“Nooo! Not again!” I shouted as my son burst into tears, looking woefully up at me, covering his mouth with his hand but failing to stop the blood from seeping through his fingers. “How do you keep doing this?!” I demanded of him, scooping him up off the front porch and rushing inside. After rinsing his mouth out in the bathroom sink and checking for loose teeth, I had to see just how badly he had cut his lip. One look, and I immediately knew–we were heading to the ER.
When I called the pediatrician’s office, I made it clear that I was sitting right next to my son on the steps when he suddenly decided to grab the metal porch rail and forcefully swing himself around—making instant contact with the opposite side. “I swear I only looked away for two seconds!” I pleaded my case to the nurse. “It’s ok,” she calmly assured me, “it’s just a phase.”
After several phone calls back and forth with the nurse, we failed to determine what his doctor could actually do for the busted lip, so I decided not to take him in—thus narrowly averting our third emergency room visit this year. (Fortunately, his lip was almost completely healed on its own within a week.)
Less than a month before, my nearly-four-year-old wild child had been running through our church’s social hall and jumping off the stage. He rounded a corner too quickly, tripped, and got a deep gash on his forehead. A doctor in the congregation took a quick look at him and recommended we take him to the emergency room since he would probably need stitches. This incident happened less than nine months after my first visit to the ER with Elliott. That time, he had fallen off a chair, got tangled up with my parents’ dog, and somehow got a nasty scratch across his cheek. When I called the doctor’s office and described the incident, the nurse confirmed—you guessed it—that we should head to the ER.
The waiting (and more waiting) in the emergency room treatment didn’t seem to bother my son too much. However, when it was time for the medical procedure to begin, the doctors, medical instruments, and bright lights quickly transformed him into one very upset and squirmy little boy. “Wow, he’s strong!” one of the male hospital staffers said to me during the forehead gash visit as he attempted to wrap him—burrito-style—in a sheet to keep him from flailing about while they stitched him up. That was clearly not going to work, so they actually had to give him some meds in order to calm him down. He was still conscious but very drowsy, a bit incoherent, and at long last—compliant.
It’s a bit of a scary thing to see your resilient, sweet, funny, (and willful) child so utterly vulnerable in that moment. This child who bounds out of bed at 6 in the morning, brimming with energy and laughter when it’s still dark outside, was now rendered groggy and helpless under the glaring fluorescent lights. I sat in a chair next to him (also feeling quite helpless) hugging his little body the best I could while the doctor worked to sew him up.
Elliott recovered fairly quickly from his stitches both times and barely slowed down in the following days and weeks. I daresay he did not learn any lesson about being more careful. However, with these three, blood-soaked incidents in less than a year, I have learned a few lessons of my own:
(1) I cannot tame this boy’s energy.
(2) I’m won’t be able to keep him from getting hurt without turning him into “bubble boy” and completely repressing his spirit.
I also know that while I may complain about his daredevil tendencies and occasional reckless behavior, I really wouldn’t want him any other way. If I could harness his feisty energy, I would never need another drop of caffeine. If I lived as fearlessly as he does, I’d be in my boss’s office right now demanding a raise. My son has a lot to teach me about joyfully embracing the everyday moments and truly sucking the marrow out of life (between bouts of spitting out blood).