When I was in college, I read a newspaper column in which a mom was advised that “if you raise boys, expect to spend time with the principal, the sheriff, and the ER.” I found this extremely funny. I was barely an adult myself, had no brothers, and was a long time away from ever being a mom. While I was aware that my boyfriend (now husband) had many checkered adventures in his past that probably skirted the “time with the sheriff” category, he had never been in serious trouble, and nor had any of our male friends. Foolish trouble, yes. Dangerous trouble? Yeah. But not serious-trouble trouble.
When I found out I was having a boy, my first, unthinking, gut reaction was, “Oh, no.” My husband said, “We are doomed.” Not a promising sign from the only person in the room who actually knew what boys were like. Not a promising sign at all. We had been picturing raising a girl. Of course, we love our son to pieces and would not trade him for anything, but at that moment, girls seemed a lot…easier.
Our son is kind, and generous, and caring, and even thoughtful sometimes. He is also six, in elementary school, surrounded by boys his same age, and apparently completely incapable of ever sitting still, following a direction, listening, or acting in any sort of sensible way at any time. (In addition, he is prone to shouting “Bang!,” playing robbers, and thinking that the words “butt” and “fart” are the most hilarious words ever invented, but that should probably be the subject of another post altogether.) What is the upshot of all of this? Our kind, caring, generous, thoughtful young child has turned into a part-time hellion, and we are learning the truth contained in that old newspaper column. In the space of one last week, our son was in trouble twice with his after-school extracurricular teachers, first for being a pain and a disruption in class, and second for doing something thoughtlessly (throwing a ball through a crowded gym) and responding obstinately and badly when he was told that he cannot do dangerous things like that. He has ended up in the principal’s office (and not even for the first time this year); this time because it seemed like a good idea for he and his friends to liberally paper the bathroom walls and ceilings with wet paper towels that they were flinging around. He was in trouble with his teacher three times for being uncooperative, disrespectful, and stubborn in class. He had to have lunch in the office. He had to do his reading work during recess. The calls and meetings went on and on and on. The punishments at home got increasingly complex, until we all kind of lost track of which punishment was for which infraction and my son just sadly remarked, “Oh, yeah. I am busted,” whenever he wanted to do something that was off the table for the duration. (I never, ever, ever thought I would say the words, “You are so grounded” to a six year old. I mean, he never goes anywhere without me. What the heck could I ground him from?) So, yeah, we have been spending time with the principal. He’s a nice guy. He looks pained when we look pained. But I never want to see him again in my life.
Then, there are the injuries. The fact that my young son is always covered by a variety of mysterious bruises does not worry me. (Are the mom police going to come for me for admitting that publicly?) I was the same way as a child, and I still more often than not have some random bruises lurking around somewhere at any given time. My family has never splashed too deeply in the coordination gene pool. I get that. Even the occasional cut or scrape, while resulting in a series of dramatic screams, moans, and Oscar-worthy sobs, varying in pitch and intensity solely as a result of the closeness of my proximity and how attentive and/or worried I look, can be dealt with. I carry Band-Aids in my purse at all times. (I am the go-to playground Mom for all children who want Band-Aids, and really, who doesn’t want to dress up a perfectly innocent scratch with that little paper wrapped badge of battle?) I can deal with blood. If I can cope with a gushing, sheet-soaking nosebleed at 2am, I can deal with the playground injuries. And I have a magic Mommy only skill, which is to miraculously heal all wounds and dry all tears with a small washcloth and three ice cubes. Yes, it has to be three, or the magic does not work. Don’t argue; it’s my magic.
Yesterday, though, we entered new territory. The ER. Our son was happily playing on top of his desk chair, flinging his parachute guy as high as he could and watching him float down. In retrospect, this is obviously a bad idea. Obviously. No sane person lets a child who cannot hold still stand on top of a chair. This is a recipe for disaster. But at the time, it seemed perfectly reasonable. The chair was level and he was climbing on and off carefully. In my defense, I have not slept more than a couple of hours in a row all week and I am a bit on the hazy side. But still, as I said, everyone knows you don’t climb on furniture. For heaven’s sake, my own mom yelled that at me approximately 35,000 times a year.
And now I know why.
Chairs slip, and however much they believe differently, small boys are NOT immune to gravity. Your life flashes by you when you are in a bad accident, and your child’s life flashes by when you watch him fall in slow motion, unable to catch him because there is a sofa and a table between the two of you and you cannot move fast enough.
The crack of his head hitting the tile floor was sickening. The screams slightly after were too.
After much parental fussing from Mom and Dad, extra ice for the head injuries, and a rapidly improvised concussion test devised with a flashlight, the screaming stopped and we went to the hospital. Of course, being a boy, he rallied by the time we got to the parking lot, skipped in through the entrance, and happily regaled the nurses with his tale of injuries and woe, complete with dramatic arm gestures and many story-telling flourishes. If we had given him a bit more time to explain, I fully expect that he would have added some interpretive dance and possibly a song. We felt a bit silly, but still wanted to make sure that everything was okay. There had been that sickening crack, and the screams.
The doctor and the nurses were very kind and did not laugh at us. We are very fortunate to have a renowned children’s hospital nearby and it has its own ER, so we got to deal with pediatric specialists who are used to weird children’s injuries and worried parents. After a while, I even stopped worrying that some scary men with clipboards and cheap suits were going to appear and take me away for letting him stand on that darn chair in the first place. The doctors checked him over thoroughly and determined that he had a mild head injury with no concussion, and not even any subtle signs of serious head trauma. He has bruising over his right kidney, but no signs of internal bleeding, kidney damage, or other internal damage. (And yes, he did go around school this morning telling people “There was no blood in my pee, so that was good.”) Everything was okay, expect for possibly my nerves, and we all went home again. Bedtime was missed by a couple of hours, but otherwise, no harm done. Apparently, for medical professionals, a small boy flying off a chair backwards is not a particularly unusual occurrence. So now I know the ins and outs of the pediatric ER, for future reference. Two out of three of the predictions have come true.
I’m not looking forward to meeting the sheriff though.