Who hasn’t done something in life that made them think, gosh, wouldn’t it be great if I could just turn back time because that was a bad idea. Take the time I went shopping and was talked into some glamour shots. Regrettable. Yes. My sister has taken immense pleasure over the years at bringing those photos out at the most inopportune times. In fact, this one I pulled off her college roomate’s Facebook page (seriously?!). But other than those 2, I can’t imagine many of you are thinking my decision wise.
Similarly, earlier this week, Zoe and I were sitting in a hospital room, watching an endless stream of movies and woefully regretting our own decisions. Hers was to climb to the outside of the rope thingy at the playground and try to jump off. Mine was to shrug my shoulders and say, “Go on then.” Hmmm.
I believe in encouraging kids to live adventurously, push their limits and try new things. In this case, her arm caught on a rope, she flipped around and landed in a rather unfortunate heap on the ground. I promise you, the actual scene will play in my head for weeks, every time I close my eyes or tape another piece of moleskin over a rough spot on her cast. It was pretty awful to watch. Rationally, I know it was just a matter of time. For a kid like Zoe, there is a certain inevitability about wearing pink fiberglass for 6 weeks one (or more) summer(s). And at first, she was rather quick to point out that it “was your fault Mommy,” which is probably what I said about 100 times in those first few terrifying moments. It is my job to protect her and intervene when her 5 year-old mind comes up with a dumb idea. On the other hand, it didn’t seem that high. She had done it before. And sometimes I’m tired of being the “fun-sucker” Mom. No trampolines. No latex balloons. Helmets all the time. I still hate watching the girls eat whole grapes. Anyway you get the point. The ground was soft. It could easily have been perfectly fine.
And then it just wasn’t.
But later, after I made sure that she had no other life threatening injuries. After I had wrapped her arm in a “splint” made of our jackets, both to stabilize the arm and reduce pain as well as keep her and all other children at the playground from seeing her obviously deformed limb. After I had made sure she had a pulse and could wiggle her fingers and then called into my own emergency department to tell them we were on our way. After the orthopedist and I got her properly splinted and X-rayed. And after I was tucking her into a hospital bed with plans for surgery the next morning. After all that she looked at me and said, “Mommy you made the right decision. It is important to try new things and take chances sometimes.”
So there you go. We’re spending the summer building Legos. Gymnastics camp is cancelled. Zoe will pretty soon grow weary of requests to sign her cast. It will start to stink and itch. But just when we can’t stand another day, she will be back in the swimming pool, one very white arm splashing about. It’s probably a good life lesson and in the end, her injury isn’t the worst she could have sustained.
But still. Rationally I know that letting our children take risks is good. It’s a matter of judging those risks and deciding which ones are just a little “too risky.” But in the end, no matter what you do, kids will fall down. They will break bones. They will need stitches. On the other hand, the horror of watching your own child falling and seeing the look of terror on her face is something that sticks with your for a long time. If it’s happened to you though, I hope you take some comfort in my 5 year-old words: It is important to take chances. That’s how we learn and grow.
And in Zoe’s case, get a pink cast.