There are always things on the horizon that as a parent, you just know you'll have to experience inevitably. Having difficult conversations with your sweet, innocent child. Maybe about bullying, or lying, or stealing. Breaking the awful, heartbreaking news that someone very important has died. Losing a pet. And watching your child be in pain and not being able to fix it. All of this gross stuff- a part of life's terrain- is absolutely unavoidable.
We got our first experience in that Saturday evening.
The lil' dude was in one of her favorite places on earth, at Papa's cabin preparing for a much anticipated overnight stay in the gorgeous, secluded, silent wilderness. We had been there no less than 10 minutes, when she requested Daddy take her on a 4-wheeler ride, and he obliged.
20 minutes later, they drove back up to the cabin, the Dad frowning and waving at me, the lil' dude slightly pale and clutching her cheek. As I got closer, she began to cry and then I saw her sweet little cheek. Out on the bumpy trails to the deer stands, the 4-wheeler had lurched through an uneven spot, and the lil' dude's cheek met the handlebars. When she saw the blood, she cried. For all of 60 seconds.
Mama, on the other hand, cried for much longer. I tried not to panic when I saw the nasty gash, but I did anyways. 20 miles from civilization, and 120 miles from our town, a harried plan was thrown together to abandon our other vehicle, the Beagle, and all our belongings and head for our own hospital. Daddy got behind the wheel, Papa got us ice and washcloths, and Mama settled in next to a mostly unfazed lil' dude in the backseat. The trip that usually takes two hours, 15 minutes took the Dad just under an hour and a half. I kept my girl busy with cellphone games and apps. Technology, we love yah. As we drew nearer to the ER, the lil' dude said, how much longer? I am going to freak out, all monotone-like, and calm. I am going to freak out when we get there, she kept repeating dryly. It made me smile.
The ER was Saturday night busy, but gaping adolescent facial wounds supersede most things and we were through triage and in a room relatively quickly. The young security guard who frisked me and dug through my purse marveled at the lil' dude's face and calm. I kept begging her to keep the washcloth on it because she was scaring the other kids in the waiting room who were there with fevers and sore throats. She couldn't care less about what other people thought ... she is her father's daughter.
The nurses were awesome and fawning. They gifted her with a pink bag bearing stuffed dogs and plastic zoo animals and Disney stickers. It was like that coping bag was designed especially for my baby ... everything she loves! We watched Cars on ABC Family and waited for the topical to numb her face for stitching. The lil' dude kept sadly saying she missed the cabin, her dog, and the fire for smores. She still hadn't cried since before we buckled her in and said goodbye to Papa. Rockstar, she is.
The doctor came in and said, no sweat. 11 years of stitching up kids' faces, she was confident she'd fix it fine, without plastics handling her. We agreed. Together, the Dad and I showed the lil' dude all our own scars- and if you know me well- you'll know that my historical background of injury and ER visits lasted about 30 minutes longer than the Dad's! It really was no small victory it took my child 4.5 years to need urgent medical attention!
They swaddled the lil' dude to contain her limbs, covered her face for sterility, and positioned the Dad by her face, and me, about to lose my shit, at her feet. The nurse began talking about Disneyworld and we held her down and prayed for brevity and she began to WAIL ... I can feel it! You're hurting me! MAMA! I can FEEL IT! Yep, awful, that was. I buried my heaving sobs into her shins as the four adults in the room began saying anything we could to distract her. You can't tell an ER physician to hurry as she's stitching up your daughter's FACE; but at one point, the Dad said, So, are you, you know, almost done there, or ... ? She said she was on suture five, and needed about two more. Three, actually. In all, she needed eight stitches to close her 2cm gash. Well done. I said, "Eight! That is your Fairy Godmother's favorite number!" and we started talking about her dog and then it was blissfully, over.
A grape Popsicle, promises of a free-for-all shopping spree at Target, ugly bandage, (Don't you got Barbie ones?) and discharge papers and we were out the door.
The Dad, worrying she'd cry and scream at him on her Prom day as she gets ready, this scar is YOUR FAULT, YOURS! But both of us knowing any scar is going to be highly revered at our house, and celebrated even a little. Survival. Triumph. Memory. Proof of a life lived, no matter the obvious threats, to happiness anyways.
We tucked our baby into bed, exhausted but just fine at 11pm, and settled in with some whiskey on the rocks, just to calm each other's frazzle. To clink glasses, to upload photos and watch our daughter's heroicness go viral, to fully accept that we are in the trenches of parenthood. And there's no turning back, or place we'd rather be.