When Miles was a few weeks old, I tried trimming his fingernails and clipped his wee finger. It bled. I felt traumatized and I wept.
Several sons later, I really can’t drum up empathy for a wound unless it gapes and appears to need stitches.
We chose a non-reactive pediatrician on purpose so we’d learn to know when things were really emergencies, and over the years I think he’s taught me well. If our kids hit their head, we look to see if they cry right away and then stop soon after. And then we go on about our day, confident in our knowledge that “out is better than in” and also that head/mouth wounds bleed a lot.
We’ve learned what heights our kids can drop from without breaking any parts, and so we just stopped noticing when they jump from tables or staircases, particularly if they’ve created some sort of cushion for themselves at the bottom.
We keep a trampoline in the living room, for crying out loud.
So my kids fall down a lot and hit each other with things a lot and Miles went to picture day this year with a black eye and a missing tooth. This same cherub began his school career as a chronic bolter, escaping both Whole Foods and school with equal abandon until I barely even had a heart attack anymore when a store announced “Code Adam.” I learned he was usually heading toward the potato chips.
Sure, the first few years of parenthood, these episodes drove me to seek marijuana and I could often be found rocking in a corner, trying desperately to calm down. Now? I’ve really learned that children are very, very sturdy. I barely pause the Gilmore Girls when they get hurt.
So, this morning, the school nurse called to tell me Miles hit his head on the bus on the way to gifted. “There’s a large lump,” she told me. I immediately began thinking about how I could tactfully tell her This is nothing we don’t see on a daily basis without sounding like a horrifying person.
She gave him ice and asked if I thought I should get him to monitor his progress and I just didn’t answer, because I was desperately trying to decide how to explain how little this head bump actually mattered. She said she’d text me a picture and I had to go because another school nurse was calling to tell me that Felix had split his lip open in gym class.
Now, Felix is more sensitive. He needs a lot of cuddling when these things happen, but not so much that I’m willing to sacrifice Oren’s nap to go fetch him from school. “Do you think it needs stitches,” I asked.
For some reason, Felix’s injury occurring at the same time as Miles’s made me even less inclined to respond to either child. Both were in the hands of teachers who were eagerly giving out hugs and ice packs. Both were enjoying Mac N Cheese day in the cafeteria. How could I possibly go drag a napless toddler through the rain to retrieve them from this loving cocoon?
I don’t want to sound harsh and uncaring, but I mostly don’t care about either of these head wounds. For one thing, having had a husband in the ICU and losing my mom has really, really shifted my perspective on emergencies. For another, I have a lot of things to do today and I can’t do them with my children at home. I need them to be at school, where they need to learn about math and literacy.
So head wound and split lip? I’m very grateful my tax dollars support a nurse practitioner to watch over the boys and make sure they continue to be fine with a little ice, a few hugs, and proper documentation.