It was 7 am. I walked downstairs, rounding the corner to the living room where my then five-year-old was snuggled up on the couch watching his morning show. And before I was able to greet him with a typical morning salutation, I gasped. On his face, above his mouth and all down his chin — like a goatee — was a perfectly circular, purple-ish red bruise. And I mean, perfectly circular. As if he went to the local wellness clinic for a cupping session. I was dumbfounded. How the hell?!
“Buddy, what happened to your face?” He looked puzzled. “You have a big purple mark all over your mouth.” He shrugged his shoulders and continued watching his show, making no effort to investigate. My confused mind was racing. It looked like a bruise, but it couldn’t be. This kid reports every scrape, bump, and itch. I would most definitely have heard about a massive face injury. And the shape —the absolutely perfect circle — made a bruise an impossibility. It could only be one thing. It was a hickey. But, how?!
Suddenly, it occurred to me: a cup. He must have had water or juice this morning, and had somehow suctioned the cup to the outside of his mouth. Weird, but it makes some sense. So I asked him, and he had no idea what I was talking about. And then I thought — he wasn’t independently getting himself drinks yet, and no one had got him anything that morning. And he definitely did not have that on his face last night when I put him to bed, without anything to drink from. So there I was, perplexed, again.
I asked my seven-year-old, who to this day spends his night on the top bunk above his five-year-old brother. I explained to him how suctioning a cup could do that to his brothers’ face, and asked if he had any idea what might have happened. “Oh, yeah,” he replied. “I know.” I gestured for an answer, and got: “Well, he likes to get romantic with his candle before bed.”
And instantly I knew exactly what had happened.
Two weeks prior, I attempted to solve a dark room issue by providing my son with a battery operated electric candle for bedtime. It was about six inches high, three inches wide, and perfectly circular with a small hollow at the top. And while it had sat on the table across the room from their beds for days, last night my little guy had asked if he could put it right next to him, on the nightstand. And the rest, as they say, was history. I was on the right track with the cup theory, but — as is so often the case with kids — the true answer was even weirder and more WTF. How the hell was I going to explain this at school drop off?
A couple of failed makeup attempts later, it was clear that there was no disguising this situation. So when we arrived at school and his teacher gave me the questioning head tilt and eye-widening expression at drop off, I was honest — “Yup. It’s a hickey. He sucked on his plastic night light candle and here we are.” “Well, okay!” she replied.
And, honestly upon reflection, maybe it’s my fault for not being explicit enough with the candle rules. I learned that “it goes without saying” is not relevant with kids, especially these kids, who once turned a game of home run derby into “butthole baseball” (don’t ask) the minute I went inside. So while I did offer him some basic, simple candle rules, I clearly was not specific enough. Silly me. Well, now I know.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.