Claire was hurt yesterday. And Danielle and I were pretty freaked. I think more damage was done to our nerves and our confidence as able parents. Emotional train wrecks and seriously mentally traumatized. Claire was in her walker and wound up taking a trip down the half flight of stairs to the front entrance of our split level house. Fortunately, no rolling over. Unfortunately, she took a pretty hard face plant into the spinning Elmo head that shall henceforth be known as the Spinning Elmo Head…Of Death.
It’s a stair proof walker, with special grips to prevent it from careening wildly down stairs. We tested it. Multiple times. And then we got complacent. Chores were being done and both of us wound kvetching at each other about this and that. One minute later, kapow crash bang scream cry. Everything seemed in order at first. I was holding Claire, calming her down. Calming me down. Calming everyone down. And then I turned her so I could see the other profile view. I found a knot above her eye, formed in thirty seconds, the size of a golf ball. My baby’s head is a little bigger than a softball. This knot was green and enormous. Or, I don’t know, because the world pinpointed out for a moment or two.
Decisions were made.
I drove us all to the ER where they promptly checked her out. Nothing but a nasty bruise. A bruise that is still making me nauseous.
But, a CT scan for a ten month old baby? Single worst five minutes of my life. Since, that is, the previous single worst moment of my life: the split second it took to realize it wasn’t a dog clunking down the stairs. Overall, I’d say this has been the single hardest day of my life. I know I’m prone to exaggeration, and that the description of mine and Danielle’s take on the day is cliche. But, I am deadly serious when I say the worst soul wrenching, gut tightening, take me out back and shoot me, I’m a terrible person sort of day.
Best worst moment ever? Playing with my daughter in the ER and her laughing like a maniac saying "ahdahdah!" with a newly forming hideous bruise above her swollen shut eye. And then crying because she realized just how much that knot hurt. And then laughing again because she remembered just how fun her dad is. Somebody shoot me.
I knew parenting wouldn’t be easy. I knew we didn’t have a gate. I knew Claire was in her walker. But I also "knew" that last week she didn’t have the strength to overcome the stair proof walker grips. We tested it. And I know she can’t crawl on the wood floors and I know she can’t walk. At what point should I have overcome what I knew to be true and stopped her from riding the stairs?
Don’t let what you know get in the way of the obvious.
Kids learn quick. She won’t crawl, but she can climb over the back of the sofa by herself. Maybe she learned how to beat the grips. Maybe it was Some sort of ongoing research project for her. Searching for free moments. Lying in wait. Ready to pounce at the first opportunity. Or, maybe a dog playing gave her a nudge. We don’t know. But, anything can happen. Anything. Be prepared. You will make mistakes, they say. Because, you know, literally anything can happen.
What I didn’t know is how hard it is to come home from the ER with your kid and maintain the routine in her life that makes her happy and just, you know, keep on parenting. Who ever says anything about that whilst doling out parenting advice? Where’s the chapter on The Day After? There’s no more sheer terror to mask how guilty you feel. And, even though you feel like you can’t even justify feeding yourself you still have to be the same parent you were the day before yesterday. Because that’s what makes a good parent, right? Not quitting because mistakes were made. Not slacking off just because at the moment you may or may not be firmly convinced that you represent a danger to public safety.
So, Claire is now wrapped in bubble wrap and Velcro and we just stick her where she needs to be. The truth is, it’s amazing how appealing that option is. But, you know what else? My kid is a flipping trooper. She played and laughed the rest of the day. I never knew relief could make a person nauseous. Although, the bruise is over the eye that she likes to rub to indicate to everyone how tired she is, so that’s caused some problems. There may or may not have been some guarded chuckling about that.
I’ve decided to wear the ER bracelet until the bruise heals up. As a reminder. Always be where you are. Because even a slip for one minute is enough to give my daredevil of a child all the time she needs to engineer a trip to the ER.
Here’s to Fathers. This job is for life. Mistakes will be made. You can’t quit. And, it will hurt. But it’s the best damn thing you will ever do with your life.
-001- Days On The Job Since The Last Accident