Same Mother, Different Drama

scene1CRASH – SCENE 1, TAKE 1

Feb 17, 2012

When my thirteen year old son texted me from the ski slopes that he needed a new helmet after crashing, I handled myself very well – at first.  From my seat in the lodge, I calmly texted back a list of head injury symptoms to check for.  Instead of a return text, my cell phone rang.  It rang!

(In case you missed the significance of this, modern teenage practice dictates that only ‘old people’ use the phone.  Kids text.  Always.)

My worry meter escalated when I heard Beagle’s shaky voice asking me to pick him up on the other side of the mountain.  “I can’t see out of half my eye or hear out of my ear.”  Crap.  ‘At least he can talk and walk,’ I say to console myself.

Kindly First Aid people recommend a trip to the hospital. (Ya think?!)  They offer an ambulance for two, one seat for Beagle and one for the poor soul with the broken leg.  Strangely un-comforted by the thought of medical personnel escorting son, I opt to take him myself, unwilling as I am to let him out of my sight.

On the way to the hospital, I remain stoic on the outside and desperate on the inside.  I begin bargaining with God.  First, I offer my gratitude for life and health.  ‘Thank you, God, for sparing my son’s life in this accident.  I know you’ve got his back.  But I want to buy some extra insurance to cover him from the damage that has been done to his brain.  What can I give You?  How much will it cost me to insure my son’s well-being?  Take anything from me in exchange for his health.’

For a moment I actually believe this is possible – to sell myself to God in exchange for complete protection of my baby boy.  Prayers offered in earnest shift quickly to threats as doubts of my power to persuade God creep in.  I confront Him with my demands, desperate pleas, acts of contrition…in short, my LIFE.  If only He can give me a guarantee.

None is offered.  The swap shop isn’t doing business it seems.  I am left holding a heart full of fears, unsure where to turn.  So I turn back to Beagle, lying on the seat beside me, who is trying to block out the light from his overly-sensitive post-concussion eyes.

‘Be okay!’ I command silently.  ‘Please.’  I feel meek and helpless.

My son’s thirteen years flash before me – joys, sorrows, worries – always the worries.  It’s a cruel revelation when a parent realizes that the immense love she feels for her child is balanced in equal measure by fear for that child.  The more I dare to love, the more I risk the hurt.

A solid 48 hours passes before I begin to breathe freely.  Son was given clearance from the doctor to return home with caveats.  It’s not until Beagle starts fighting with a sister that fear loosens its vice grip on me – normalcy in any form is welcomed.

Beagle has all but forgotten the incident within the week.   But I, still shaken from my first head injury experience as a mother, continue to treat Beagle like a prized possession who narrowly escaped death.

Feeling that I should pay up on my answered prayers for Beagle’s recovery, I promise that I will never take a child’s health and well-being for granted again.

So much for promises…..


scene 2CRASH – SCENE 2, TAKE 1

February 17, 2013

(Same ski mountain, one year later)

My one day off from kid duty began uneventfully.  By mid-morning, with chores complete and tea brewed, I sat down to a novel. Simultaneously, my cell phone buzzed – a text.  I considered ignoring it but felt compelled by nothing more than curiosity to check the message.  It was from husband:

   HUSBAND: Teen daughter fell while snowboarding and bumped her head.  Probably has a concussion.

ME:  LOL.  Very funny.

It is exactly one year to the day of son’s incident.  Funny joke, husband. I’m not falling for it.

HUSBAND:  No joke.  Meet us at first aid.

A feeling rolls through me erupting in a howl.  Nooooooo! My one day off, ruined by another trip to the hospital! 

I kid you not – irritation is what I felt.  Surprising, and difficult to justify, I know.  As it turned out, I would spend the better part of a day trying to defend my lapse in compassion.

It wasn’t as though I was heartless.  On some level I knew that Principessa would be ok.  The tone of the text maybe.  Or mother’s intuition.  Or perhaps it was a deep-seated lesson learned from the experience with son last year – I could fall apart by worrying and praying my way through the next several hours of medical emergency (as I did with Beagle), or I could see it for what it likely was – another unfortunate, though not tragic, incident.  What couldn’t be anticipated was the level of chaos I was about to walk into.

Husband phoned to say that ski patrol had called an ambulance, advising that Principessa not be moved.  What?!  “Do NOT let her in that ambulance until I get there!”

Visions of insurance denials for expensive and unnecessary ambulance services flashed before me.  (In my defense, I had been apprised of the events and symptoms – which gives me about as much credibility as the average Grey’s Anatomy viewer, I know, but still.)

I stormed in, ready to take charge.  “What happened?!” I demanded.

Later, I learned that husband had predicted my entrance.  “In a few minutes a small Italian tornado will be coming.  That’s the mother.  We’ll all be okay, but brace yourself.”

By the time I showed up, Principessa was hysterical, trembling all over while an over-reactive medic held her head still and collared her.  He seemed surprised when I questioned his motives, requiring a justification for panicking my daughter.

Having done a quick assessment of my own, (I do have a level of medical training beyond that of the average mother,) I postulated that Principessa’s signs of shock were indicative of an anxiety attack caused by the drama, not by a spinal cord injury. If only I had gotten there sooner, I could have calmed her down and avoided this scene.

While husband and I weighed the options and potential risks of driving Principessa to the hospital ourselves, First Responders charged in with enough equipment to sink a ship – namely the one I was trying to captain.  It was too late, I couldn’t keep it afloat.

By the time we arrived at the hospital via flashing lights, Principessa had calmed sufficiently to bring her vital signs, and her senses, back to normal.  She laughed at my jokes and complained about how uncomfortable the backboard was. A CAT scan confirmed what I already knew – Principessa had an expensive headache.

I suppose this scene could have ended badly, in which case I wouldn’t be writing about it with self-deprecating humor.  But it didn’t, which gives me leave to assess the whole drama in contrast to the one that took place exactly one year ago.

During my recovery from trauma #1, it appears that I both gained and lost something of value.  On the positive side, now in possession of a thicker skin, I was able to keep my nerves in check when a child was injured.  Being desensitized can be a valuable asset.  The flip side is, I’m desensitized, which rendered me a bit harsh in a situation that called for compassion.  I all but attacked the very people who were trying to protect my daughter from the unknown, whilst I brazenly denied anything other than what I wanted to believe or suspected to be true.

All this to say that motherhood is Chaos with a capital C.  I could analyze it until I’m blue in the face, trying to glean scraps of clarity from the experience; I could promise to do better or different;  but no matter what, chaos will continue to sneak up behind me and change the rules, giving me yet another new experience to toy with.  All I can say is, God help me.  And God help the next kid who gets injured on my day off.

Love, Here I Come

i love youEvery year at this time (the Christian season of Lent) I seize the opportunity to spearhead my own crash course on Life.  Some themes I’ve taken on in past years include Gratitude, Non-Judgment, and Giving.  For forty days I commit my focus to a challenge that impels me to be a better version of myself.  Without fail, this practice proves to be life-altering and inspirational.

I don’t always go public with these personal encounters, but when Friend asked me what project I was cooking up this year (so that she might also be inspired), I felt obliged to share.  Marianne Williamson said, “As we let our own light shine, we give other people permission to do the same.”  Or as the fellow diner said in response to Meg Ryan’s orgasm interpretation (in When Harry Met Sally), “I’ll have what she’s having.”  Same same.

So here it is, The Forty Days of Love.  Cliché, I know, since it also happens to be Valentine’s Day.  But whatever, love rules.

Love is one of those words that has no right being just one word.  There’s too much going on with love to box it up in four letters.  Poets and playwrights, saints and songwriters have said more about love than any other subject, and still, they’ve only grazed the surface.  There’s plenty more to learn about love and I intend to do just that.  Experiment and learn.  I’ll notice it, play with it, express it, apologize for withholding it, accept it, and maybe even try to define it.

No one and no thing is off limits.  If you cross my path this month, be you friend or foe, expect to find love.  Love has agreed to be my constant companion.  It’s good like that – very accommodating – though very sneaky too.  Love tends to hide in the most unlikely places.  No worries, I have a nose like a basset hound.  And a black belt in gratitude.  Love, I will hunt you down if I have to.  But I don’t expect it will come to that.

If you intend to join me on this journey, buckle up.  It’s never an easy stroll through the park.  This conscious living thing is Work.  I’m not talking about ladling on an extra dose of hugs and kisses to the dear ones.  It’s easy to love them. No ma’am, I’m talkin’ love thy enemies – the ones who tick you off and stir the pot and make you want to say those curse words that fit so nicely in the angry space.  That’s the love I want to know – the kind that claims dominion over evil.

It’s you and me against the world, love.  Let’s do this thing.


p.s. After writing this piece and before posting it, a neighbor’s house was broken into.  I offered up my blessings for the people who had been violated, then another for the criminal – for whatever is going on for him/her that motivates stealing.  Hard to suspend the judgment, but I’m throwing some love in that direction and the judgment is caving.  Powerful stuff love is.

The Princess, The Witch, and The Door


photo credit


For years I’ve been trying to instill in my children the practice of knocking on a door before entering a room.  Two out of three have mastered the skill.  But Principessa, the oldest, struggles with this basic concept despite (or because of) my repetitive instruction and begging.

After a recent infraction, when daughter barged in on me in my bedroom (alone, thank goodness) I snapped.  In response to a reprimand, Principessa defiantly replied, “It’s no big deal, Mom.”

Really?  We’ll see about ‘no big deal.’

The next day, when Principessa was out of the house, I enlisted her brother’s help.  He had just woken at the crack of noontime and wasn’t feeling especially generous until I filled him in on my plan – to remove his sister’s bedroom door.  Suddenly devoid of morning stupor, Beagle popped out of his seat and ran to get the tool box.

When Principessa returned home and entered her doorless room, she, how should I say it?….Freaked Out.  In retrospect, I believe her reaction was a full-blown panic attack.  No privacy, too loud, too bright! Her concerns were numerous.

Principessa demanded that I return her door immediately.  She had ‘gotten the point.’  Silly girl.  Why would I put the door back so soon when I had gone to so much trouble to remove it?  Sorry, Love, lesson is not over.

For two days the family endured Principessa’s ranting.  Gradually, she began knocking on bedroom doors.  Unconvinced of her sincerity, I held out for the rest of the week just to be sure.

I knew it was time to rescind the consequence when Principessa entered the kitchen for a glass of milk.  In a show of the utmost respect, Principessa walked up to the refrigerator and knocked on its door.  “It’s not answering, Mom.  What should I do?”

At last!  We had moved past anger to acceptance and finally to humor.  Lesson complete.

I did the parent victory dance that day.  You know, the one where you celebrate the fact that you’ve managed to teach a lesson without losing your cool or getting sucked into the endless cycle of parent-child power struggle.  You’ve managed to use your grown-up skills without resorting to arguing with irrational young ‘uns.

One week later, Principessa failed (for the millionth time) to turn off her bedroom lights before leaving for the day.  I calmly explained that her next lesson would involve turning off power to her room.  Still smarting from her previous consequence, Principessa snapped to attention with apologies and promises and pleas to spare her the agony.  She knows I mean business.  But I fear that some lessons are best learned the hard way.  And I suspect I’ll be in the basement searching for the right fuse to pull before the end of the week.

Poor Principessa, she’ll probably want to take her door off so she can let in more light from the hallway.

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