OK, we recently started doing a “feelings” chart. No, I don’t know exactly why. It’s just how it happens. You know, someone says something, you find a random worksheet online, you print it while looking for recipes: what to do with cauliflower besides throw it in the trash. You print the worksheet, the kids love it, and all of a sudden you have another stupid developmental game that the kids want to add to their schedule of, there it is again, ‘enriching’ events you provide as the cruise director of this ship that might be going nowhere. There’s always the chance it’s going somewhere, but it’s Friday morning. I hate to be too optimistic.
So I title this piece “Emotion: Frustration” based on my recent experiences with understanding my emotions better. And I draw the little face of frustration and notice it looks a little like anger too. Hmmm, I’ll deal with that later.
My son fell off his bunk bed two nights ago. My husband laughed at me when I suggested we get a rail for the top bunk, months ago. I believe he guffawed a less than relevant story about how, when he was a kid they slept while hanging off cliffs on slippery wet vines that had no seatbelts. And my response was “I know not of which you speak, but times really have changed since you were a child. Now let’s get cracking!” How are we going to protect our wimpy kids whose mom wants a railing on the bed that’s 8 feet off the ground, right next to the oscillating fan.
It was probably a little like setting up a playground at a refugee camp. But my husband finally looked at me and decided that the long explanation that I would provide, trying to appeal to first one, and then another of his relatable personality traits, until I found one that agreed with me, would be more painful than finding a way to make the bed safe. So the bed has a fabulous homemade picket fence that protects my five year old from falling. For the record, I did not suggest that my husband play carpenter, but the bottom line is I thought it was damn cute this was his solution.
And two nights ago, MONTHS after we set this up and safetivized it, we hear a ‘deafening crash’ (had to use that phrase. I’ve read it in novels so many times.) My heart jumped out of my chest and hid in the closet while I ran like lightening to my screaming son’s side. He is scraped up, well, because he fell 7 feet out of the air onto a pile of toys and a small red rocking chair, which is now broken and splintered. You know this feeling, you die a million deaths, you check their little bodies while remaining calm. I held him in my lap for 20 minutes while he cried. I asked questions softly like, “What hurts, honey?”, “What did you land on?”, checked his pupils, his limbs for bones peeking out, the usual medical stuff.
And as soon as he had calmed enough to speak clearly, I asked the biggie… “What happened, sweetie?”
And he proceeded to tell me that he was doing flips. On top of his bed. And I was quiet.
He’s a smart boy, but that’s just all kinds of stupid. I was hoping for something that created a little more sympathy from me, but still—these things happen. I held him while he went to sleep and checked him in his sleep a couple times that night, in case his head had been hit. Lesson learned. Thanks God he is safe and sound.
And last night while my husband and I were watching politics on TV (because that seemed like a good use of our time and intellect), we heard another said ‘deafening crash’ accompanied by a loud scream. I ran like a cartoon character, with my legs not touching the ground, my face frozen in horror, and a fear that was drawing pictures of gruesome endings that hadn’t been realized yet.
My son fell off the bed again. I ran to his room with my body ready to convulse. I’m not good at this mom thing sometimes. I was a stupid, crazy, risk-taking kid. Why do I worry so much when my kids fall? Because we were tougher in my day! We played on metal playgrounds and hit each other a lot more. Kids these days are pussies. They can’t take the kind of abuse we did!
And there on the floor is my tiny child, holding his stomach, and I started talking… really loud. “What did you DO? Son, what the hell happened?” He is crying and choking out that he rolled off the bed again, doing a flip, and he hurts SO bad. I was quiet.
It’s hard for me to express what I felt. I ran through my emotion chart. Why was I talking so loudly? No, I wasn’t yelling, but I sounded pretty loud, almost like yelling. I sounded mad. I could see myself, and I was trying to calm myself down. My son was looking distressed that I was so upset. But I wasn’t really mad at him, was I? I was, I was a little mad. I was scared and sad and … frustrated. It was beyond belief that my child had fallen not once, but twice, from a 20 foot drop (yes, it got higher. Don’t question me right now!). How had he done it twice? I could barely contain myself. I laid on the floor and tried to stop the swelling in my head. Did I fall too?
It’s impossible for someone who is not a mother to understand what mothers go through. And I am always reminded that other mothers have gone through much worse. But there is nothing more devastating than that moment your child calls out with a piercing scream, and you don’t know what you are about to find. And to go through that trauma and find that my son had apparently knocked his freaking brain out the LAST time he fell was, at the very least, disappointing. I had apparently forgotten to check for his damn brain when he fell the other night, as I was distracted by his ankle and bruised side and arm that he was yelling was broken. And… what else? His brother, across the hall had been doing summersaults on his bed. My five year old had been copying him. And yes, my older son knew exactly what would happen if he challenged his younger brother to a gymnastics meet at bedtime. His younger brother would rise to the occasion. He didn’t want him his brother to fall, but he had lost his freaking brain too. I was in a house of idiots right now, and I was mad because I couldn’t even understand where to start or end.
I am happy to announce that all my children are alive and well. There are some bruises, inflicted by the fall, and there are some punishments meted out for all 8 year olds who try to get their little brothers to do flips on top bunks. There are bunk beds that have been taken down and shoved into closets that can only fit large objects like that, when they are pushed in roughly, with emotion: frustration, not anger, definitely frustration. There are political conventions that have been assessed, and there are new days that have started. But sometimes, sometimes, you (not me, not mad) wonder if you will make it through parenting, especially if your smart kids are going to be so stupid. And as far as the emotion charts. Burn ‘em. There’s no good to knowing which emotion you are showing. J It was definitely frustration.