Well, it’s been an eventful week. First, I had the great honour of being featured on Freshly Pressed for this bit of snark, which is probably how most of you came to be reading this right now. (Welcome to my 500 or so new followers! Thanks for joining us. I’m trying hard not to be crippled with performance anxiety over here…). There ensued a frenzy of comment-replying, troll-slaying and obsessive round-the-clock stats-checking which threatened to completely excommunicate me from my ‘real’ life. Obviously, the universe needed to snap me out of this somehow.
So, it knocked my son off a see-saw at school yesterday and broke his arm.
Thanks Universe. I’ve checked my priorities and regained my focus on the job at hand. Here’s a few lessons I’ve learned in the last 24 hours:
- The one time (seriously. The one time) you have your phone on silent in your bag and don’t mindlessly check it every two minutes during grocery shopping? That’s the twenty minutes during which the school will be trying to contact you about something that’s actually urgent. Every other time you’ve had a missed call from the school, and have breathlessly called them back only to get a message about a lost permission slip or a reminder about an assembly – they’ve just been rehearsals for this moment, when you finally, lazily look at your screen and see TEN THOUSAND MISSED CALLS (okay, six or seven) from the school, from an unknown mobile number which turns out to be the principal’s, and from your husband. You will know immediately that this is no permission slip situation and your stomach will drop. You’ll be hustling your trolley and your bemused toddler towards the carpark, choking back tears as you listen to Mrs H’s reassuring voice telling you she’s so sorry to leave this as a voicemail, but that your precious boy has had an accident (oh god oh god oh god), the ambulance is on its way (oh lord oh lord oh lord), it looks like he’s broken his arm pretty badly (my baby my baby my baby), could you please call back as soon as you can, she’ll get in touch with his Dad in the meantime. Once you’ve partially digested the message and realised that in your panic you’ve hustled to the wrong carpark, you will correct your course and fly like the wind to his side, cursing yourself for ever, ever, ever letting him out of your sight (yes, this thinking is insane. But that’s what motherhood is all about, right?).
- Toddlers are smart. But their brains make unpredictable connections. When you tell Baby Girl Quick, we have to hurry to school. Brother has broken his arm!, she will remember how Brother dropped the cat’s ceramic dish on the tiles this morning and it smashed into a thousand pieces. This distressed her at the time, as it seemed to be the first time she’d grasped the concept of ‘broken’ and understood that the bowl was not going to be a bowl anymore. So, immediately she hears that Brother’s arm is broken, she’ll burst into tears and howl Brother! Arm b’oken! Mo-ma bowl!, clearly envisaging his arm shattered into irreparable shards on the ground. Focusing your words and energy on calming her and promising that he’ll still have an arm will help get your own panic marginally under control by the time you screech to a halt behind the ambulance at school.
- Your big, boisterous Boy Child will look so, so tiny and fragile on the tall stretcher as he’s wheeled out to the ambulance, leaving a small gaggle of concerned school staff in his wake. He won’t be in pain right now, because drugs are awesome, but you’ll know just by the look of him that he’s not in a good way.
- When you explain to Baby Girl that the ambulance is going to take Brother to the hospital so that the doctors can fix his sore arm, she’ll declare No. No dottor fix. Mummy, kiss, cuddle! Better. If only her faith in your restorative powers was justified…
- You should have been paying more attention at Boy Child’s last health checkup, specifically to his weight. Because, fair enough, we don’t obsess about weight gain in this family as long as they’re healthy and active, but the hospital will want to give him very specific doses of very strong painkillers based on this small detail that you can’t quite remember. Each time a new person asks and you say you’re not sure, they’ll give you an incredulous ‘are you even his mother??’ look. He’s in way too much pain to hop off the stretcher and onto the scales. Your suggestion that maybe the stretcher ought to be fitted with an inbuilt scale ‘like a Thermomix’ will be met with another incredulous look. (For the record, I still think this is a great idea). Eventually they’ll be content to work with ‘somewhere between 18 and 20kg’ because that’s as close as you can get to a specific answer.
- You’ll be able to return the incredulous looks before he’s wheeled into theatre for surgery, when they ask you to catalogue any scrapes, cuts or bruises he currently has. Um. He’s FIVE. He’s basically a living canvas for display of an ever-changing landscape of scrapes, cuts and bruises. And a broken arm, today.
Hours of your obsessive hair-stroking will transform your kid’s usual scruffy mop into a sleek, Lego-esque helmet. It’s a good thing they wheel him off for surgery when they do, otherwise you’d probably start stroking a bald patch into his hair.
- As well as being incredibly grateful for your support network of family and friends who swoop in and provide backup (most especially your own Mum, who calmly takes responsibility for the confused, upset toddler you’ve left behind), you need to give more credit to teachers, paramedics, ED nurses, wardspeople, anaesthetists, paediatric nurses and doctors. Everyone is without fail kind, empathetic and respectful of Boy Child’s justifiable (and less so) emotional displays. From the radiographer with a Prep kid of her own who compares notes with Boy Child about what sight words he’s on; to the wardsman who recognises you wandering the halls during the surgery and asks how ‘the big fella’ is doing before pointing you towards the secret waiting place with lounges, TV and coffee (outside the maternity ward, of course); to the anaesthetist who sings him off to sleep with the Mario Bros theme… these people know how to care for children and their parents when they really need it.
- Kids are resilient. You’ve always known this and sagely pronounced it whenever one of your offspring has engaged in adventurous play or daredevilry. What you haven’t concretely understood until today is that (to take some fabulous Ani DiFranco lyrics entirely out of context), your kid also lives in a breakable, take-able body, and no matter how tough he is, you can’t be certain of his safety. Things might go wrong. He might get broken. This knowledge now catches you at unexpected moments and sharply takes your breath away.
They’ve patched him up. He’s fine this time, although devastated that his Mario Kart game is going to suffer until the cast comes off. Already he thinks he’s invincible again; so far today I’ve had to stop him from doing one-handed burnouts down the hallway on his sister’s tricycle, balancing on the edge of the bath to reach his toothbrush, and slam-dancing in his father’s workboots*. Clearly my own recovery may take a little longer than his.
*Edited to add: jumping on the trampoline, and using a lunch esky as a wobbly step-stool. This child is going to be the death of me.