Though not my typical read, I am currently midway through a parenting book. This one is different, in that it offers suggestions to one’s parenting style based on medical science, exploring what is going on in the minds of our children at various ages and using this as a method of discovery and solution to better nurture them. I believe it is in the introduction of the book that the author blows the cover on the theory that parenting is instinctual. What a relief, as I often have felt that there is nothing instinctual about the floundering feeling I sometimes have when caught flat footed by one of my children’s statements or actions - completely stymied on how to respond. Thankfully, what does seem to be instinctual, is the ability to assist in times of urgency.
Last Sunday we decided to have Indian for dinner...not a feast, but a simple Indian meal. The girls, dressed-up in princess finery and were playing princess wedding in the hallway, occasionally flitting in and out of the kitchen for a nibble or a taste as I cooked. Devi would ask, “ Are we having curry?” When I would reply yes, she would smile broadly and announce, “Yay! Mmmmm, I love curry!” And Treya would throw in her two cents with a “Me too!” We shared this same conversation all afternoon as the cooking commenced over the samosas and chutney, the cucumber pickle, the lassis and even the naan. By late afternoon, we all were prepped and ready for a tasty meal.
Almost an afterthought, I had invited our neighbor Carol to join us for dinner minutes before placing the dishes on the table. Pat had dashed upstairs to change from his outdoor work clothes and I busied myself adding another setting to the table, when I saw our guest approaching up the side walkway toward the front door. A competition began when I asked the girls to greet her. In a dash of giggles, they bolted toward the door. The next thing I heard was a loud bang and Devi’s cry. Rounding the corner it looked like she was holding her leg, so I scooped her up on my hip and as I asked if she was all right, I took the final 2 or 3 last steps to the door to let Carol enter. Pat met all of us, Carol, me and the girls, at the front door landing and caught a glimpse of Devi’s face over my shoulder. “Holy crap, Julie....Devi is hurt!” That's when I saw the huge gash in her cheek - split open wide - the size of a quarter.
Split in that moment into two personalities, my heart raced internally with a screaming fear as thoughts of the damage of the injury swirled in my head. Outwardly, God’s guiding hand provided a sense of calm as I carried Devi into the bathroom, seating her on the counter top. Grabbing a dark colored towel to hide the sight of blood, I dipped it into cold water and then applied pressure to the gaping wound. The laceration was so deep that no blood came. This was serious.
A united front, it is times like these where Pat and I perform at our best. Without uttering words, our mental plan was formed in unison. Pat stayed with Devi, readying her with coat and shoes, while I turned off the oven and stove top and asked Carol if she could sit with Treya (and feed themselves) while we took Devi to the ER. I gave a very concerned wide eyed Treya a kiss and told her to have good listening ears.
Yanking Treya’s car seat out of the car, I occupied the back seat beside the pumpkin pie so I was able to continue to apply pressure to her cheek. I could see her teeth chattering and she began to moan letting me know just how much it hurt. Singing! I would sing....every song I knew until we arrived at the ER. You Are my Sunshine, I’m a Little Teapot, The Cannibal King, Oh Gee How Happy I Feel, Alice the Camel, Monkeys on the Bed...on and on I sang, each tune helping to calm her a bit. Swiftly, we made it through triage and then took our place in the crowded waiting area. Devi sat in my lap and melted right into me, soaking up as much of my maternal composure as she could take in as I silently prayed for strength and a positive outcome. After awhile she managed to get herself together and even watched the fish tank and slightly inappropriate TV. Long past dinner time by now, she was starving, so we got a snack out of the vending machine, which is when Dev saw her reflection for the first time. She looked up to Pat and said, “I really hurt myself, didn’t I?” We also pieced together what had happened. Apparently, she had caught her foot on the hem of her princess dress-up gown while running to the door. Tripping, she fell into the leg of the tall sofa table adjacent to the door.
An hour later, we found ourselves in our own room with the RN explaining the procedure. A thick clear gel on cotton was applied directly to the wound and held in place with a pressure bandage that would disinfect and eventually numb the area. During the 1/2 hour it took to take effect, Devi kept adamantly complaining that she did not like this place and wanted to go home. I agreed. Me too. Dr. Paula returned to stitch her up, reassuring us that tables reach out and bite little girls all the time. So I held her hands for comfort, the RN held her head steady and daddy kept her antsy feet still and the doctor took her place at Dev’s head. Devi was sort of whining, but never once cried and was able to answer all their questions about what she likes to eat, where she was born and what she likes to do, while watching the curve of the fish hook needle pull at her tender skin, entering and exiting, sewing a total of five stitches a mere half inch from her right eye.
Devi was very brave and handled things really well and was rewarded with a purple otter pop. Because her eye looks like one of us cold cocked her...just about everyone we came in contact with asked her what happened, and told Pat and I to let Devi tell the story. I suppose that is protocol, but it sure did feel awkward or rather sad that that has had to become the protocol. When the stitches were complete we could see just how long (over an inch) the laceration was and were informed that there would most likely be a scar on her beautiful face. Hearing those words, felt like I had just been stabbed with a dagger.
Exhausted, we arrived home at 10:00pm and were met by a very concerned Treya, offering big hugs to her injured sister. By morning, the swelling in Devi’s black and blue cheek had moved up to her eye, swelling it nearly shut and leaving her with a shiner too! She looks like our little prize fighter.
Left with a fridge full of a partially eaten Indian meal, we are quite done with ER visits, awaiting the removal of the stitches on Friday. Reliving the event, I can’t help but question if we did right by our child. Should we have consulted a plastic surgeon? Should we have asked more questions? Perhaps taken her to a different facility? These questions only further convince me that parenting is not instinctual. In the moment, we just wanted our girl to be fixed immediately, actually wishing we could just rewind time, giving me one last opportunity to yell “No running in the house!” Outside of the autopilot tendencies that take over in times of urgency, we are just two parents bumbling along, gaining a bit more confidence with each experience we encounter. As far as this type of experience is concerned? I would gladly like to consider myself all done. Thank you very much.