Yes, parenting has its challenges, but sometimes the kids don't need you.
| What would you do if your little brother had just careened down a steep sidewalk in a metal wagon and crashed into a stone wall? What if this accident occurred B.C, before cell phones? Would you order your baby sister to run home and summon help? Would you wail and holler in hopes of attracting assistance? Perhaps you'd pull the bleeding victim, trudge back to the family refuge for first aid and reassurance from Mom? Could you ignore all warnings to never approach strangers and muster up the courage to knock on a nearby door? Twelve-year old Carrie decided upon a more direct course of action. Without hesitation she turned that mangled wagon around, most likely advising ten-year old Christopher to hang on, and urged eight-year old Danielle to follow her as she climbed the hill. With that split second reaction, Carrie had formulated a plan. They were heading for the hospital. That's where injured people went. No need to involve Mom and Dad. She knew what to do. On that October Sunday in 1992 I busied myself with things domestic believing my children would soon return home from their shared paper route. The shrill bring bring of the phone startled me and I hurried to answer it. "I have a collect call from Carrie Mills. Do you wish to accept the charges?" Swallowing and struggling to suppress rising panic, I replied in the affirmative. "Hello? Carrie? Where are you? What's happened? Are you okay?" "Mom? The nurse won't let me use her phone. We're in emerg. It's Chris, he's hurt. They won't help him, Mom." "What? You're in emerg? St. Mary's?" "Yes. The mean nurse says you have to be here. I'm only his sister." I assured my eldest I would be 'right there' even as questions swirled in the fog of my consciousness. Hurt? What did that entail? That could be anything. Another injury, Chris? What were you doing? Why on earth did they go straight to the hospital without me? What were they thinking? How did the girls manage to transport their brother there? Were they crying? When had this accident happened? Did I have the health card? Why had the nurse fobbed off Carrie's request to call me from a nursing station desk phone? I stumbled into the brightness of the Emergency department lobby within a few minutes of my summons to see my son with a bloody, swollen knee and an outstretched leg sitting in the wagon. Dried tears streaked his face and he sniffed back fresh ones when he spied me. His sisters stood guard. That tableau satisfied several of my queries. Ah, Chris had been towed right into the hospital. Okay, the three siblings were together and safe. I could see for myself Chris had banged up one of his legs. The how would be explained to me as we awaited his treatment. Introducing myself as the responsible adult / parent I proceeded to register my son as a patient. Carrie seemed to be directing withering glances at the admitting nurse who repelled them with a smile. "Your daughter is so cute," gushed the beaming woman. "She sure has a scowl. She didn't like what I told her when I said you had to be here. She just marched in here and demanded we help her brother. So sweet! I pointed out the pay phone to her. Really, my hands were tied. She sure is a caring big sister." Carrie glared. Christopher whimpered. Danielle stared wide-eyed. We retreated to a waiting area furnished with vinyl chairs. Here, I learned of Chris' decision to ride the empty wagon down the hill after they'd delivered the last of the flyers. Had he panicked as he'd picked up speed? Had he expected more of a sedate roll than an eye-watering, blurred roller coaster? Had he forgotten to steer? Did he strike a bump that forced him to swerve into the solid stone wall? Had something failed on the wagon? Chris shrugged. The why and how were not important. He'd smashed his knee. |
It's not as if I simply sat by and accepted my boy's reticence. I attempted to grill him, or so he thought. I wanted to understand. I hugged him. I asked if he felt okay. He chose not to laugh when I pointed out the battered, forlorn state of the wagon. The poor thing needed yet another welding repair. How did he think that chariot felt? Did it scream? I, of course was applying the proven accident methods my father had employed with me. Distraction, absurdity. How was the wall? Had he dented it? His unsmiling stare indicated this was far from an amusing situation. He did not wish to discuss his latest injury. Both of my daughters were the polar opposite. They shared, sometimes in stereo.
They'd witnessed their brother's spectacular collision with bated breath. The flowing, red blood frightened them. Chris had struggled to stand up, but his injured leg collapsed. They'd also wept with him. Carrie had run down the slope to rescue him. Not once had she considered I might wish to be consulted. She recognized her brother needed medical attention and she would get it for him. Why couldn't she deliver Chris to an emergency room? Isn't that what they were for, helping people? Her brother needed treatment, why should he wait? Once he'd been patched up she'd return home with him in tow. Sure, he couldn't walk, but that was not a problem. She had not factored in treatment protocols such as parental consent. She referred to her nurse nemesis as 'stupid.' Carrie had not abandoned her sister either. She'd kept Danielle within sight. Her plan of action was an all for one approach. As I reflect upon this long ago incident I still marvel at Carrie's level-headedness and linear logic. She took charge and never crumbled. She did what she believed had to be done. It only made sense to go directly to the emergency room. I was but the middle man woman. Christopher went directly to the hospital; do not pass go/home, do not involve Mom. Back then I chose to bite my tongue and not confront that difficult nurse. Could I have forced her to understand my children's disappointment with her behaviour and my anger? Would it have been a rule-breaker to at least permit Carrie to call me via the desk phone? That usage would not have accrued an extra charge. Who tells a kid to try a pay phone for a local call in a building stuffed with phones? I wonder why that 'adult' had not phoned me herself. Perhaps Carrie believed she should be the one to inform me. Could the nurse spare an ice bag for Chris' knee? Had it been her idea to leave the suffering boy in the wagon and not offer him a gurney? Ack, still the questions linger.( 1152 words )