I win mother of the year award.
And that’s only partly sarcastic. Why? Because I’m that mother who believes in exploring and testing boundaries. Which will inevitably end in injury.
And Monday that injury happened to be a gash in Vivian’s forehead.
Twice a week Vivian attends preschool, and I get a few hours to workout, work, or just in general get a break. Every day we leave school Vivian walks along a retaining wall, without my assistance.
This particular day Vivian and I both looked towards a woman we were passing, she missed her step, and her forehead hit brick as her right side stepped off the wall.
Mom instinct kicked in as I pulled her up, wrapped her in my arms, and began low level triage.
Luckily blood is not something that bothers me. Ever see how much a head wound bleeds?
First goal. Establish if stitches were needed. With my fingers and shirt sleeve, I dabbed the blood as the woman searched her car for tissues and ever present baby wipes.
I say ever present as every mother, except me, seems to remain well stocked.
Despite a V shaped gash, Vivian’s wound was superficial at best. However, the goose egg of a bump was rising and turning purple in seconds. Stitches not needed, but ice and comfort of home were necessary.
Shooing away suggestions of getting a bandage from school, as the bleeding had mostly stopped, I wrapped Vivian in my arms and soothed her screams walking to the car. In no more than a couple minutes from the incident, crying stopped and we were on our way home.
Once home wound was cleaned, bandaged, and iced, and the injury became a battle scar in which Vivian took pride.
Which got me thinking. What is the best way to handle a child’s injury?
Personal response aside, meaning does the parent freak out or become objective, how we are taught to handle our physical and emotional injuries dictates our trauma response as adults. With emotional injuries, I make every attempt to allow Vivian her feelings, talking them through with her when she calms down.
I do not want my life of emotional repression for her.
I say every attempt because toddlers have intuitive timing for tantrums. Meaning worst time for us is guaranteed tantrum time.
But physical injuries are different. I’m not exactly in the camp of shake it off or ignoring it, since I do think there are repercussions of those messages, but I am definitely not in the swoop-up-and-save camp. Which goes hand in hand with the life in a bubble camp.
Instead my message is usually comfort, ouch that hurts, but pain goes away take a deep breath. Seems consistent with my slight leaning towards rearing a free range child.
But after doctoring and comfort occurred, I started wondering about my own response to physical pain.
I’ve mentioned before about dislocating my ankle during yard work. Pretty sure I’m mentioned it was not the first time.
I am an injury prone individual, more in my head than the physical world. Childhood was filled with bumps, bruises, and odd injuries like glass in my knee or deviated septum (no broken arms for me).
Outside required medical intervention, pain and injuries were dealt with a things can be worse philosophy. Hey dad, I have a headache. I could break your leg for you. Umm, okay.
As a child I didn’t understand the message of don’t complain, there are worse options. I interpreted it differently, as an adult I think I understand the point. I think.
Life for my body did not get any easier with my ex. Between drinking and fights, my body took quite the beating. With frequent ankle sprains due to uncoordinated walking.
None of which received medical attention. Sprained ankles hurt like a bitch, but other than ice and drugstore bandages nothing can be done.
To the point now where my tendon serves no purpose in my left ankle, causing my ankle to pop out randomly and on three occasions being dislocated at a 90* angle.
I went in the first time this happened. Insurance denied an MRI despite a chipped bone. No record of escalating injury.
Second time, I went in knowing I needed it on record. Since I realigned my ankle myself and the doctor did not see the original injury, diagnosis sprain. Yup, not getting my tendon repaired.
Third time, no point in going in. Pop it back and ice it up.
I can’t help but wonder if my message to Vivian, physical pain goes away, isn’t a softer version of life could be worse. Am I teaching my daughter to triage her own injuries, only seeking medical help the first time a severe trauma is experienced?
And I guess those are questions that might never be answered, or not in a way I will notice. Certainly, there can be no proven causation between my parents’ way of handling childhood pain and my own self care choices.
As one friend says, parenting is just one big social experiment.
Once reality set in, that motherhood was happening for me, I had two goals: her survival to 18, and rearing an empathetic person. And both goals will likely lead to injury and pain. For both of us.
But I will not feel guilty she hurt herself pushing her own boundaries, nor will I likely change my approach. Despite the looks and judgement received.
Because one thing I’ve learned is this shit is hard. Unless you’ve written a manual, step out of my way.
And even if you have, I wouldn’t read it anyway. I’m stubborn and obnoxious like that.