One of the hard lessons I have had to learn as a parent is how to somehow get comfortable with pain. I am making this statement as someone who fits the description “pain-avoidant,” although “pain-terrified” might be more appropriate. And I’m not talking about one’s own pain—stubbed toe, heartburn, heart break—that everyone deals with, parent or no.
The pains that are specific to parenthood come in many forms. There is, of course, the pain accrued in your own experience when your kid—consciously or otherwise—rejects you, or defies you, or otherwise does the opposite of whatever would feel good for you in the moment. In other words, the pain you experience most days.
But the pain I’m thinking about here is the pain that your kid experiences, the physical and emotional ailments that you can’t fix, but can only try to support and comfort them through. Of course, watching your kid in pain brings about your own secondary pain—see preceding paragraph.
Though my kids have certainly suffered their share of emotional blows—some of which I write about in other posts—what stands out as a little bit funny, well after the fact of course, is their predilection for major leg injuries. In terms of these injuries, there is clearly some weird sibling energy going on here. Consider:
Over the course of our first year together, on different occasions, one of the kids woke up in the middle of the night screaming with leg pain, which led to a trip to the emergency room. Both visits lasted all night, required x-rays, and turned up nothing. (This, by the way, is usually the answer we get when either kid has a complaint that requires a doctor or hospital visit: nothing Their files under “cause unknown” must be a mile long.) To add that special je ne sais quois to the mix, both (non)emergencies happened the night before a holiday: Daveon on New Year’s Eve (a really, really good time to be in the emergency room, BTW), and Mark the night before his/our birthday. I’ve written before about the relationship for my kids between transition and anxiety—here we had something like a relationship between excitement and psychosomatic shingles.
Two of the other three major injuries the boys have incurred also involved their legs. During an outing in San Francisco, Mark was sliding down a covered slide, caught his foot on the wall of the slide near the bottom, and twisted his leg about 180 degrees. About a year later, during a little league game, Daveon was sliding home, caught his foot on the dirt, and twisted his leg about 180 degrees. Luckily, in neither case did the boys tear anything or cause any lasting damage, and they were both (literally) back on their feet after a few days. But if you ever want to feel your stomach twist about 180 degrees, try watching one of your kid’s body parts get mangled.
For the record, the third major injury was when Mark fractured his wrist. This happened during an afterschool dodge ball game, when the custodian (who I am guessing was older than 11) wanted to show off his strength by whaling the ball at a bunch of 11-year-olds. Mission accomplished: The guy must be pretty strong, because the ball caught Mark in the wrist and splintered it. Unlike the leg mishaps, this one required a cast, which at least gave Mark the chance to get sympathetic signatures from his classmates—and, if there’s any justice in the world, from the custodian. On the bright side, at least I didn’t have to witness this one.