One minute, everyone was happily biking, and the next minute, we were headed to the E.R.
On Sunday, Ben wiped out on his bike at the park. When I ran over to him, blood was already pouring out of his mouth. I picked him up and shot a panicked look at Mary, who shouted, “Take him to Mike! Take him to Mike!”
Mike is our paramedic/firefighter neighbor, who lives next door to us. When we looked at Ben’s mouth, it was pretty gruesome. He bit through the inside of his top lip with his front tooth, and that part of the lip was stuck in between his teeth.
Mary is great in a crisis. I tend to freak out.
I was shaking by the time Mary and the boys got back to our house from the park. Mike took Lige and Isaac, and Mary and I raced to the E.R. Ben was actually pretty calm, which kind of worried us.
We got to the E.R., and the doctor suggested putting him under sedation for the “repair” which was supposed to take about 15 minutes. It was scary to see his eyes flutter shut. The doctor went to work, and ten stitches later, it was done.
I kept getting up to watch and then I kept sitting back down. I wanted to watch, if wanting to watch means “I think I’m supposed to watch but I really, really don’t want to.”
Mary watched the whole time.
We talked about that the next day, and she said, “Because it was so traumatic, I needed to see it all get put back together.”
Two days later, Benny has a lip the size of Connecticut, but thankfully, the dentist assured us that his teeth are OK, and other than waiting it out, no more procedures need to be done on his mouth. He is a champ, and the truth is that he did a whole lot better than I did.
After traumas like that, parents can tend to move towards PROTECTION MODE. We are going to make sure our kids never get hurt again, God help us. When things get ruptured, whether physical or emotional, it is traumatic.
We would never say this, but as parents, we act like if we do our jobs right, there won’t be any ruptures, at least not because of us. We should never lose our temper, never do or say the wrong thing, and always know what to do with our kids in every situation. So we pour over books and articles that promise to help us do those things perfectly.
The problem is that is not how life works. We cannot avoid ruptures. They happen, no matter how hard we try to avoid them.
We have two great therapists that we work with, both of whom introduced us to the concept of rupture and repair. It means that there will be ruptures, both physical and emotional, and the point is not to work hard to avoid the rupture. Kids wipe out on their bikes, they lie to you, and they do really stupid things like pee on their brother’s bedroom door (that may or may not have happened in our house recently). And parents make the wrong choices, say the wrong things, and occasionally hurt their kids’ feelings because they are overwhelmed.
The key is to notice the rupture, and then when the time is right, move towards repair. Because after something traumatic happens, everyone needs to see it be put back together again.
A few weeks ago, dinner time was complete, utter chaos (and Mary was gone). I lost it. After repeatedly yelling, I actually growled at one of the boys. It was not pretty. We got through dinner, and after jammies and teeth and potty, we went upstairs. I gathered them around the brown chair in our room, and I said, “Guys, I’m sorry. Daddy really lost his temper. I don’t like it when I do that. It’s true that we need to find ways to eat that are more calm, but it’s not OK for daddy to yell at you guys like that. Will you forgive me?”
Rupture and repair means that we are not perfect parents, and there is no way we can control everything that happens to our kids. But when something ruptures and it causes a trauma, we can gather everyone back together and see it come back together again. As our kids get older, the repairs become harder and more complex, and it takes longer, but they’re just as important.
In it together, friends.