22 Nov that’ll leave a mark
“Bad bad day for Miles”
“I think we should glue it. Do we have any glue?”
Kris and I are hunched over 4-year-old Miles, staring at his latest injury—a laceration on his forehead that’s gushing blood. The cut is small, barely a quarter of an inch long, but it’s gaping.
I’m pinching it closed, letting go, and watching it pop back open again. pinch, pop. Miles is wailing, “I don’t want to go to the doctor! I don’t want staples!”
He should know. He had staples – two of them in the back of his head – after a fall during a camping trip when he was two. The ER doctor didn’t numb him, reasoning the needle would be more traumatic than two quick shots of a staple gun. Two years later, he remembers the pain.
His white hair is turning crimson. The blood, diluted by tears, is dripping onto his shirt. Bronwynn, 6, is freaking out now too. “Is Miles going to the hospital?! I have to make him a card! You can’t leave until I make him a card! I LOVE HIM!” She’s running laps around the house, gathering paper and colored pencils.
Kris suggests the glue, but to me, it’s absurd. Does he want me to drench the wound in industrial glue? Elmer’s?
“I think it needs stitches,” I say, “otherwise it will scar.”
As far as injuries go, this one was predictable. It was almost bedtime, and the kids were rowdy. B suggested they “exercise” before bed, which involved spinning in circles in the master bedroom while I folded laundry nearby. Miles became dizzy and toppled over, hitting his head on the corner of the bed frame.
Before I saw the cut, I knew it was bad. The sound of his head clunking against the wood was chilling. He gasped and bellowed, cupping his eye and forehead with his chubby little hand. I said a quick prayer that his eye was intact.
Once I saw what we were dealing with, I was relieved… and confused. No amount of frantic Internet searching will tell you whether your child’s cut needs stitches. Not in cases like this where the cut is small, but deep. So, like parents do, Kris and I debated: We could take him to urgent care and risk ruining our night, a hefty co-pay, and subjecting him to stress and waiting-room germs for something relatively minor. Or, we could stay home and risk the cut reopening, getting infected, and leaving a nasty scar.
This isn’t the only time lately I’ve wished for a crystal ball or some parenting oracle who will tell me exactly what I should do. Bronwynn started kindergarten in August, and it’s been a difficult transition. Seven-hour days, an overcrowded classroom (including several kids with behavioral issues), and a curriculum that emphasizes weekly testing and rote memorization has chipped away at her emotionally. She comes home most days and cries, behavior we’ve never seen from her.
I’ve solicited advice from a few trusted friends, mentors, and education professionals. They’ve listened and shared their opinions about the best way for children to learn, the pros and cons of public education versus homeschooling versus charter or private schools. But, in the end, no one except Kris and I can decide what’s best for our girl. We’re making adjustments at home to better support her, and we’re weighing our options.
I could write in circles about those options (Do we withdraw her? Move her next year? Stick it out?), but what I come back to is this: There’s no perfect educational model. No holy grail. The best-rated school may be the worst for your child if it doesn’t match her learning style. Part of me thinks I should just be grateful that we have options (so many families don’t) and the resources to support our children and educate them. I am truly thankful for that. But I also feel I can’t sit by and watch my kid’s bright personality fade.
It’s a lonely time. I want to connect with others and solicit advice and support, but I also need to protect my daughter, who doesn’t know that we’re considering moving her. So, I’ve kept most of this parenting struggle to myself.
In a sense, Kris and I are staring at two open wounds. Neither is life threatening. We know the kids will be fine… but they’re in pain, which makes our hearts ache too. We want to fix it. We want to minimize the scars. And no one can tell us exactly how to do that.
For Miles, at least, the resolution is quick. Kris drives him to urgent care, where they clean the cut and determine it can be secured with Steri-Strips and… yes, glue. But at least it is sterile, medical-grade glue, and Miles comes home smiling, his tongue stained purple by a lollipop the nurses gave him.
With Bronwynn? I’m trying to keep her days as routine and low-stress as possible. We’re supplementing her education at home, providing plenty of unstructured, creative playtime, and offering her physical outlets (swimming, her passion) to get her body moving after sitting in a chair all day. We snuggle and talk through the feelings. We make healthy lunches together. I volunteer in the classroom. I walk her the two blocks to the gate each morning and give her a kiss and squeeze and a few tips for avoiding the kids who act out.
I am heartened when I look at the get-well card she made for her brother as Kris whisked him off to urgent care. Beneath an elaborate drawing of our family is the first sentence she’s ever written unassisted: “I luv you Miles.”
That was two weeks ago, and now I’m finding her writing all over the house, and each little bit of commentary encourages me. She’s learning so much more than sight words and math facts – she’s learning how to thrive in a broken, imperfect world.