When I become a parent, I realized how tenuous life is. I find myself imagining all sorts of terrible situations that might befall my children—quite outlandish things that come unbidden to my mind when I’m drifting off to sleep or daydreaming. Accidents, kidnappings, incurable diseases, that sort of thing. In these scenes, I’m always one step or one shout too late. These waking nightmares became particularly intense after Dio was born, to the point that I had a hard time sleeping for a while because I kept worrying that someone was going to kidnap my children. My logical mind knew it was a bit silly, but my primitive brain--the part that controls instinctual responses and emits adrenalin--was on high alert.
In real life, my children have never met with disaster. We’ve had our share of scrapes and falls, of course. And some really scary near misses—like the time a few weeks ago when Zari was riding her trike and I was walking behind her, pushing Dio in the jogging stroller. We came to an intersection. Instead of stopping and waiting for me, as she always had done in the past, she pedaled even faster. Right into the path of an oncoming semi truck.
Of course this story turned out happily. The truck driver saw her and stopped. A friend who was walking with me ran into the street and snatched Zari back onto the sidewalk. Another woman across the street had been watching and was running towards Zari as well, yelling at the oncoming traffic to stop. Afterwards, my mind replayed the incident, and I couldn’t stop thinking what if the truck hadn’t seen her? What if my friend hadn’t been there with me? What if what if what if?
This afternoon Zari and Dio were playing inside a tent on the living room floor. I was on the couch, reading a book. Dinner was made and we were waiting for Eric to come home from playing ultimate Frisbee. The sounds of play—talking, giggling, babbling, minor squabbling—suddenly stopped. Dio began screaming. Not the usual “you took my toy away!” scream, but a piercing shriek of pain. I opened the tent flap and saw blood all over Dio's face, shirt, and hands. Zari had been cutting paper inside the tent, so I knew that the scissors were somehow involved. Zari shrunk away from me and wouldn’t make eye contact. I had to quickly figure out a) where the blood was coming from and b) what had happened.
I looked at his face first. No active bleeding, no scissors in the eye or mouth or anything awful like that. Okay. Hands next: I saw blood flowing from his index finger. The tip of his finger had been cut off. Now, that sounds worse than it really was. More specifically—a piece of skin the diameter of a lentil was missing at the tip. I told Zari to run get a towel, but she wouldn’t move.
So I ran Dio into the bathroom and rinsed the cut off. He was shrieking and writhing, so we soon had blood all over both of us. I held a washcloth around his finger and opened the first-aid kit. I tried a band-aid first, but it soaked through and was dripping blood in just a few seconds. So I opened up a gauze eye patch, put it around his finger, and wrapped it snugly with medical tape. This was more complicated than it sounds, because he would not hold still. I ended up pinning him on the ground between my legs while I bandaged him up.
He needed lots of snuggles and nursing the rest of the evening. I put a new bandage on right before bedtime, since his old one had slipped loose. I hope the new one stays on all night. The bleeding is still fairly brisk when there’s no bandage applying pressure to the cut.
I never could get a straight story from Zari about how exactly his finger had made it into her scissors. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me for a long time. My guess is that it was an accident.
Even though I was only about three feet away, it still wasn’t enough to prevent the accident. Sure, I could never keep a pair of scissors in the house…but Zari has been using scissors quite competently for a long time. She enjoys doing “activities”—cutting paper and fabric, gluing on pompoms and glitter and googly eyes, tracing patterns, and using her stamp sets. (After today’s incident, though, I did explain that she can only use her children’s scissors, rather than my “adult scissors.” More for Dio’s sake than her own, since he’s started to imitate whatever she does.)
Part of being a parent is realizing that you cannot be there every moment. You cannot anticipate every eventuality. You cannot guarantee that your children will be safe and unharmed, or even that they will be alive the next day. That sounds a bit morose, but it’s a reality that hits me especially hard during pregnancy. I have to live with the knowledge that my baby might not survive. Although there's a very good likelihood that my pregnancy will continue to term and that the baby will be born alive and healthy, it's never 100% certain. I'm still working to find the right balance between hoping and planning for life and accepting the possibility of mortality. Or even just plain-Jane things like getting the tip of your finger cut off by your older sister.