When Good Parenting Feels Like Bad Parenting
In the space of 12 hours I had to hold down two hysterical children as needles came towards their faces. Those are the moments when you have to dig deep into your reserves because every iota of your being wants to pick up your child and run to a safe place (preferably filled with candy, toys and a glass of wine). Those are the times when good parenting feels like bad parenting.
My son while playing a game of ninja tag with me, tripped and crashed into the wood coffee table. I heard a scream, came running in and he looked up at me with his hand covering his right eye and blood dripping down. For a split second I didn’t know if there was going to be an eyeball under his hand or not, but I calmly laid him on the couch and took a look.
Luckily, it was just a deep but short gash in his eyebrow – but it cried out for stitches.
Within minutes my four-year old found the phone and I had located a neighbour to come over and recalled my husband from the soccer field where he was with my 10-year old. I somehow packed some snacks, water (for my husband) and my Ipod for my son for our trip to the local hospital.
As soon as the word hospital got uttered, Sam’s crying started to ramp up. We quickly backtracked and told him that we were going to see the doctor. By the time we were in the treatment room of our local hospital it dawned on him that this wasn’t just any doctor’s office. He was in good humour by the end of hour one. By hour two, our middle child was enjoying both his parents’ attention and dominance of the TV remote. By hour three we were all a little punchy. At midnight when we finally saw the doctor who uttered the word STITCHES within five seconds of seeing him, things started going downhill. My husband and I each took a side to ostensibly hold his hand, but also because we knew we might be needed to pin him down when he spied the giant needle. All in all, he was a brave kid who cried and protested in a way that was appropriate for a seven-year old up three hours past his bedtime with a stranger sewing up his eyebrow. The fact that we had promised him a stop at the drive-through on the way home, was also a nice incentive.
At 1 a.m. we were home in bed but I had a restless sleep. The aftermath of every small incident is the knowledge that life can change in an instant, that we are not the master’s of our own destiny. Most accidents are small but sometimes a split second can burden you with the kind of pain that can not be sewn back together by a resident with a needle and thread.
But the other thoughts on my mind was of the looming dentist appointment in the morning. My daughter needed to have some cavities filled. I have to admit that taking kids to the dentist ranks up there with my least favourite tasks as a mother. Holding down a child while they get a filling is truly horrific. The needle is painful and lying with your mouth open with a bunch of implements in it is very uncomfortable. Imagine those feelings at the age of four. She was doing great until the dentist decided to freeze another section of her mouth and then all hell broke loose. Suddenly, it felt like the Exorcist had taken over, there was thrashing and screaming and I had to hold her hands so she didn’t get hold of any instruments. It was terrible. And then it was over and I had a tired, sad, sore four-year old girl holding on to my so tight. I felt like had betrayed her, even though I knew the cavities had to be filled.
The girl I drove home was not the smiling, confident girl I had taken to the dentist, she was a shadow of herself. I picked up her exhausted brother at school and I drove them straight to the toy store. There isn’t much you can do as a mother to make kids look back on scary situations as positive, but a little Playmobil can help.
I know that I get off easy, that there are parents who are holding their child down for needles and procedures every day, that there are kids are in pain all the time. The scary moments call for deep parenting – the kind where you have to use your words, your tone, your body, and whatever else you have to calm your child – and yourself. They are the moments that can’t be avoided and remind us how fragile our children are.