear, ever since watching an episode of House MD where lyme disease nearly killed a young female patient.
So with the worry playing on my mind already, I took a closer look at it in better light and saw it had legs. Eww.
Once I had extracted the little bugger I could see it was tiny, about double the size of a full stop. But it was definitely a tick, and it had left a small red bite mark.
I freaked out. Does this mean she actually could get lyme disease? Should I be doing something right now? Have I left it too late?
I was straight on to Dr Google. Turns out getting a tick bite doesn’t always cause lyme disease, phew.
But as I read on and saw some scary first-hand accounts of how people got the disease (some didn’t even notice the bite) and the lists of symptoms the disease causes I got anxious again. Should I be making sure she gets antibiotics right away?
I kept demanding that my little girl lift her top so I could inspect the bite, comparing it with pictures of a lyme diseased bite mark and trying to ascertain if I should be rushing her out of the door immediately.
After taking a deep breath and giving myself a reality check, I decided the best course of action is to wait it out. It’s now day two and I’m still checking compulsively every few hours – my daughter thinks I’ve gone mad but she’s indulging me, for now.
I’m still Googling every now and then, looking up statistics just to torture myself.
The reassuring thing about Google is the autocomplete feature. Nine times out of 10 this kicks in with the exact question I was typing within the first few characters. This means that I’m not the only panicked parent typing in this kind of thing.
How does it know what I’m thinking? Maybe Google understands the search history of an hysterical parent when its magical algorithm sees it.
So does Dr Google help, or hinder us, in our efforts to become balanced, calm and unflappable parents? I would say it’s probably a bit of both.
Google can provide reassurance, but it can also send your imagination into overdrive. When it’s your kids, it’s hard to keep a lid on those intense feelings of panic.
I think I’ll keep Dr Google on call for now though. And I might buy some tick repellent, just in case.