last night, I got THAT call

I will have been a parent for six years, as of next month, and until last night I have never received THAT CALL.

Whenever a babysitter has called me, his or her first words have always been “Everything’s fine, the kids are fine.”

Until last night.

David and I were headed out to dinner, commemorating the sad end of his leave from work with a few friends. As we waited for the elevator on our floor, we heard Fergus start crying, through the door. We listened, decided it was just a cranky cry, and got on the elevator.

We were about two blocks away in a cab when my phone rang. It was our babysitter.

Over the screaming in the background, I couldn’t hear much besides “there’s a lot of blood” and “I think you’d better come home.”

So we reversed course and returned home in what was, maddeningly, the only NYC taxi cab with a driver who followed the speed limit to the letter, and approached each intersection thinking, “Well, the light is green ahead of me, but it may turn yellow by the time I get there, so I’m just going to slow down now.”

After the longest three minutes of our lives, we returned upstairs to find Fergus with a considerable gash in his forehead.
Scooby-Doo was coming on, and he had been in a hurry; perhaps he took his babysitter’s instructions to “run to the bathroom and brush your teeth” too literally. In his state, Fergus couldn’t provide many details on HOW it happened, but that was all moot: one look at him and we both knew he’d be getting stitches. AGAIN.

Fergus is barely four years old. And he has had stitches four times, including twice since Labor Day of this year. He has had so much experience in this arena that we actually have an ongoing relationship with a plastic surgeon, who left his own dinner plans to meet us at his office, allowing us to bypass the emergency room entirely. In a absolutely bizarre coincidence, I had just rescheduled a follow-up appointment with this plastic surgeon, to look at Fergus’ LAST injury, from yesterday afternoon. If I hadn’t, we’d have gone to this guy’s office twice in ONE DAY.

“Good to see you Fergus!” Dr. Menton boomed. “Give me five! Down low! Two slow!”

Dr. Menton is a genius. The shot of Novocaine was a “fun game,” further obscured by some white gauze over Ferg’s eyes. The stitches themselves are only called “sutures,” which gives Fergus much comfort (“dese are NOT stitses, dey sutuwes,” he tells everyone). And Dr. Menton fills the actual minutes of sewing in by telling the story of the Three Bears while he peers through his special microscopic glasses. “Why did the baby bear cry when he saw his bed?” he asked Fergus. “Because he was a crybaby bear,” Fergus answered from beneath the gauze.

David lay on Fergus and pinned his arms down. I just stood there, uselessly. “Here’s the M-U-S-C-L-E, Mom and Dad,” Dr. Menton said. “And here’s the B-O-N-E. Take a look.”

“Heh-heh, no thanks,” I replied, nervously.

“C’mon Mom, take a quick look, you want to see this,” Dr. Menton urged.

And I did, a little. I felt like, if Fergus had to go through this, the least I could do was suffer along with him by watching.

So I looked. Readers, I saw skull. I felt weirdly calm, since Dr. Menton makes you feel that way, and actually a little proud of myself for being so tough.

Three minutes later, I had to leave the room because I was about to either throw up, pass out, or both. I guess that was a delayed reaction.

Fergus went off to school this morning, with yet another huge white bandage on his head, and typed instructions to avoid gym and rough play for a week. And as I sit here, I am crying with relief that it wasn’t worse, but I feel SO. SO. GUILTY.

How can my child have had stitches four times? And all four times were accidents around the house, caused by… nothing. Caused by him bumping into things with his four-year-old energy. He’s not getting hurt playing sports, he’s not jumping off couches in a single bound… he’s getting hurt going to the bathroom and playing with spatulas in our kitchen.

And I can’t tell you why this keeps happening to him, but I can tell you this must all be my fault somehow. If I can’t keep my child safe in his own home, what chance does he have?

So I’m off today to the baby store, to buy padded corners and babyproof everything in the house, and feel bad, and pray that I figure this out.