'Pathetic, Right?'

Did you know that some first-aid kits have drugs in them? Neither did I.

That was why I didn't pay too much attention when I first noticed that one of the kids had brought in our kit from the van and left it on the kitchen floor. I found it open and nearly empty. I threw away the assorted bandage wrappers and forgot about it.

Then I found the rest of the mess.

It was on 8-year-old Eamon's bed: the still-damp, chewed-up remains of some kind of paper wrapper. I pieced the bits together until I could read the label: Acetaminophen.

I froze. The gutted first-aid kit came racing back to my mind. I struggled to recall the details of a television show I once saw about small children who had overdosed on Tylenol.

I hurried downstairs and rounded up the usual suspects: the 5-year-old, the 3-year-old and the 2-year-old. They lined up before me, wide-eyed. “Did one of you chew on this paper?” I demanded. They shook their heads in unison.

I narrowed my eyes and looked them over. To my surprise, not one of them looked even the least bit guilty. Not one of them appeared to need dialysis.

Then I remembered another one of the usual suspects, one who has a particular penchant for chewing: the dog. His penitent expression when I called his name confirmed my suspicions. The “Bad mommy” chant turned to “Bad doggy” and I was relieved. Sort of.

Twenty minutes later found me sitting on the front steps with my furry friend dutifully following the veterinarian's instructions. Every five minutes I pried open the dog's jaws and forcibly fed him a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. Then I waited for him to vomit. When he refused, I tried again. And again. And again.

Between doses of the repulsive remedy, I sat on the gravel walkway. It was then that I had the following profound thought:

What on earth am I doing?

I was sitting in the dirt waiting for a dog to vomit so that I could get back to laundry, dinner and other not-so-momentous duties. Pathetic, right?

Before I had a chance to plunge into the bout of self-pity I was planning, though, God intervened. He turned my gaze toward the expectant faces of my children — the ones who depend on me to feed them, to clean them, to teach them, to love them. And to attend to their dog's healthcare needs.

The true worth of a mother's work is not readily identifiable in any one of the menial tasks she performs, I realized. Its value is evident, though, in the precious bodies and souls of the children in her care. A mother's duties challenge her to say Yes to God's call, one small task at time, even when it seems there must be some loftier goal she could be pursuing

The significance of a woman's self-giving was a subject Pope John Paul II spoke of frequently. In Mulieris Dignitatem he told us, “A woman's dignity is closely connected with the love which she receives by the very reason of her femininity; it is likewise connected with the love which she gives in return. … Woman can only find herself by giving love to others.” Just so.

As for the missing pills: After giving up on the dog, I found them under Eamon's bed.

Danielle Bean writes from Belknap, New Hampshire.