So, my five-year-old fell right before I left for the writers’ conference in Boston, and I didn’t know that it was broken until the day I returned — almost a week later. Generally I suss out my feelings on how to react, but I felt so many things at once that it was hard to concentrate.
Part of me was Mother Bear: WHO BROKE MY CHILD? Part of me was indignant: None of my children have ever broken a single bone before, never had a trip to the emergency room (well, you know, except the whole cancer thing of the past three years), a mother can’t leave without something going wrong…blah blah blah.
You will notice that Sylvia is smiling in this picture.
My ballet moms at the Friday class are great. They asked me what happened. I was defensive. They were sympathetic and told me stories about how they or their children had broken bones. Ms. Pam came out and teased me about beating Sylvia. No problem.
At preschool the teachers let Sylvia show off her cast and gave her extra hugs. I love the Darling Ms. Debbie and the Caring Ms. Cathy. They called me to come in with Tylenol a couple days when she complained about her arm hurting. Here she is, waiting in the office for me.
You’ll notice that she is smiling.
At the orthopedic surgeon’s office I asked if her bones were brittle, if she needed more calcium. He shrugged and said she could take a multivitamin. Then he offered, “Kids have accidents, a lot depends on how they fall.”
It wasn’t me, I wasn’t with her. I don’t even know how she fell. I’m a good parent. Are you going to call Child Services? She has a twin. You can’t separate them. And, you certainly can’t have both.
Isabel and I talked. I understand that she was being careful, that she truly loves my children as her own family and we’ve known each other for a long time. She and I are good, but I still didn’t know how to answer when people asked what happened. I felt that I was being judged, that I was taking responsibility for her fall unless I specified that she was under someone else’s care, and that felt like I was still blaming.
And then at family swim I sat out with Sylvia while everyone else played in the pool. A mom I didn’t know pointed to Sylvia and said to her son, “Be careful or you’ll get hurt and have to get a cast like that girl.” She saw me looking and let her eyes drop before trying to be friendly. “Why is she in a cast?”
“She fell and broke two bones in her arm,” I said. “It was an accident.”
And there it was. Acceptance. Hearing someone else say out loud all of my insecurities made them POOF away. It was an accident. I know about accidents. On Friday I drove into my mailbox. I’ve made the turn into my driveway tens of thousands of times and have managed to miss the hulking brick structure and yet….not this time.
I’m off to sign my girl’s cast. See if I can get another grin and make this about her.