Yesterday, my son T. had a small shard of metal removed from his eye. That’s right, I said metal. And, yup, I just about fainted to the floor when I found out what it was. But here’s the thing. He had this shard in his eye for a couple days and it didn’t bother him at all. In fact, I saw it there and couldn’t figure out what could be on his eye and not bother him. So he went into the pediatrician yesterday and we were immediately sent across town to a pediatric opthamologist. After some tests and finally a good old fashioned q-tip, out came this teeny tiny but oh so pointy shard of metal. METAL. And it never hurt him. The doctor said it was “smooth side down” and he was very lucky. Another shocking part of this story was that my wonderful boy never even cried, ever! But once I had my boys strapped into the car and was driving back across town, I finally did.
For those of you who are parents, don’t you feel our children are constantly dodging bullets? I know I talk about fear and parenting a lot. Obviously I have issues. But, for real, it seems children are so often on the verge of possible traumatic injury. Everyday. They seem one step away from walking into traffic. One monkey bar away from falling and cracking their skull. One wrestle away from stitches or missing teeth. And apart from the everyday habitual fussing and panicking we are all guilty of, there is honestly not much more we can do to protect them. When I decided to have kids, I really had NO idea what I was signing on for, you know?
We are 6 days shy of celebrating T’s 5th birthday. It is also the anniversary of his most impressive bullet dodging feat ever. After having been born by emergency c-section, T. was not breathing. They were able to resuscitate him but, after being transferred to Boston’s Children’s Hospital, he started having seizures. There was clear evidence of brain injury. There was a shadow on his MRI. There were discussions about possible cerebral palsy and other developmental issues. We were signed up for early intervention and attended an infant CPR class while he was watched over in the NICU, hooked up to every tube possible, and deeply sedated by the anti-seizure medication.
In a matrix style, slow-mo, impossible-even-in-the-movies type of bullet dodging, T. fought back. And 11 days after he was born, his MRI came back clean. The stern, bow-tied neurologist admittedly said “We don’t use the word ‘extraordinary’ around here very often…” and he was released from the NICU, unplugged from everything and all ours.
T. has grown into something unexplainable but absolutely extraordinary. He knew his ABCs entirely by 18 months. At 2 years he knew his phonics and he was reading by his third birthday. He reads maps for fun, watches the classical music cable station (when he isn’t begging me to put on a Star Wars movie), and is fascinated with human anatomy (“Was the metal stuck in my cornea, mom? Cool.”) He is far too wise for his years, cautious as if he knows better, and truly my right hand man.
Not surprisingly, in my mind, he has a super hero quality. Able to stop speeding bullets with his bare hands. He has walked over a pgymy rattle snake that happened to cross his path. He only reacted with hives to a potentially deadly peanut allergy. And even yesterday, they tested his vision – its perfect. That seems an impossibility when he comes from generations of legal blindness, coke bottle lensed glasses and macular degeneration on both sides of his family.
Now of course, he is not a superhero. He is a boy and comes from a long line of insane boys. Did you know his father once dug a hole in his yard, set up a jump next to it, poured gasoline into the hole, threw a lit match in, and proceeded to jump his bike over that fiery pit until he was caught? Did you know his uncle (my brother) used to steal chemicals out of the school chem lab to make home-made pipe bombs to throw in ponds to catch fish? Complete and total insanity. And I’m not saying girls don’t do insane things too, but I expect regular trips to the emergency room in my future to claim either of my stitched up or freshly casted sons.
So, I really need a bottom line here. And, while seemingly in a perpetual state panic, I think I just keep coming back to the same conclusion. Danger happens. And -ok, parents, grasp this crazy possibility- maybe our children are better off for it.
Shit. I need a drink.
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller