Archives for the month of: February, 2012


Wrapped in a purple pashmina in place of a shirt, my daughter, ML, lay in my lap, sometimes still, sometimes whimpering, sometimes crying, as my husband carefully drove the long, long mile to the hospital. I was careful to try to keep her right arm tucked against her and away from the bumps and nudges that could unintentionally bring her to tears. “Mama hold,” I said, echoing her request made in times of sadness, chanting it as if the repetition could ward off more tears. “Mama hold baby. Mama love baby.” We don’t really baby talk her – we never have – but those are the few remnants of baby talk that have lingered. With a slight jostle, she’d cry, the kind of sound that fills you with fear as does a siren in the middle of the night, wailing that makes you shiver and draw the sheets more tightly around you.

The ride was short, and so was the wait. The injury hadn’t taken much time, either.

“Dip!” our daughter will shout, her version of “flip” as she asks to be flipped again and again by holding her arms and flipping her over, front to back. And that’s apparently just what she and her daddy had been doing, as they’d done so many times before, while I was at yoga the day before yesterday, feeling relaxed, refreshed, and restored. All of that was burned away as I walked in the door. She was crying, her face blotchy from tears, even while my husband tried to comfort her and and distract her with Mole, a Czech cartoon she calls “Gustav Mole” after her beloved puppet. Pain crying sounds different from frustrated or tired crying, and when Matthew explained what had happened (flipping led to crying and holding her arm funny; he’d taken her shirt off to see it better but didn’t want to hurt her further by putting it back on her) and asked if we should go to the ER or stay home, I immediately said, “ER,” and we grabbed a bag with her water bottle and a few books, put a diaper on her (she usually wears undies while awake), and set out for the brief trek across town.

The worst was yet to come – although not the worst as you might expect it to be. After a first false visit – “Is she the one vomiting?” the doctor asked in confusion, as ML sniffled and nursed for comfort, no vomit to be seen – the ER doc came by to see us, on purpose. We explained the situation, and he took her arm in his, gently twisting it; the gentle touch, however, did not keep her from more tears. The doctor went on to explain  how she had nursemaid’s elbow – a dislocated elbow common in children under five before ligaments have tightened. It was now back in place, he said, and she should feel better by the next day. No sense in getting x-rays and spending unnecessary money on pictures. Like many fearful, doubtful parents, I was worried that it wasn’t such a simple thing. I touched her wrist then, and she cried again. He did the same, and she cried again. X-rays after all.

And that was the worst part. I couldn’t be near the x-ray machine, so I couldn’t hold her; Matthew had to, and as the x-ray technician moved ML’s arm into position on the plate on the table in front of her, she wept more loudly than she had before, pleading, urgent, hysterical: “MA-ma! MA-ma! Mama hold!” She reached towards me as I stood, uncertain, a room away. In her pain and need for unmet comfort, she sounded bereft. If we’d been in a valley of endless echoes, I couldn’t have felt worse. Was she crying just because of the pain? Was she feeling like I’d abandoned her? Daddy held her and loved her, and I was grateful – but being unable to comfort your child in need is like being covered, head to toe, in paper cuts: there’s nothing to do to fix it, but oh, how it hurts.

And then it was over. “Mama hold,” I said, arms outstretched, and she came to me. All was clear on the x-rays. We were free to go home. It was the shortest ER visit I’ve ever made, and we waved to the vomiting girl and her parents as we left for our short trip home, grateful for what comfort we could offer, sure to be more careful, thankful that this small child of ours would remain healthy and whole at least a little while longer.

“Emergency Room.” Photograph. “For 20-Somethings, Everything’s an Emergency.” Futurity. Futurity, 2009 – 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. JPEG file.

Wearing a cape – was he a superhero today, or a Jedi, or maybe it was a robe and he was Harry Potter? – and sobbing, he huddled on the floor, the opposite of a caped crusader. With all of his superpowers, he couldn’t bend his mother or father to his will. “I want dessert!” he cried, voice broken by tears. “I want dessert!”

Our friends, Rebecca and Christopher, and their two children, aged 5 and almost 4, were over for what I thought was a really kid-friendly dinner: lemon chicken, rice, mixed vegetables. Neither ate much, although my daughter hungrily spooned her way through her serving, and when dessert time came, we grown ups munched on dates and no-bake cookies. Their daughter and our daughter played happily, ignoring our sugar-fest, but their son, the 5 year old, did not take kindly to being left out – as you might have gathered from his aforementioned sobbing. “You can’t have dessert unless you eat more dinner,” his parents told him. Unfortunately, this did not inspire a painless incident of dinner-eating; the crying continued.

My daughter came over as if magnetically pulled by the sound of his sadness, standing between her daddy and me and eying her companion. “Dad [Sad],” she said. “Mama hold.” (“Mama hold” is her current answer to her own – and anyone else’s – unhappiness, and maybe she’s right: if the world had enough mamas to willingly hold onto every sad person, child and adult alike, we might all be a little bit happier and calmer. Her hugs do create great feelings of joy in me.)

A February 2011 hug – a one year old hug! – is just as fresh and welcome today as it was a year ago

“I’ll bet his mama will hold him,” I said, and still he howled. Rebecca offered him a hug, but that wasn’t the kind of sugar he was hoping for. My daughter stepped closer to him and looked uncertain. “Do you want me to send you home with a cookie for later?” I asked Rebecca.

“That’d be great,” she said.

Her son finally looked up. “I don’t want a cookie!” he said sharply, the pause after his words replacing the space previously filled by his sugar-mourning. My daughter stepped closer still and began to tremulously widen her arms.

It probably wasn’t the right response, but the four of us adults laughed.  All this time, all these tears, and he didn’t even want the dessert that we had?

My daughter finally had opened her arms wide enough for a hug, a look of concern shining on her face. “Is it OK if she hugs you?” I asked. He nodded slightly, and she moved in and wrapped her little dimpled arms around him. I felt a bit like crying myself, if the truth be told. She spontaneously, independently, and very sweetly did her best to comfort her friend who was sad. What more can we hope for in our children – or in ourselves? He accepted it, and she released the hug. He didn’t cry anymore. Maybe a hug does have a little bit of a superpower.

The sweet moment passed but, like the calories from those cookies, it lingers still – thankfully hovering near my heart instead of on my hips.