Any mommy with a little one big enough to roll over has dealt with childhood injuries (if you haven’t, then start spilling those secrets you’ve been keeping). If your children are anything like mine, then even a minor injury, think scrape or bump with no physical symptoms, can provide a freak out typically reserved for the loss of a limb. As your parenting expertise grows you’re able to judge your child’s cry to injury ratio. Then you’ll find yourself following a blood curdling scream from across the playground with a confident, haphazard rendition of, “Shake it off, Shake it off!”
But what do we do when we, the all knowing grown ups, get an owie? And I don’t mean the “stub your toe and mutter choice words under your breath” variety of owie. I’m speaking of the type of injury that involves blood gushing and a trip to the ER. How are we suppose to react when we get back home and our kids baulk at the sight of us, because Mommy is wearing a cast to protect her broken nose while her eyes continue to darken?
I was faced with this situation recently. I had an accident on Fourth of July that did not, I repeat did NOT, involve a firework, but rather running on slick, wet surfaces and meeting the sidewalk up close and personal. The shock of an injury like that doesn’t allow a mommy to keep a reassuring smile on her face while hurriedly being whisked to the doctor. In fact, an injury like that doesn’t allow for a smile at all. Instead it was met with tears and blood and ice and other grown ups rushing around frantically (I assume, because I was a bit more focused on my broken face than what the other adults were actually doing). Luckily, my kiddos didn’t actually witness me plummeting towards the ground, but they did know things were serious. Even when kids aren’t given a straight forward explanation, they know when things are bad. They can smell our stress and fear.
I ended up needing surgery to correct my broken nose and upper jaw. My black and blue, swollen face was covered in a cast and I spoke with a lisp following the procedure. All I wanted in my post- anesthesia trance was the comfort of snuggling my littles, because sometimes mommies need feel-better snuggles too. We decided against the kids visiting right aways as we didn’t want them to be scared seeing me wrapped up like a mummy. When they finally did visit, the response wasn’t as welcoming as I had hoped.
If you’re ever in this situation, try not to take offense to their reactions as it’s a very natural response for them to either be scared, or be disgusted by the very sight of you. Instead, try some of these tips to ease you and your family’s experience:
- Don’t crumble to pieces. It probably isn’t the best idea to start crying hysterically while grabbing for them asking why they no longer love you. To them you look like a scary villain straight out of a horror flick. They are trying to manage their emotions, too. It can only make things worse if you pressure them into being near you and your busted, scary face.
- Reassure. While you weren’t able to give the reassuring smile directly following your trauma, now is the perfect time. Try not to lie to them by saying you aren’t hurting. Children know better (remember they can smell your fear and stress). Instead, give them a bit of truth (appropriate for their age, of course). An example could be “Mommy sure does have a big owie, but I’ll be playing again in no time!”
- Get them involved. My littles LOVE to help. My youngest wants to be a doctor so she pulled out all her play things and I allowed her to give me a check up. Obviously, her assessment was given on a part of my body far far away from my actual injury. She gave me a shot, a princess band-aid, and told me I would be okay! My oldest, who is more perceptive, was legitimately allowed to help. He brought me extra pillows, ice packs and even brought me water so I could take my medicine. Both situations allowed the kids to not only see me, but gave them a purpose in helping their mommy get well. Win-win.
- Let them watch cartoons. For a couple days after surgery, I just wanted sleep. The mix of pain meds, stress, and my body trying to heal made me a zombie. So, with other fully-functioning adults in the area, I allowed them up in the bed, with a milkshake to match mine (because after facial and dental surgery what else is there to eat), and we binged watched cartoons. They were able to be close to me (and me to them), get a little treat, (which makes everything better), and I was able to take a nap surrounded by my children’s love and giggles.
Eventually, I started feeling better and my little ones came around more often. My doctor-to-be toddler gave me follow ups, and my oldest got tired of his duties I gave him (“Jeeze mom how many pillows do you really need?!”). Despite still wearing a cast and getting strange looks out in public, life is getting back to normal.
My advice when you go through a traumatic experience in front of your children is to allow them to approach you in their own time. Don’t push them or yourself, that only worsens the situation. And lastly, don’t do a face plant on the concrete if you can help it. Obviously.