People have often asked me how I manage three young children when all of them are clamoring for my attention at the same time. My answer is simple. I'm working triage.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines triage like so:
A process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for or likely benefit from immediate medical treatment. Triage is used in hospital emergency rooms, on battlefields, and at disaster sites when limited medical resources must be allocated.
A system used to allocate a scarce commodity, such as food, only to those capable of deriving the greatest benefit from it.
A process in which things are ranked in terms of importance or priority: “For millions of Americans, each week becomes a stressful triage between work and home that leaves them feeling guilty, exhausted and angry” (Jill Smolowe).
I have watched enough medical TV (ER, Grey's Anatomy, Birth Stories, Plastic Surgery Before and After, Dr. 90210, Medical Incredible, Mystery Diagnosis, anything I can get my hands on, really) to know what triage means. I've seen it in action on the tube, and yes, here in my home.
It usually goes something like this.
I am in the middle of doing laundry (as usual) and Joey approaches. His face is drooping, liquid falling from his eyes. First, I assess the situation. The boy is clutching his stomach, complaining of pain, AND it is 11:01 A.M. Aha! The 4 year old is starving. Starving, I tell you! It must be serious hunger to warrant tears, yes? Nevermind that mid-morning snack he finished just an hour ago, he must have a sandwich immediately or he will surely perish. It is a definite Priority 1.
As I walk into the kitchen the baby starts whining. Again, I assess the situation. A quick scan reveals no injuries. Lift baby and sniff butt cheeks. Yep. Poopy diaper. This is now the new Priority 1.
As I sit down on the floor to change Ben, Tommy comes dancing up to me. Assess the situation. He is grabbing his penis and jumping up and down. His face is scrunched. Uh-oh. He has to go pee-pee!!!! This is the emergency that overrides all other emergencies and is ALWAYS Priority 1 as he is only 2 and has limited bodily fluid control.
Grab Ben and Tommy and race upstairs (no bathroom on the 1st floor) to unload bladder. Wash hands. Run back downstairs where the diaper supplies (and seriously starving 4 year old) await our return. Quickly and efficiently change poopy diaper.
But what is this????? Poopy diaper has leaked! Poopy diaper has leaked! Situation has now turned Code Red!
Carry baby and half removed diaper with pooped-up onsie back upstairs to bathroom and remove diaper over the bathtub. Once diaper is removed and poops are wiped off Ben's back, carefully and slooowly remove poopy onsie over the head of now enraged baby WITHOUT getting more poop on said baby. Quickly rinse baby, while trying to keep 4 year old and 2 year old from stepping in, on, or around poopy diaper and poopy clothes. Wash hands. Dry baby and redress in warm fresh clothes.
Carry baby back down the stairs, set him in his bouncer and FINALLY make the starving boy his sandwich.
Are we done yet? Of course not. As I am getting the desired ingredients for the starving 4 year old's sandwich Tommy again approaches. This time there is no need for an assessment. "I have to go poo-poo so bad." A quick glance over at Joe and I know he is close to the brink and will probably not make it through another 5 minutes of waiting. Thinking quickly, I tell Tommy to start his way up the stairs while I run to the fridge and grab some string cheese, toss it over to Joe, grab the baby and catch up to Tommy on the stairs. I set Tommy on the pot and try not to ask him, "Are you done yet? Any more? Are you done, now?" every ten seconds.
Finally, wipe the boy, wash the hands, grab the baby and back down the stairs we go. The starving 4 year old is finished with his string cheese and is now nibbling on the plain bread that I had set on the counter. I finish making the sandwich, pour the milk, and a thankful smile spreads across his face.
Seeing his brother happily eating his sandwich reminds Tommy that he is hungry as well, and so the routine goes on, and on.
I always said I would have a career in the medical field, and in a way, I do.