the splinter must come out

splinter toddler 2The interloper was lodged sideways under the surface of our toddler’s palm and it looked pretty cozy in there, with no intention of budging. We had our tweezers ready, but because the splinter was so deep there was nothing for them to…tweeze.

After examining the hand, I was shooed away by my husband and I immediately agreed to retreat, as part of our Let’s Not Make a Big Deal Out of This method of parenting. (In other words, my hovering and attempts at soothing might indicate a crisis and serve to escalate the situation.) So I stood in the kitchen washing dishes, confident my husband could get the job done.

Over the sound of scrubbing, I heard my husband gently explain that it was just a tiny sliver of wood, probably from the wooden furniture or stairs at the party we’d been to the previous night, and it needed to come out. In fact, this is another one of our parenting methods: Explain Everything. He pointed out that it might hurt worse, though briefly, before it feels better. No matter what, it had to come out. I distinctly heard our son respond, in his sweet, agreeable, innocent voice, “Okay.”

And then a few short seconds later, I distinctly heard him screaming at the top of his lungs.

Because the tweezers weren’t working, my husband had sterilized a pin, and commenced the next logical step (or so we thought) which we can only now call The Regrettable Digging. Needless to say, this will not be one of our so-called parenting methods when it comes to splinters, going forward. I turned off the faucet and bee-lined for the bedroom, in case re-enforcement was needed. The mere act of walking toward our distressed child caused him to writhe, red-faced and crying. When I reached for his hand, this turned into full-bodied bucking.

“Okay, let’s take a little break,” my husband said, calmly. Our son jumped off his lap and resumed his playing, obviously quite pleased to leave the splinter in place for the rest of his life.

Then my husband and I looked at each other, stumped. “Google it?” we said simultaneously and I headed for my laptop. But Dr. Google didn’t provide much hope this time: most sites recommended tweezers in combination with…you got it, the dreaded pin. A few sites suggested a paste of baking soda tucked under a band aid for 24 hours, but I couldn’t imagine that actually staying on our 2 year old’s hand for more than 24 seconds. While I was in the process of getting absolutely nowhere with my research, my husband announced he was going to the drugstore to procure a magnifying glass. Surely this would get us to the heart of this problem, or at least help us to see the problem better.

While I got breakfast ready, I let some panic creep in and stomp all over logic…

This kid is now traumatized, he’s never going sit still for this. Maybe the splinter could just stay in, after all. Maybe it would build character, or maybe our son could use it for constructing the world’s tiniest log cabin…or it would come in handy if he ever needed a very small shim…of course, the problem remains that he wouldn’t be able to get it out to enjoy any of that potential functionality…

On the other hand, what about infection? The skin around the splinter is already starting to turn red. Maybe we’ll be the incompetent parents who have to take their toddler to Urgent Care in order to get a splinter removed. This is embarrassing but I know this is where we’re headed.

I proceeded to serve our son some cereal and berries. I put on Sesame Street, which I never do in the morning, but, hey, the boy needed the comfort of Big Bird and so did I.

Half way through the meal (and the show), our babysitter arrived – my husband and I had scheduled a “financial meeting” (ie. an attempt at organization and budgeting) that had very smoothly transitioned to a brunch date…because who really wants to have a “financial meeting” on the sunny Sunday of a holiday weekend?

I debriefed her. And check this out:


She walked over to our son. He held his hand out voluntarily without even a squeak. She examined the splinter. She silently walked over to our sink, wet a paper towel, and added a bit of dish detergent. She applied this to his palm, squeezed the skin a little bit with her fingers.

Our son stared at the TV, completely compliant. She even asked: “Does this hurt?” And he answered, “No,” just like that, “No,” as if there hadn’t been any trauma or drama or earth-shattering wails of pain just 20 minutes earlier.

And there came the splinter, up to the surface, no problem, as if it just woke up from a little under-skin slumber. Oh, here I am, awake now, ready to get on with my day…

Amazed, I fumbled for the tweezers on our kitchen table, and then plucked it out. My son was oblivious, concentrating on Super Grover, popping blueberries in his mouth with the other hand as if they were popcorn.

I then proceeded to high five our babysitter about 75,000 times – she told me that she has gotten several splinters from her other job (installing swing sets) and learned that detergent helps draw them out. I called my husband to nix the magnifying glass, which of course he’d already purchased. I suppose we can use this in the future to spectate splinters as they come out.

This is all to say:

1. Babysitters/Nannies/Caregivers are HEROES. Or at least ours is. She pretty much saves the day on a daily basis.

2. TV is a HERO when distraction is essential.

3. And, dish detergent, it’s a HERO, for coaxing the splinters out. And also for, well, yeah, cleaning dishes.


Happy Summer, may it be foot loose and splinter free.

For more home tome, follow along on TWITTER and FACEBOOK. Cheers!

16 replies

  1. Ahhh this was a great story! My husband usually takes care of splinters around here:) I never knew about the dish detergent being so good at coaxing splinters! However I do know all about TV being an excellent distraction ha!
    sounds like you have a really smart babysitter for Ian,what a treasure

    • Yes, Emily is the best! This is the just the tip of the iceberg as far as her genius πŸ™‚ Yes, TV, Yes, I was glad that hubs took the lead on this…he is very calm. Thanks for reading and commenting DVJ!

  2. “I debriefed her.” My mind went elsewhere for .5 seconds when reading this.
    That’s good that you now know for the future. If you would have had to go to Urgent Care, it’s really no big deal. I used to work in the Emergency Room and parents brought kids in with splinters all the time. It’s quite common when you can’t actually get down under the skin.

    • ha ha! note to self regarding that phrase πŸ™‚ and note to self about Urgent Care for splinters, I presumed we might be the first parents in history to do that…;) see you soon!

      • If I get a splinter at Blog U, I will thankfully be rooming with an expert. Perhaps we should bring a mini dish detergent?

      • Indeed “Travel-sized detergent” is now on packing list…I can probably set up a first aid tent there, specializing in splinters. πŸ™‚

  3. Great blog, Joc! Besides that – some good information on dish detergent working! When my kids got a splinter – it was the tweezers, needle, some digging and lots of screams, of course!!!!!

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