The minivan kiss

My coffee is already cold, but I want a sip anyway. I’ve earned it after running around for the last few hours getting everything ready for the day.

I feel carefully for my Chewbacca coffee mug with my right hand, fully aware at how many times it has ended up on the van carpet or in my lap. No. Not today. This shirt is far too white and I need the caffeine.

I look down.

Thump.

“Did we just hit that car?” my girl says from the back.

“Shit,” I reply.

“Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.”

The van in front of me, the one whose bumper I’m snug against now, turns on the right blinker.

“Shit,” I say again.

“What’s going to happen?” my boy asks.

“I don’t know,” I say.

Then I roll off a few more “shits” and he goes quiet.

Everyone is watching me. I’m sure they are screaming at me as I hang my head in shame.

“You idiot!”

It was just a mistake.

“Get off your phone!”

I wasn’t on it. It was just a mistake.

“You don’t deserve to drive!”

It was just a mistake.

The light turns green and I follow the brown van into the parking lot of a mortgage company. I am shaking now. I’m going to be late. The driver is going to yell at me. My insurance is going to go up.

Shit.

“Sit still,” I tell the kids. “I’ll be right back.”

The driver is another mom, clearly dressed for morning carpool with pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. There is a little girl in the backseat and a small Chihuahua. She waves to me and the dog licks the window.

We meet at her bumper and stare together for a moment.

“I see nothing, let’s check your car,” she says with a smile.

“I’m so sorry,” I say.

We walk to the front of my van and the license plate is a little wonky, but it is fine. This could have been so much worse. I start to apologize again and she cuts me off.

“I say we just forget all about it.”

She smiles.

“I really am sorry. Is your daughter OK? Was she scared?”

“She is fine. Everything is fine,” she says. “Really. Don’t worry about it. It was just a little accident. It is OK.”

She fixes me with a motherly look of forgiveness and I tear up.

I hug her.

She hugs back.

“Thank you,” I say.

“You have a great day,” she says and walks away.

“You too,” I say after she is already out of earshot.

She gives me a final smile and wave before driving off. The little girl in the backseat is waving to my kids and the dog is still licking the window.

I hop back in the car and take a deep breath to stop my hands from shaking.

“Everything is going to be OK,” I tell the kids.

“They were nice,” my girl says.

Yes they were.

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Then again, sometimes things are just bullshit

His hands and feet have always been filthy.

When he was just a few days old, I would look at his tiny nails and wonder at how it was they were always in need of cleaning and cutting. I’d use my teeth to carefully trim them and then gently soak them in water to release the dirt.

As he lay in the hospital bed, I keep looking at his feet. When was the last time I cut those toenails? I need to teach him to take better care of himself.

Guilt courses through me like ice and I lean forward to touch his shoulder. He shudders and frowns at me.

“Stop trying to help me mom. You can’t do anything!”

I hate those words and I frown back.

That can’t be true. I refuse to accept that. I am his mother and I am responsible for everything that happens to him. This is my fault and now I have to fix it. I NEED to make it better.

“Let me rub your head.”

“Your lips look dry, let me put some chap stick on.”

“How about I sing you a song or tell you a story?”

“I love you.”

He screams out in pain again and his body starts to shake.

“Just stop mom! STOP IT! You can’t do anything!!!”

I swallow hard and force myself to keep it together. He needs me to be tough.

All I can do is sit here with him and listen to him cry.

I hate it.

This whole situation is complete bullshit.

Anger bubbles up at the hospital staff and the impossibly slow way they are moving. I hear the nurses discussing another patient and I want to slap them across the face. How can they endure his cries of pain? Why are they not running around helping us? Why are they so calm?

Hours go by and we move through the motions.

X-rays.

IV in the arm.

Painkillers that barely touch the pain.

Confirmation that his wrist is indeed broke in two places.

Crying, shaking and begging for water.

Waiting to be put under.

Heart monitors.

Nurses come and go.

Papers to sign.

Drugs given that I don’t fully understand.

Bones reset by what the doctor calls “barbaric procedure.”

Waking up and wanting all the “tubes out.”

More x-rays.

Waiting to be released.

Paying.

When we finally get into the car, it feels as if we’d been gone for days. We are hungry, tired and emotionally drained. As we cue up in the drive-through for some well-earned milkshakes, I look at my boy in the mirror.

“You know I really wish I could have done something to help you,” I tell him. “I hated seeing you in so much pain.”

“You couldn’t mom,” he says. “There was nothing you could do.”

There it is again.

Bullshit.

It has been a week and he is on the mend. He will get his regular cast on Friday and the pain is under control now.

But I’m stuck. I’ve written and erased this blog post a dozen times. The truth is, I am struggling to understand all the emotions that this event has evoked.

Guilt: I keep replaying his fall off the play structure in my head and I can’t stop blaming myself. After all, it happened after school on my watch. I have told him to not stand on top of the monkey bars about 30,000 times, and I was about to yell at him again when he fell. If only I had.

Fear: My body keeps flooding with the memory of how completely and utterly incompetent I felt as I saw his clearly broken arm. I didn’t know what to do and I am fearful of all the ways it could have been so much worse.

Weakness: Not being able to fix my sons pain or even comfort him made me feel like a very inadequate mother. I don’t recognize this pathetic, uncertain and full of worry mom I am turning into.

Embarrassment: The school is looking at playground safety closer and sent out a note about how parents need to watch their kids after school. Clearly, if I had been a better parent none of this would have happened. Right?

Despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to shake all this crap away and turn it into something positive.

“He learned his lesson,” falls flat and I’m not even sure it’s true.

“I learned my lesson,” puts too much blame on me and it feels icky and wrong.

Really, it was an accident. Kids get hurt all the time and it just happened. There is no lesson or getting over it.

I guess sometimes bullshit is just that.

Bullshit.

Cooper with cast

But at least he is cute.