When my husband Josh and I got married, we were no strangers to the injuries of childhood. We’d watched ourselves or our siblings be taken in for stitches, knew the signs of concussion, etc. It was just part of growing up. We didn’t have bubble wrap, bike helmets, or helicopter moms in our childhood. We had cool stories to go with our scars.
This was a good thing, because son #2, Sean, came out a clone of his father in so many ways.
Sean walked at eight months. I may have cried a little at that, because I knew that soon I’d be chasing him around everywhere. Sure enough, at 14 months he was climbing out of the crib in a showcase of pure upper body strength. I had to call Poison Control because there was no place high enough to put something, he could scale things like a tiny monkey. He was the toddler dashing up the tall ladder at the park to go down the slide, while other mothers gasped in horror and I just spotted him with resigned acceptance.
Really, it’s a wonder we weren’t in the ER more with this child. But he led a charmed life and bounced well.
One Sunday morning, the boy’s luck ran out.
I don’t really know what happened. I was in the bathroom getting ready for church. Josh was in the bedroom getting changed. I had gotten almost 4 year old Collin and almost 2 year old Sean dressed for church already and they’d been playing in the living room. I heard the crash. Then the crying, and then Collin yelling “MOOOM! Sean fell! There’s blood!”
I sighed and left the bathroom, and found Sean sprawled on the carpet. I glanced around, taking in the situation and couldn’t figure out what he’d hit, or how. Later, after grilling the not very informative older brother and just plan guessing, we figured that Sean must have been “surfing” again on the gliding ottoman that went with the gliding rocking chair we just got, lost his balance, and whacked his head off the coffee table (but not the fire place, because I had padded that sucker with quilts – I was no fool.)
I picked up the toddler to find his forehead bleeding.
My training as a youth kicked in.
I went to the linen closet and grabbed a dark washcloth. I kept washcloths in dark colors specifically for washing off bloody wounds, because blood stains wouldn’t show. I carried the bleeding screaming toddler into the bathroom, wetted the washcloth, pressed it on his forehead for a moment, lifted it, watched the gaping wound swell with blood and said “Yeah, that’s going to need stitches.” as I pressed the washcloth back onto the boy’s forehead.
“IN A MINUTE!”
Josh rushed into the hallway where I stood with the crying bleeding wounded child. “Here, give him to me.” he said.
I eyed Josh, in his brand new Ralph Lauren polo, one of a few that his grandparents bought him to help out us poor young things, so he could be dressed proper for work. I eyed that new polo, knew the cost of it, and knew blood was really hard to get out of clothes, no matter how nice they were.
“Take off your shirt!” I ordered.
Josh looked at me, confused.
“It’s new! Take it off, he’ll get blood on it.”
Josh caught up to my thought process and took off his shirt before taking Sean (whose clothes were already bloody, thanks head wounds!), assessing the situation and going “Yep, he’ll need stitches.” He decided to sit outside with Sean so that Sean wouldn’t bleed on the carpet while I got shoes on and a shirt for Josh that Sean could bleed on.
This is the point of the story where Josh will tell how as he sat there with his bloody little son, he felt he should have a photo taken of that moment. So that on days when work was frustrating or something wasn’t going his way, he could have that visual reminder of what a real bad day looked like. A real bad day was sitting on the porch with your toddler who is covered in blood.
We left Collin with our lovely neighbor, hopped in the car, and went to the ER. I worried that they’d take one look at my large pregnant self (as I was largely pregnant with Miriam at the time) and not notice the blood-coated little boy who was now calm and more upset that we kept putting the washcloth on his forehead than anything else. But we got checked in, and were seated right across from the triage nurse, as she wanted to keep an eye on Sean to make sure he didn’t pass out or something as we waited for someone who could do stitches to arrive. Apparently from Europe, because we sat there for what felt like forever.
Apparently the Earth was slightly off its axis that morning, because every other patient coming into the ER was a woman of a certain age who had done something to her ankle/foot/leg while getting ready for church. They’d come up to the triage nurse, all perfume and Southern manners, start explaining how they were just going down the stairs in their new shoes, and must have stepped the wrong way…and then they’d spot Sean, in his bloody polo and big eyed sad face. “Oh My Goodness! That poor child! Please, take that little boy in before me! I can wait!”
Meanwhile, Sean wanted off my lap. I gingerly set him on the black and white checkered floor. Sean took one step, then another, then started jumping from one square to another.
I eyed my husband, and the scar under his eye from when he fell out of a tree at age six. “He gets this from you.”
Josh did not argue that fact.
Finally it was our turn. We went back to a room, and the nurse looked at Sean’s wound, and then started cleaning it.
Now, I am not one to faint at the sight of blood. That’s just not how I was raised. But I was also pregnant. And suddenly, I turned white, then a shade of green. Josh noticed instantly and said “Why don’t you go home and get the boy clean clothes.”
I nodded and left before I gave the nurse more work.
When I got back, I heard the angry cries of my son. I looked at the one nurse. “Yeah, that’s mine.”
She laughed. “Boy is he mad!”
She showed me into the room, where they were releasing Sean from the papoose board – a special board of velcro straps to hold a child still when they need stitches. Sean didn’t care for this board. Sean actually at one point, got one arm free and slapped at the doctor as she stitched his forehead – Josh also likes that part of the story because breaking free of the papoose is no easy trick. The moment he was set free, he was his laid back little self again – but with four stitches across the forehead.
Two days later, the boy was running down the hall and slid on the carpet straight into the front door, forehead first, gaining a huge lump just to the side of the stitches.
The day after that, he fell down the front steps, face first, scraping his chin, cheek, and nose up on the concrete.
The day after that was Collin’s birthday party. I made my mother-in-law – an avid photographer – swear on a stack of Bibles that she wouldn’t take pictures of Sean at the party, because I wanted no memory of my poor child’s battered little face. I was on the phone with a friend, trying to explain how awful Sean looked.
“It can’t be that bad!”
“It looks like we took him by the ankles and bashed his face into a brick wall!”
When my friend got to my house for the party, she took one look at Sean, gasped, and said “OMG he looks AWFUL!”
“I TOLD YOU!”
Amazingly, Sean is now the most laid back chilled teenager – to the point that sometimes we poke him with a stick to make sure he’s still alive. I guess he got all his dare-devilness out in his youth.
Oddly enough, he doesn’t hold the family record for Most Stitches. That one actually goes to my most cautious child. Go figure.
This is part of the 31 Days writing challenge…to find out more about it or read more from this challenge, check out the 31 Days page!