Three days ago, sitting in the exact same position I am currently as I write these words, on a day that was as hot and humid as any we’ve ever known, Edgar did what Edgar has done many times before. He walked over to August’s Jumperoo, draped himself over the seat component, and hung there a la Superman. He wasn’t rocking. He wasn’t rolling. He was literally hanging there. I uttered my obligatory and somewhat perfunctory, “Be careful, Edgar” and “Get down, Edgar.” Edgar shifted his weight–benignly and commensurately with the heat-induced torpor we were all feeling. The balance was disrupted, and in a flash and most assuredly without warning the seat flipped 180 degrees, leaving Edgar face down on the floor in a puddle of tears.
I lifted him up off the floor. Oscar exited the play room and proclaimed with a horror that proved that no matter how much he purports Edgar to be his nemesis, his love is beyond compare: “There’s blood! Lots of blood! What happened to Edgar?!”
I brought Edgar from the dimly lit dining room into the kitchen and inspected his teeth, his mouth–looking for the source of the blood that was on the floor and on his shirt. Then I saw the drip come from his chin. I tilted his head back and saw a laceration that no mother wants to see on her child–deep, profuse, and in need of stitches right away.
I called my mother-in-law, who mercifully answered on the second ring. August, who was napping, and Oscar, who was upstairs now terrified by what was going on, needed someone to stay with them. When I knew she was on her way, I called 911. I thought that if Newport traffic and the myriad construction projects held up my mother-in-law in any way, I needed someone to tend to this wound sooner rather than later. And in what must have been the mere three minutes we waited for everyone to arrive, I worked to apply pressure to Edgar’s chin and to calm Oscar’s fears.
From the time the paramedics arrived to the time we left the hospital, we couldn’t have been in more capable, compassionate hands. Edgar left Newport Hospital with a stuffed penguin, a coloring book, and fifteen stitches in his chin. And I left with a remarkable combination of gratitude (that he was going to be okay) and guilt (because I had been powerless to prevent it from happening in the first place).
I maintained my composure while we waited for the ambulance, as we sat in the ER, as Edgar’s stitches were administered, and as we drove home. But composure in these situations has a definite expiration date–and once we were home and I knew we were safe, I gave in to everything I was feeling.
Oscar, who had recovered from the trauma he experienced as observer, asked me to tell him what was wrong. I explained that as a mother, when my children hurt, I hurt, too; and I added that I also feel it’s my job to keep my children safe and that I was sad that this time I couldn’t. Wise soul that he is, he looked at me and told me what my head knew but that my heart had to learn: “Mom, it was an accident. There was nothing you could do. If you could have stopped it, you would have.” Then he patted me gently on the arm and went back to Cartoon Network--stepping outside his almost-six-year-old world only for a brief moment to dispense wisdom and comfort.
I know there are going to be many moments such as this. The details will be different, but the net result will always be the same: I am their mother. And as much as Edgar is not Superman, I am not Superwoman. Keeping them safe at every moment of every day is not within my control; and, truth be told, it may not even be what is in their best interest. They are going to have to field life’s hurts–both physical and otherwise. It is how they will learn and grow. But if Oscar’s wisdom and compassion and Edgar’s grace in the face of adversity are any indication, I am going to have to believe they’re going to be all right.