Every day I grab Penelope’s arm to inspect a nasty bug bite. Despite our efforts to alleviate the itching she won’t stop scratching the area. What started as a little bump has taken up residence as a pink irritated spot about an inch across. We put lotion and children’s anti-itch cream on the area daily hoping to see healthy skin overtake the sore.
It’s been this way since we traveled from China. Every time we visited a park or played outside small raised bumps would appear anywhere Penelope’s skin was exposed. We tried several bug repellents without success. Our next move may be Bullfrog, a mosquito and tick repellent recommended by our doctor. He’s assured us the DEET levels are sufficiently low and will cause no harm, though I can’t help but wonder just how safe the chemical is, even in low concentrations.
Frustrating as these bumps and scratches are they’re a great reminder that Penelope is doing things outside. Playing at local parks, getting the freshest air Atlanta has to offer, and experiencing nature. My inclination is and always has been to stay inside and enjoy all that the printing press and technology have to offer, including air conditioning. Jenn loves to be outdoors and has tried for years to persuade me to forsake the comforts of home and “have fun” outside. Our opinions differ on this matter. Now that we have a daughter, I concede, and make an effort to balance time spent indoors and out.
To date Penelope enjoys herself wherever she is. If we are inside she can entertain herself when we don’t have the time or strength to. When we’re out, or more often, when Jenn takes Penelope somewhere, they play and laugh in spite of the mosquitoes and ticks. I’m pleased with the balance we’ve struck between love of nature and homegrown entertainment. If either Jenn or I were dominating the activities one of those areas would be lacking.
During our first month back from China we went to the park every day. Penelope’s formerly blemish free skin became a barometer for the mosquito population. If we returned home and only found one raised area it was a good day. When we found several bites, including one on her scalp, our hearts sunk knowing how irritating and painful all the itching would be. The new tube of Afterbite cream which would have lasted me years was nearly depleted in a few months. Jenn and I joked that Penelope’s blood must have been sweeter than ours (though Jenn and I attracted more ticks, something I am oddly thankful for).
Until recently all I could see in each swollen bite or patch of skin ravaged by constant scratching was a reason to keep Penelope inside. As bad as I feel about each point of agony on her skin I now see them as reminders of a little girl living a life less sheltered and more attuned to the world around her. And a need to find a safe and effective bug repellent.