antWhen you have a child, or children, one of the most difficult things to do is to separate fact from fiction.

When my daughter told me that she felt like there was an ant in her ear, it sounded a lot like, “My dog ate my homework.” I hate myself, as a person and more importantly as a mother, for immediately thinking that when my 9-year told me that it “feels like there’s an ant in my ear,” I thought she just wanted to get out of school the next day. Basically, I thought my daughter was a liar.

Luckily, I am Mother Enough to have thought, “OK, let’s just go get this checked out.” (Grumble-Grumble-I-have-better-things-to-do-than-find-a-doctor-on-a-Sunday-at-dinner-time.)

We found a walk-in doctor, who was just about to close his doors, who checked out my daughter. She told him, “It feels like something is moving in my ear. Like an ant!” Again, I didn’t believe her. I may have even – gah! – rolled my eyes. I said to the doctor, “Well, she may have an ear infection. She just got over a cold.”

The doctor checked out her left ear.

“Well, would you look at that!” he exclaimed.

I thought, for sure, the doctor would say, “She does have an ear infection.”

Nope. The doctor said, “There is an ant in her ear! I haven’t seen this in over a decade!”

I did what any mother would do after her daughter says there is an ant in her ear and there IS actually an ant in her ear. I apologized profusely to my daughter for thinking she was lying to me.

No I didn’t.

Actually, I just took pictures. I took a picture of the ant that the doctor rescued (in the sense that he got the ant out by flushing her ear with water, but, unfortunately the ant had a sad ending) and, also, a photo of my daughter holding a pee sample cup with the dead ant from her ear. She held it up like a trophy.

She should have held it up like a trophy. In a sense, she did win. My daughter was correct. I was wrong. I was wrong for not believing her, but come on. What parent upon hearing her daughter, who doesn’t love school, who says it feels like there’s an ant in her ear, actually would believe their kid? Much like a teacher who hears, “The dog ate my homework,” or a mother who hears from their child, “Those are not MY cigarettes. So and so left them here!” it was just so…unbelievable.

So how do we, as parents, separate fact from fiction? Especially when it IS true that there was an ant in my daughter’s ear, or when the dog REALLY does eat your homework? (Seriously, a friend of mine did get a puppy which REALLY DID eat her child’s homework. The teacher didn’t believe it, but it was true.)

We can tell if our children have fevers, or if they have a cold. But can we really know if our child is lying when they say they have a headache or a stomachache? I do think children learn that headaches and stomachaches are the best excuses, because they do learn that we, as parents, can’t actually SEE those symptoms. And they can continue with those excuses – headaches, stomachaches – to the teachers and the school nurse, until they, pretty much, call us to take our kid back, even though we only dropped them off at school 42 minutes ago.

But then, what if your child is telling the truth (the stomachaches turns into them throwing up) or an ant in their ear really does turn out to be exactly that? You’re left feeling like a chump of a parent and also an awful human for not believing your own flesh and blood.

I don’t really have an answer, except to say, I’m going to lean towards believing my daughter when she says she has an ant in her ear from now on.

Sometimes the dog really does eat your homework. And sometimes, it turns out, there really is an ant in your child’s ear.

(photo: Evgeniy Ayupov / Shutterstock)