Disclaimer: This article is about the minor trauma that comes from injuries to kids as a result of raising rambunctious children with a penchant for danger and a lack of parental supervision. This is definitely NOT real trauma like losing a loved one or having a life-changing injury. And please note that nothing in this post is meant to actually constitute medical advice. ALWAYS consult your medical practitioner.
With 4 children, and one in particular who has absolutely no risk awareness, it was pretty amazing that we lasted 6 weeks into our first COVID lockdown without a significant injury. Significant injuries don’t include scraped knees and paper-cuts, regardless of accompanying drama.
But let it be known that I warned them. There will be NO trips to the hospital! Not now. Not during a pandemic lockdown. Yes, I warned them eleventy-thousand times.
6 whole weeks. And then Solo ran into a wall. Yes, a wall. Something that doesn’t move. Something he should have noticed.
We assume that he was cornering at high speed and his sneaker traction failed him. But he was probably just not looking where he was going. Like yesterday, when he walked into a wheelie bin on the way home from school.
All we heard was a loud howl and found him lying facedown near the wall, blood already splashing onto the ground.
A high pain threshold is a problem
Solo has a remarkably high pain threshold. It was pretty obvious from an early age he did not feel pain like his twin brother. Unfortunately, both twins learned to walk at the grand ol’ age of 10 months.
(FYI New Parents: this is NOT a milestone you want to aim for. The later they walk – the lessproperty damage injuries you will have. Baby brains are just not equipped for assessing risk when operating at high speed with sub-optimal braking.)
Both babies would occasionally jog into the corners of tables. And Chewy would understandably act like he had lost an eye, but Solo would just shake it off and change direction.
I consequently had Solo assessed by an occupational therapist at 2 years old, but he still hasn’t taken any corrective action. My dad says watching Solo run is essentially betting on which foot will trip him up first.
Five trips to the ER and counting
The upside in regard to Solo’s most recent injury is that we were already experienced ER visitors. The downside is people judging you. And well, scars.
That first ER trip was a doozy… let me assure you that the guilt was overwhelming. How could I have let this happen? I am such a terrible mother! I have irrevocably damaged my child! Leia, my eldest, was totally oblivious to any of ‘my trauma’ as she happily played with toys in the ER waiting room.
The second trip involved a minor head injury for then 2-old Yoda and I was a mess, again. I was lucky he didn’t bleed out, as in my desperation to be sanitary, I spent far too much time trying to find a sterile pad rather than applying the nearest T-shirt to stop the bleeding. It was only after I returned from the hospital, I could actually see the sterile pads scattered all over the floor.
Anyway I digress, back to Solo’s lying face-down next to the wall. Considering all the ‘practice’ I had endured – I was actually pretty calm.
I grabbed a tea towel while Mr Chaos clamped his hand over the cut and carried Solo to the sofa. We raised his feet and head and applied pressure.
Mr Chaos and I align on a lot in life. Treating injuries is not one of them. Particularly since my preference is to DIY most life-crises. So while I tried so hard to avoid a trip to ER, Mr Chaos stood by with a grim look on his face and judgy eyes.
I sprayed a ton load of antiseptic in that one-inch head wound. I tried so hard, SO HARD to make my comprehensive collection of butterfly strips stick. But regrettably, blood and sweat and hair make for a pretty useless adhesive surface.
Glue for the win
After 10 minutes I admitted that we needed to take him to the ER. And we were lucky. Although we are living in Spain, our province at the time had seen relatively few COVID cases. So within minutes, Solo had 4 doctors fussing over him in an empty pediatric ward, and collectively they decided to glue his cut. Literally the best outcome for all concerned.
Trust me on this, GLUE is the way to go. Staples or stitches usually require a local anaesthetic with negligible effect (as the observant parent) and result in the repair feeling way worse than the injury itself.
Unless they are offering to actually sedate your child – beg and plead for glue. Every. Time.
(I actually tried to source some skin glue on Amazon before I went back to Africa a few years ago. Particularly since a doctor friend from Zambia told me he’d rather glue his own head than risk stitches in the hospital that he worked in. Amazon however is more responsible than my doctor friend and won’t sell skin glue to self-appointed medical DIYers. My children will probably thank me later for not ‘patching’ them up.)
It is not just you
Anyway, the reason I tell this story is that after Yoda had his first set of 4 stitches – I suffered from some mom guilt. However, I felt remarkably encouraged and relieved when a friend helpfully informed me that 3 out of her 4 kids had stitches before the age of six. It turns out that minor trips to the ER aren’t that unusual.
Although maybe it is just the type of parenting circles I am drawn to?!
Looking back on our 5 ER trips, there is only one that I could have realistically prevented. Minor accidents happen fairly frequently and probably more so with kids who spend more time outdoors or participate in sports.
And as I watch my children grow older and observe the dumb/dangerous ideas they occasionally frequently have, I have come to the conclusion that making it through childhood unscathed is pretty impossible. There are a gazillion things that can go wrong. When I talk with my siblings or friends about the stuff we got up to before health, safety, car seats and child locks – it is literally a miracle we survived.
(I am usually not one to tell tales… but Mr Chaos and friends once used an old Mini Cooper to drag each other around on a wooden go-kart. His brother lost several layers of skin. I asked Mr C if he was driving when his brother rolled the go-kart. He looked a little sheepish before admitting he was riding on the roof.)
Don’t tell your kids to ‘Be Careful’
I obviously don’t want to have to take my children to ER again but I do want my children to be brave, adventurous and enjoy exploring. And this means I also want them to take risks. But I don’t want those risks to be dumb.
The day my kid comes and tells me he wants to try base-jumping is the day I Will. Lock. Him. Up.
However I DO however want my child to enjoy climbing trees rather than be scared of falling out of them. So the answer is …
Teach your child how to climb trees
My sister once pointed out that yelling ‘be careful’ while your child navigates a climbing frame, either makes them scared or teaches them to ignore you.
This is because a child doesn’t know how to apply anything useful from the phase ‘be careful‘ to their current situation.
But phrases such as ‘watch where you are putting your hands’ or ‘make sure you are holding on tight’…. Well, that is information a kid can utilize and hopefully leads to learning safer behaviour and less trips to the ER.
I want to foster independence and adventure, so part of the journey is going to be giving them freedom once I have equipped them.
The fallen fruit on the ground belongs to all, but the one that is sweetest remains in the tree for those who dare to climb.
Although Solo is obviously going to require a fairly high level of supervision for the foreseeable future.
Some tips for traversing the injuries of little risk takers
Make sure you have a good first aid kit handy and an icepack in the fridge.
For the scrapes and bumps, get some ‘bump pills’, also known as Placebo Kid Crack. Doesn’t matter what they actually are, you can use breath mints if you want. We use little arnica sugar pills – they are merely miracle workers for dialling down the drama. Every. Time.
For the bigger injuries. Calm down, panic is not your friend. You can do this. Put some pressure on it or grab an icepack. Breathe and then make a plan.
Intentionally make friends with nurse and doctors, they are brilliant for off-duty advice and reigning in your inner medical DIYer. (My medical friends are rolling their eyes reading this, but please know that I am eternally grateful and our friendship definitely came first!)
Make sure your kids know how to dial emergency services from your phone (without needing a password). Landlines are so old-school.
Childhood injuries are part of growing up. I know this because I was particularly accident-prone as a child. Possibly because I took more risks, but more likely because Solo gets his clumsiness from me. My mom used to dread me coming back from summer camps, as I usually bought a selection of injuries for her to attend to. But it’s also true that those camps are some of my best childhood memories.
I like to think of my scars as the badges of a childhood well lived.
Hopefully my kids will see it that way as well!
A ship is safe in a harbor, but that is not what ships are built for