Our daughter had broken her arm. It happens. It’s an ordinary, everyday thing for us to ride to the emergency room (where we spent enough hours to learn the little-known fact that ER is actually now ED because it’s a whole department, not just a room). With all the color gone from her little 9-year-old face, I was pretty sure my own natural color was draining away, too. And really, does her arm have to hang in that lopsided position? It’s not natural. I didn’t realize a broken arm bled just a little at the point of impact. Was that a bad thing?
All of these thoughts and a thousand more raced through my brain as we hurried to the Emergency Department twenty-five minutes away. Interspersed between the ping-ping sound of text messages going to and from my phone. “She’s broken her arm. Please pray.” Also my own ongoing prayers– sometimes words specific to our current situation, but mostly a lot of Our Fathers and the Jesus Prayer. I’ve never been more thankful for rote prayers in my life.
So that was Sunday, and the wee hours of Monday morning. I should have realized the anesthesia they gave my daughter when they operated on her arm (apparently she’d suffered a compound fracture that required an operation) might have made us a little slap-happy, too. It’s normal to hear your young child tear up and tell you she’d said a prayer for the older woman in the ED room beside her, because she looked like she was having a stroke and she wanted God to be with her, yes? And when my husband returned with her prescribed antibiotic and codeine-laced Tylenol, he brought her a stuffed animal giraffe, muttering “It must be pretty bad if I’m giving you a stuffed animal, kid.” To go with the other 247 she has at home. It was all our version of the Twilight Zone.
Yeah, we were a little shaken up. I know kids break their arms all the time, but this was my kid and the situation that evening grew quickly out of my control.
So, two days later, when she was markedly improved, I determined to do something I could control. My daughter loves our small town’s Fourth of July parade (admittedly this is because she hauls in more candy from this 45-minute event than she does from a whole night of trick-or-treating) and if she felt up to it at all, I was going to make sure she got to go.
When mid-afternoon rolled around, she was still a little wobbly (so was I), but the anesthesia seemed to be out of her system and she was getting around on her own. The neighbor girl decided to go with us, and we headed downtown to the parade. On the way, we discussed how the neighbor girl would get candy for the both of them as it was tossed from the floats.
We got a pretty good spot right in front of the bank. I noticed a group of four or five kids next to us, but I was confident there was plenty of space to spread out. The parade began and I watched these kids move directly in front of us. I kept thinking their parents would tell them to move over so they weren’t blocking the two girls I had with me. There’s room for everyone, right? Not a word was said, but as a general rule, I avoid confrontation at all costs, and I really wasn’t up for an unpleasant exchange that day. The parade continued and these kids stayed right in front of us. My daughter got out of her chair to go after a few pieces of candy, and I reminded her she needed to sit. All the while watching these kids ninja their way to more and more loot. There’s enough candy for everyone, right?
In no time at all, these kids had Ziplock baggies bursting at the seams with candy. Our two bags had a decent amount of candy in it, so no big deal. I suggested to the girls we move down to the left just a bit to give the kids more space, and maybe retrieve candy in their own open area. The kids moved with us. It all left me a little unsettled.
That’s when it happened. An individual bag of gummy bears was tossed just out of my reach. If I slipped out of my chair and inched my hand forward, I could get this particular piece of candy for my poor invalid daughter who’d gone under anesthesia two days before. I could control this. So, I did it. I landed on said bag of candy about the same time as a little girl from the other group. With a quick snatch I took it from her hand and said, “Nope. I’m going to take this one.”
I took candy from a little girl! I’m not a bad person. We spend a lot of time making sure our daughter has good manners. But in that moment, I told that little girl BACK OFF! Well, not in so many words, but it’s what I meant. That’s what roared inside of me. I am Mama Bear, and my little Goldilocks just went through an awful lot. BACK OFF.
The girl turned to the group of parents she was with and tossed her hands up incredulously. I placed the candy in my daughter’s bag. The remainder of the parade seemed a bit awkward. Near the end, a lady from their group came up to me and said, “I’m sorry but I just have to say something. I saw you take that piece of candy from that little girl. It was wrong and rude.”
Sometimes there are moments when words aren’t enough. Oh, I stammered a little; offering up my defense, pointing out my daughter’s broken arm, and suggesting her own kids could do a little better with boundaries.
What I really wanted to communicate was this: Look, the last few days have been super hard on our family. I brought my ailing daughter; with a cast past her elbow, a regimen of antibiotics and pain meds coursing through her veins, fingers still numb from the anesthesia, to a hometown parade. I wanted today to be normal. I thought I could give her that. I’m awful sorry about taking candy from that little girl. Probably not my best parenting moment. Good thing I’m not planning on running for mayor anytime soon. BACK OFF, OK?
It’s true what they say, we never know what someone else is going through. Oh, and here’s the bag of gummy worms lady. It was never about that anyway.