My boys are growing quickly, but every so often I get a glimpse of their lingering babyhood, like Jack’s bobble head.
He is the smallest in his class, and we live in a Hispanic population where short is normal. Yesterday his class filed into chapel after the kindergarteners, and I wondered how in the world he would grow big enough to be one next year.
But he will. He will grow.
I am reminded of my favorite quote from Rousseau:
The days are long, but the years are short.
And so is Jack, for now.
With Max it is always heads.
Heads. Heads. Heads. A parent’s least favorite body part to be injured is my little one’s most common ailment. His current trauma took place a few days ago. Leaning back on my bed, he missed a pile of pillows and plopped his head on the right angle of our window sill.
It sounded just like a coconut cracking open.
My husband heard it across the house. I was sitting right next to him and immediately embraced him. He screamed and wiggled as he tried to climb out of his pain. Seconds passed; he told me he was bleeding.
I pulled my hand away from the back of his head and it was covered in blood.
Hysteria ensued. Max went into full meltdown mode while my husband and I tried to assess the situation and calm him simultaneously. Towel after towel filled with blood. We needed to go to the hospital, something which further upset Max. He was there just eight months ago getting four stitches on his forehead.
Not again, he kept repeating. Not again.
I couldn’t stop the bleeding; that was not my job, but I did have to stop his heart from gushing out of control. I got down on my knees in front of him.
Look at me, I said quietly. Seriously. He did. His screaming halted. He knew he needed to hear my words.
This is a horrible thing that happened to you. It is very, very bad, but we have a solution. We will go to the children’s hospital where the doctors will fix you. There is a solution. This is a horrible thing, but we can fix it, and we will.
His face, usually so obstinate as he holds his ground, acquiesced. Completely. Softly. I saw him put his faith, his whole bleeding heart, inside of his mother’s protection. He let go of trying to control the situation and let me pick up his load. It was almost a tangible transfer of power. Relief swept over his little face. Finally, he was able to accept comfort.
That’s beautiful, my husband murmured.
It was just one of those moments when the clear light of love pierces through the ordinary and life is heightened as we step into our best selves. Andres and I decided to both accompany him to the hospital, so I could sit in the back with Max while he drove. Jack didn’t want to be left behind with a neighbor and I knew he would feel afraid if we forced the issue, so the whole family rallied to caravan to the hospital.
Andres held Max as I scurried around packing a quick bag. The boys and I needed warmer clothes for the chilly hospital, some quilts, a water bottle, and a few books. Jack quietly gathered up Max’s most beloved stuffed animals and put them in the bag without being asked.
As we drove down to the hospital, I remembered the first time I went there. Max was nine days old. He had a very large fontanel which baffled his pediatrician. I took him to the basement of the hospital to have his little brain tested by ultrasound just after dawn.
I was alone and felt it.
He was quiet, sleepy, and cooperative. So good, in fact, that after the test, the tech asked me if she could bring in a student to observe. She was nice and I lapped up my son’s compliment, so I wanted to please her. I wouldn’t have minded if the student attended the actual test, but didn’t feel it was right to repeat the procedure on my week old child. After a deep breath I gently told her as much in my trembling new mom voice.
It was the first time I ever advocated for my child.
Here we are again, I thought as we pulled up to the ER. The rest of the evening was just a normal trip to the ER, if such a thing exists.
I am a great person in emergencies. It’s one of my strengths. If there is ever an apocalypse, seek me. I have a knack for cutting through frenzy and zeroing in on solutions. My only hint of panic came when filling out the paperwork. For a few seconds numbers flew out of my head. I couldn’t remember my husband’s phone number, or, shockingly, my own social security number. I laughed at the small crack in my otherwise unflappable armor.
Because Max has thick curly hair, the doctors decided to use staples instead of stitches. They called them silver band aids. When the nurse and the doctor spoke to Max, his eyes opened wide. He nodded, answered questions, and smiled at their jokes. He approached the process with bravery and cooperation.
Andres held him when they stapled 6 silver band aids into his head. Unneeded, I turned my face away. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Jack quietly held on to Max’s lovey during the procedure, leaving his own abandoned on a chair.
That night Max had a slumber party with me and Andres bunked with Jack. Before closing our eyes, Max confessed a secret to me: Silver band aids are better than stitches.
Good to know.
The next day I kept Max close. He wavered between being fine and lashing out. His head was still mixed up. Often, I pulled him into my arms because although he was back on his feet, he wasn’t ready to stand alone. His anger was a pathetic mask to rebuff his pain.
I held him and he wept, confused and hurt. My nose whiffed the scent of his fresh blood, still not entirely washed away. The doctor explained that scalps bleed a lot. How strange it smelled. How primal.
I can’t get the scent out of my nose.
It both attracts and repels me, but it lingers past reason. It rose to the surface and won’t simply be rinsed away.
That human element containing every spec of DNA, the composite of my and my husband’s bloodlines, Max’s genetic blueprint, flavors every breath I take with its resilience and fragility.
Oh, my love. Oh, my stars.