“We’re going to leave the playground in five minutes,” I tell my son as he makes his way down the slide.
It’s the last day of what they call ‘Four Year Old Kinder’ in Melbourne. We’ve already moved to Perth-he’s already had his official last day, but as luck and kindness would have it-my husband had to be back in Melbs for work and we got to tag along. His work week coincided with the last days of school for all the children and the Kindergarten was kind enough to let him attend this last bit of the Australian school year.
When I dropped him the first day the children were lined up at the door of their cottage for music class when my son rolled up on his scooter. The teacher opened the door and said, “Children, I told you there would be a surprise today. Look who’s back!”
The children squealed and ran out the door to surround him like a group of puppies after a shiny new toy. Hugs were given. Questions were asked. I heard one of them say, “I love you,” to him.
And today was-by all accounts-exceptional. Christmas is around the corner. Not only was excitement in the air; but a holiday party, treats, and presents happened as well.
The after school playground is charged with adrenaline and sugar-and like a flan in a cupboard, it’s about to collapse.* We’ve been here over an hour since the 3 o’clock bell rang. I turn to a friend’s eight-month-old baby on the verge and say to her, “Are you hungry and cranky? I am. Let’s get out of here.”
As I stand to gather things, I see my son step onto the balance beam. You know the one-it hovers nearly five and a half feet from the ground.
I see leaves from a tree branch wave in front of him.
I see the branch is held by one of his more rambunctious friends who stands beneath the beam.
Then it all goes slow motion.
“Stop it!” I hear him say.
I see his foot slip.
I feel my body hurl forward and up into the air.
I see him on the ground.
I hear him let out the cry that signals the inner mama grizzly bear to lift cars and bend steel.
I’m on the ground.
He’s in my arms.
I may not don the uniform of the NY Giant who fumbled the ball and cost his team the game, but he still sports his scooter helmet. I usually take it off before he goes onto the playground. In today’s excitement-I forgot.
“Owey Owey Owey!” he cries as instinct tells me he’s OK.
You want the crying, don’t you?
Silver Lining #1-GodSister’s hand-me-down helmet saved the day. No head/neck/teeth/face injury.
But his arm-oh sh%*-that does not look right. Through hugs and strokes of encouragement, his tears do not subside.
“We’ll go right to the doctor and it will be ok,” I say on a continuous loop as I rock him back and forth in my arms.
The little boy-with the branch of leaves from hell-suddenly pops into frame. Has he been sitting here all this time? His pretty blue eyes are widened in fear and regret.
“I’m sorry,” he says with utmost sincerity.
“It’s not OK!” my son hurls back through tears. I have an urge to laugh. He’s right, it’s not ok. I’m proud of him for saying so, but I’m proud of his adversary’s apology as well.
Appropriate responses from five-year-olds, Silver Lining #2.
I lift my son up like he’s a baby-as I almost topple over face first back into the mulch, I am reminded he is actually five. A tall, dark haired mum slices through my fishbowl vision.
“I have all your things,” she says, “follow me. I’ll drive you to the hospital.”
And like Barack Obama following a white stallion into a moonlit rose garden, I scoop him up and follow this mum wherever she may lead me.
She has three children of her own: a baby who needs to be fed, a toddler who needs to be picked up from day care, and a five-year-old who is one of my son’s mates from school. He walks with us, very concerned.
Our little guy is inconsolable-with good reason-as I carry him across the street. I do my best to soothe him when from the outside in my vision starts to go-I’m going to faint. Are you kidding me? I fiercely resist the urge. Along the sidewalk is a string of cafe tables. I involuntarily whisper, “Mama has to stop for a second.”
I place him on one of the tables and sit in its accompanying chair with my head between my legs. I make sure my arm touches him. I want to be sure he’s there, but I don’t want to hold him in case I pass out.
I heard a broadcast of Radio Lab recently where they amplified a woman’s heartbeat over a microphone. A small percentage of the audience reported nausea and fainting. The curious dudes over at the Lab dug a little deeper as to why in the world that would happen. The result? Inconclusive. BUT-there is a theory it’s an old school survival mechanism.
Back in the day when pillaging, etc., was a bit more common-it might have been useful to be sensitive to the sight of blood, broken bones, or the sense the impending doom from a loud heartbeat. It’s the fight or flight response saying, “Hmmm, this isn’t going so well. We’ll make you faint and hopefully, the pillagers will just leave you for dead. That’s your best chance of survival.”
I like this theory-both my mother and I pass out at the sight of blood and always have. I’ve been known to feel queasy simply discussing iron levels. So maybe we’re not just big babies, but late bloomers.
Right now-however-as a mother who wants to protect her son, not herself, the response feels about as useless as the four wisdom teeth I still have.
I glance up to be sure he’s still there when my dark haired friend realizes I’m not behind her and circles back. She takes her baby out of the pram and puts my son in it. Her son makes sure he’s all buckled in so he won’t fall out. While they wait for my light headedness to subside, she arranges for her mum to pick up her toddler. The spell passes and I take my place behind the pram in the march to her car. So what is that? Silver Linings #3-7?
Tears still flow from the little guy as he sputters out, “This is a terrible end to my really good day.”
When we reach her car, her son runs into the house. He returns with a very hard, pointy dinosaur for his eight-month-old sister and an inflatable baby roller for our patient. There’s a ball inside he can try to get through a hole, the tears cease. His focus rests on this challenge: must get ball through hole. He’s entertained the entire ride. When we arrive at the hospital, his friend says to me proudly, “I think that toy calmed him down.”
“I think you’re right,” I respond, “that was very kind. Thank you. ”
Silver Lining #8
To be continued…