Do you remember your child's first emergency? That accident or illness that sent you racing to the emergency room or had you calling the pediatrician or dentist in a panic?
My oldest son, Preston, now 7, was nearly 2 when he fractured his leg. As I was walking down our wet front porch steps carrying him on my hip, I slipped and fell backward, and his leg took the brunt of the fall.
The memories of that day are so clear in my mind. I remember the shoes I was wearing. I can envision the blue dolphin keychain the ER doctor let Preston play with. I remember looking at the X-ray, and I remember feeling that I was a bad mom. Even though I knew it was an accident, and even though I knew I shouldn't feel guilty, I did.
Preston was resilient. He quickly learned how to get around with his walking cast on and managed to go swimming a few times with a waterproof cast cover.
So many friends and complete strangers asked, "What happened?" and I grudgingly told a brief version of the event. Many followed up with stories of how they or one of their children had broken a bone. That helped me put things in perspective. Accidents happen. Kids sometimes visit emergency rooms.
My youngest son, Griffin, who is almost 5, experienced his first traumatic event just a few weeks ago. He was riding his scooter, and I was hanging out with him on our driveway. Griffin lost his balance and fell on the scooter's handlebar, pushing his two front teeth backward.
At the dentist's office, the X-rays revealed the damage, and our dentist gave me the bad news that Griffin's two front teeth would have to be pulled. I was a wreck, but Griffin took the news in stride. He was excited to call his grandparents and tell them about how he "lost" his teeth. He was also looking forward to a visit from the tooth fairy.
His great attitude made me feel better, and I realized that these types of emergencies are often more difficult for the parents to deal with than for the children. As moms and dads, we can be so hard on ourselves. We need to protect our children, and we feel like we've let them down when they get hurt.
The day after the dentist pulled Griffin's teeth, he saw Preston eating a crunchy granola bar. He asked for one, and I refused since his gums were still healing. He was frustrated and said, "That's not fair! This is your fault! You didn't let me watch a (television) show. You made me go outside to play, and see what happened!"
And the guilt came flooding back.
E-mail Kelley Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org