I've inadvertently proven that my family has no compassion. The question is: Did I create this, or is this a naturally occurring phenomenon?
So there I was, minding my own business, eating a bowl of cereal in the kitchen when Boy #3 came up to me asking for something to eat. The something in question was peanut butter, and he signified his desires for peanut butter by bringing me the jar and handing it to me, saying "I want peanut butter." But as he was holding it, it slipped out of his hands and crashed to the floor. Fortunately for the floor, my foot was there, blocking the way, otherwise there would be a huge gouge in the wood. I don't think I've mentioned that this was a brand new jar from Costco, and therefore contained roughly 40 gallons of peanut butter. And it was Extra Crunchy.
Instead of a gouge in our wood floor, there ends up a gouge in my foot. The jar landed right on the joint where my big toe meets my foot, where there's normally a bump except that my feet are so puffy that you'd be hard pressed to find any bones there at all. There must be some nerves there or something, because the pain immediately shot through my entire foot, and I screamed and dropped my bowl of cereal on the counter.
Here's where the story diverges. I have one picture in my mind of how it should have gone, and another of how it actually went. I'll show you the way it should have gone first:
I scream, and drop my bowl of cereal on the counter. Since the back door is wide open, I run (hobble) into the living room so that the neighbors don't have to listen to me crying. I try not to aspirate the bite of cereal still in my mouth as I start crying into the couch cushion. That's how bad it hurts - I rarely hurt myself badly enough to cry about it. The kids, who are coloring at the table, ask if I'm okay. DH, who was on his way to take a shower, follows me into the living room, asks me how I'm doing. I say, "Horrible" and show him the giant lump that is now forming on my foot, bruised and blackened.
He goes and gets me a bag of frozen vegetables to put on my foot (by my request, even in my daydream I don't think he'd do that on his own) and deals with the kids for a couple of minutes so I can recover my composure. Then he goes and takes his shower, and I hobble into the kitchen and find that my spilled cereal was cleaned up, too. None of it makes the pain any better, but it was comforting.
Okay, that's the end of the "fake" story. Notice that I didn't embellish this at all, it's not like I was expecting DH to fawn over me, and carry my up to my room. Nor did I think that the kids would start coloring pictures that say "Get Well, Mom" or "I Love You Despite the Giant Growth on Your Foot." No, I believe I was fairly realistic about this. Here's how it really went:
I scream, and drop my bowl of cereal on the counter. Since the back door is wide open, I run (hobble) into the living room so that the neighbors don't have to listen to me crying. I try not to aspirate the bite of cereal still in my mouth as I start crying into the couch cushion. I hear a sound from downstairs - it's the shower turning on. The next sound I hear is Boy #2 asking "Can someone cut this apple for me?" Boy #3 has abandoned his peanut butter quest and instead gets a bag of Cocoa Krispies out of the pantry and pours it on the floor so that he can eat it, flake by flake. He eventually grabs a handful and brings it to the table so he can continue eating while he colors.
Boy #2 asks again if someone will cut his apple, and I say "No!" Boy #1 attempts to cut the apple for him, gets about halfway and gives up. I have been crying this whole time and finally get off the couch and see if, possibly, burglars have tied my family to chairs and that is why no one is coming to see if I need help. Nope, all free and, apparently, not suddenly struck deaf either, so theoretically they could hear me crying in the next room. I crunch through the Cocoa Krispies on the floor and go over to the freezer and find a half-full bag of diced green peppers. On my way back to the couch I say, "Do you guys have no compassion at all? Could you not even ask me if I'm okay?"
Boy #1, the designated spokesman for the group, replies, "Well, we drop peanut butter on our feet all the time, and it doesn't hurt." I say, "This time it hurt. Look at my foot!" I show them the bruise and they are slightly interested, but #1 says "We get hurt a lot and it doesn't matter." I go sit back down on the couch to green pepper my foot.
Again, I'm realistic enough to recognize that it isn't my kids' job to comfort me when I'm hurt, it's my job to comfort them, and I don't think it's reciprocal. But you'd think that it would be a good thing to teach them that if anybody is hurt, to whatever degree, they should at least notice! And sheesh, have we heard the kids complain enough about getting hurt that even my own husband tunes it out, even when it is someone else?
The green peppers bring down the swelling in my foot and I can walk if I don't put much weight on the left half of my foot. I sweep up the Cocoa Krispies and slice #2's apple, then go upstairs to pick out church clothes for #2, who actually gets dressed without complaint today. When DH is out of the shower I show him my foot and say, "I was really hurt!" He apologizes and goes to get some church things ready. Boy #1 says, again, that they get hurt all the time. This time he adds, "Mom, you always say you cry more when you're pregnant, I just thought you were crying because of that." Then he asks if I'm okay and I say yes, thank you, because at least I think he might be learning something from this.
But interestingly enough, I am left wondering if my response to my kids when they hurt themselves is appropriate. #1 is right, they hurt themselves all the time, but they cry when they do it and there's no way to judge how bad the injury is just from the crying. So I am fairly nonchalant about whatever their injury is until I look at it for myself, and then I can decide what level of attention is required. But I don't get too worked up about anything - if there is enough blood involved, I take action, otherwise I generally give them a hug and ask if they are okay and in 2 minutes or less they are off playing again.
There are times, though, when I should have gotten more worked up than I did. I have a few stories that show that not showing compassion when we should have could be a learned trait.
Boy #1 was goofing off with Boy #2 in the living room while DH and I sat downstairs, presumably watching tv or something. We heard this massive CRASH and #2 says calmly, "That's why!" Boy #1 is crying, but not hysterical, so we say to ourselves, if he's really hurt, he'll come down and tell us what's wrong. A minute or so later, it is Boy #2 who comes downstairs and says, perfectly calmly, "#1 is hurt." The appropriate thing to say in this case was, "If you care at all about your carpet, you'll get upstairs right now!" Because, as it turns out, when we stroll upstairs we find Boy #1 with his head on the ground, the piano bench on his head, and more blood that I thought the human body contained pouring out of his nose.
Finally moved to action, DH takes him up to the bathroom to clean him off, and I start on the carpet. A minute later, DH calls down to me and asks what I think we should do - it turns out that Boy #1 is also bleeding out of the tear ducts in his eyes. I immediately call my friend who is a pediatrician, but of course he is at work, so his wife gives me the number of his office, since they take emergencies. I call the office and talk to a nurse, who asks me all sorts of questions and determines that since the bleeding is stopping, he can still move his eye, and there's no vision loss, that we'll probably be okay, but to take him in if anything gets worse.
He bleeds for probably 2 hours or so, and I spend almost all of that time, plus every container of carpet cleaner in the house, working on the stain. He turned out fine, the carpet is fine too, but there's one instance where maybe a little faster reaction would have helped, at least for the carpet.
I was pregnant with Boy #3 and had the Activity Day girls over, doing an Easter craft. Boy #2 had been doing the craft with us, but then went outside to play. Only a few minutes after he left, I heard him crying. I went to look outside, and there he was, on his tricycle, crying as he pedaled home from our next door neighbor's house. How badly can he be hurt, if he chooses to ride his bike home, right?
He gets to the front door and I give him a hug, pat him on the back trying to get him to calm down. He's still crying, although he looks just fine. My neighbor comes over and explains what happened: #2 was sitting on the fence between my neighbor's yard and the next one down, when he fell backwards and fell into the other yard. The neighbor told me that #2 was bleeding, and I said, No, I don't think so. My neighbor replied, well, I just washed his blood off my hands. So I lift up his shirt, his chest was fine but his back had a giant semi-circle of flesh scraped down it. Apparently on his way down, his back hit a jagged wood post that was part of the retaining wall on the other side of the fence. I immediately took him to Instacare where they stitched his skin back together. He was so exhausted and traumatized from crying that he fell asleep in my arms while they stitched his back.
This one is about my Dear Husband. When he worked at Dreamworks, he and some of his friends started bowling on their lunch hour. He really enjoyed himself, although there was the persistent joke about being too good for the golfing crowd, and preferring this clientele better. Anyhow, one day he came home hurt from bowling. Apparently, as he went to throw the ball, he clipped his ankle with the ball. It was bruised and swollen and hurt to walk on. He toughed it out for a few days, with me thinking (although I don't know how much I said out loud) that for Pete's sake, it's a bowling injury! If you're going to hurt yourself, couldn't it be something a little more noble, like saving a kid from crashing on his bike, or maybe more manly, like a football injury? But bowling? How bad could it be? If Homer Simpson can manage to bowl, surely this isn't the kind of sport where you get hurt?
Well, hurt he was. He eventually went to see a doctor about it, and had an x-ray, which showed that he had either bruised or chipped the bone, I can't remember which anymore. But the tendons or muscle or whatever goes over your ankle kept rubbing over the injury whenever he moved it, so that's why it was so persistently painful. A doctor saying something is wrong certainly gives even the weirdest injury some gravitas, so I felt bad for insulting his injury.
Incidentally, the bowling ball has never since seen the light of day.
My foot feels better now, just bruised and purple and hurts when you touch it. I feel a little bad for overreacting, but it did really hurt, and I really didn't like being ignored. But injuries happen in this house, and maybe I'll be a little more compassionate now that I've experienced the other side of it.
In the 45 minutes I wrote this before church yesterday, Boy #3 hurt himself twice. After church, he hit his head on the doorknob, and hurt himself outside somehow and came in crying. In a separate incident, I had to kiss a (very dirty) toe that had gotten stubbed. All of these injuries included tears, but were solved in under a minute. Later that night, DH and I were sitting in the backyard watching the kids play, and Boy #1 walked past, obviously hurt. DH asked him, "Hey, are you okay?" #1 says he's fine, and I look at DH curiously, as if to ask why he would ask that question.
"Well, I'm scared now" DH says.
"Why is that?" I ask, amused.
"You're bigger than I am," DH replies, not joking. I guess if nothing else will teach my family compassion, I can beat it into them with brute strength and intimidation!