Fearless is not so fearless anymore and I blame New York for that. Not the entire state, but one particular doctor in some Urgent Care Center near Pound Ridge.
Let me explain. I am not a bubble wrap mom. I let my boys be …. boys. I trust in their innate abilities, and believe that if I scare them with too many “be carefuls” they won’t be bold and push through boundaries and limits. Sometimes they get hurt. Yet of the six Urgent Care visits we have had only two were the result of reckless attempts at glory. Most of the time we get one or two staples because while roughhousing, Fearless banged his head. And yes, we are working on that.
That time in New York, we were visiting Joe’s family over winter break when Dreamer rushed out of a restaurant bathroom to tell me “mami, a brick fell on Fearless’ head.” Both boys had gone together, and that is where I found Fearless: sitting on the toilet with his pants around his ankles, blood trickling down his face, crying.
After an initial clean-up we realized it was Urgent Care material and set to the nearest one. We waited for a while, trying to piece together what happened. We gathered that while Dreamer was pooping (and sitting down … ewwwww), Fearless kept kicking a brick that apparently was used to prop the door open. When it was Fearless’ turn to poop, he sat down (again … ewwwww) and began messing with the brick. Dreamer took the brick and put it on top of the paper towel dispenser. Fearless got up, with his underwear around his ankles, hopped over to the paper towel dispenser, and jumped up to get the brick. This is when the brick fell and cracked on Fearless’ head who then returned to the toilet to finish his business, crying.
At the Urgent Care center, the Doctor said she was out of anesthetic cream but it would be easy to put the three required staples on Fearless’ head. We didn’t question her and as she proceeded, Fearless screamed a horrific, piercing, cry that shattered my soul. I have several physician friends, including our host in New York, who agreed the measure was somewhat draconian. Fortunately, the rest of the vacation went smoothly and this event was archived in our family memory. Until yesterday.
We are going through a rough patch with the boys, and they are somewhat wilder than usual. It’s been tough and I even tweeted about it (as if somehow tweeting makes it official):
First, I thought it was because last week was rough as my father was in the hospital. When I confronted Dreamer about not handing in his Spanish homework, he replied in his melodramatic tone:
“Neno is in the hospital, we have no food in the house, I missed golf class … how am I supposed to do Spanish homework?”
But things are smoother this week, and I actually made it to the supermarket. Yet their behavior at school continues to deteriorate. Tuesday each boy, independently, had the worst conduct card in the brief history of their educational careers. They both were designated the lowest possible conduct ranking.
Yay. Happy dance move.
That same day, after a very difficult time to get both into (and subsequently out of) swim class, we were walking home. They began to roughhouse again, hitting each other with their towels as if they were whips. Exasperated, I decided to walk ahead and calm myself down before I yelled at them in front of my entire building.
As I opened the door I heard a cry, and walked back to scold someone, anyone, for something. I saw Fearless, the one crying, on the floor. I ordered (because I was no longer speaking) him to get up and when he did I saw blood on his shoulder. I checked his head and saw the comparatively small gash.
When I told him we had to get back to the car to go to Urgent Care he began to scream:
“No, no, no, I am not going to Urgent Care. I hate the hospital. No, no, no.”
I managed to talk to him, and convince him to go. Apparently his head no longer hurt in the car, and we were actually laughing about getting a frequent visitor card for the Urgent Care. It was business as usual as far as I was concerned.
It was getting late so Joe stopped by to pick up Dreamer and take him home while Fearless and I stayed behind. This doctor did have anesthetic cream, and we were waiting for it to numb his head.
When the doctor returned and told him she was going to place the staple, Fearless freaked out.
And I don’t mean it in a cute, funny way.
He had a full blown panic attack. I am not exaggerating. His lower lip began to tremble and his body began to shake. He wasn’t scared; he was terrified. I tried to calm him by talking and holding him but he wouldn’t let me. He couldn’t hear me, and I was concerned he was going to run away.
The doctor, who I had liked up until that point said under her breath, “come on Fearless, I have other patients I need to see.” I turned to her and said “he can’t hear me, he is too scared.”
We remained in that uneasy struggle for about five eternal minutes. My son was stuck in his terrified world. Until something snapped and he calmed down enough to hear the doctor say that if the staple hurt, he could kick her. “Well that is odd,” I thought, but was grateful because Fearless belted a nervous laugh shrugging his shoulders. “Now really? I can kick you?” And she told him he could trust her. She then added “Doesn’t Mami always keep her promises?” To which Fearless, much to my dismay, said “no.”
“Well sometimes Mamis’ can’t keep promises but doctors do and I promise you can kick me if it hurts.”
I was happy Fearless had stopped, but I no longer liked this doctor.
I hugged Fearless tight, and he screamed as she placed the one required staple. He said it hurt, and the doctor said Fearless could kick her. Which he did … with all due respect.
Fearless went back to hugging me and we eventually made our way out of Urgent Care. He was fine, I was traumatized. I rarely feel as powerless as I did when I saw my son shaking in a panic. I realized I cannot take away my child’s fear, my presence alone was not enough to calm him and assure him. He said I broke promises. He doesn’t trust me.
The next day, when all was calm, I asked Fearless if he could hear me at the Urgent Care and he said yes. I asked him what I said, and he told me “that everything was going to be okay.” I asked if he believed me, to which he replied: “no, I knew it was going to hurt.”
Worst. Mom. Ever.
My son, at the tender age of six, knew I couldn’t solve his problem and spare him from pain. I don’t know if that is good or bad. Would he continue to be carefree and adventurous? Or would he not trust his own innate ability of jumping and climbing like a monkey knowing he could get hurt again?
That internal debate didn’t last long, as the following day Fearless was back to bouncing off the walls. I learned it’s okay to take the supermom cape off. Not only is it impossible to protect him from everything, I also can’t take away any physical pain. That is a hard lesson to learn, for both of us. So maybe instead of blaming New York, I should thank it for teaching us. Fearless is no longer fearless anymore … at least when it comes to head injuries.
What is your parenting style? How much risk do you allow your children to take?