“Stop that, that’s not a good idea,” I said to my son and his friends as they climbed wildly over the jungle gym in the last 10 minutes of my 6-year-old’s birthday party.
A second later my son was unconscious on the ground, spittle gathering around his mouth and my world narrowing to a pinpoint. In an instant, as I lifted his limp body and laid him out on the ground, my mind swirled: Was this our before and after? Would I ever have him—the real him—back again?
“He’s not OK!” I yelled. Someone called 911. He was bleeding from the back of his head.
He opened his eyes. He wailed. He tried to sit up. Consciousness, movement, and then finally, as we were riding in the ambulance—words. All of them revelations. Thank God.
At the hospital we were quickly evaluated and rushed into a CT-scan. I watched them on the other side of the window, examining the screen. So intent. Then they picked up the phone, and for the first time, I began to panic—what did they see? What was wrong with his brain?
When they emerged they gave their assessment—skull fracture, concussion, deep laceration. No brain bleeds, no bone movement. His recovery might take as long as a month, maybe more, but he was going to be OK. Thank God.
After he was stitched up and could finally sleep and begin to heal, it hit us. What could have happened. How close we came to something so, so much worse. The horror, and then…the blessing.
Over the next few days, as we nursed him back to health, through headaches and dizziness, I would just stare at him. Caress him. You’re here. I love you. Thank God.
I’ve always been a nervous mother, instantly seing the risk inherent in every situation. And with three boys, there’s a lot to be nervous about. But by number three I had finally begun to dial back my anxiety, to keep my fears from controlling their adventures. To let them take age-appropriate risks.
And then it happened. The thing I had always feared but never truly expected. So what now? Follow him around? Keep him in a bubble?
Doctor’s orders have given us both a month to adjust—he can’t play sports or climb jungle gyms while his cracked skull heals. But sooner or later he’s going to be back out there, riding his new bike, climbing challenging structures, colliding with his friends in a friendly game of soccer. And I will need to let him.
“Careful, you could get hurt,” I’ll tell my sweet little boy.
He’ll look me square in the eye and say, “But I might not.”