*Just a word of caution – if blood isn’t your thing, this blog post may not be for you. Consider yourself warned.*
Last night was the typical after dinner gong show, except that I was doing it alone after a day of looking after four kids. Jeff was working late and wouldn’t be home until long after the girls had gone to bed. As I tiredly washed up the last of the dishes, I heard the typical end-of-the-day-running-out-of-steam bickering between the girls coming from the living room.
Zoe was lying innocently enough on the couch, while Elsie made it her personal vendetta to provoke Zoe as much as possible. Amidst Elsie’s poking and slapping, and Zoe repeatedly hollering for Elsie to stop, I continued to clean up the post-dinner aftermath, too tired to intervene. In hindsight, I should have just stepped in and saved everyone a whole lot of grief. (Parenting fail number one.) Zoe had finally reached her limit, and with one loud bellow, she hoofed Elsie as hard as she could off the couch. Elsie went tumbling backwards and hit the back of her head off the edge of the coffee table with a sickening “thwack!”
I raced from the kitchen, let out a guttural roar – “ZOOOOEEE!”, scooped Elsie up into my arms, went upstairs to her room, rocking her in the dark, attempting to calm her down. As I was cuddling her, I felt something wet and warm smear against my neck and face. Still cradling Elsie, I went over to the bathroom to investigate, meeting Zoe in the hallway. Poor Zoe. Her face went paler than pale, her big eyes rounded and she started screaming, “There’s blood! There’s blood!”
I ran to the bathroom and sure enough, the back of Elsie’s head was drenched in blood, dripping in heavy drops down the back of her shirt. As a result of her cuddling against me, half of my face and my entire neck was covered in blood. Zoe started screaming. Elsie started screaming. I started screaming. (Parenting fail number two.) Somewhere, in the midst of all this screaming, I yelled over at Zoe, “This is why we don’t kick your sister! Look what you did! We use our hands and feet to love, not hurt people!” To which Zoe hysterically replied, tears and snot streaming down her face, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I don’t like this! I don’t like this at all! I’m afraid! Mummy, I’m afraid!”
As I continued to sop up he blood in an already blood-soaked washcloth, attempting to calm down Elsie who was still wailing in the bathroom sink, Zoe clung to my arm, peppering it with apologetic kisses. In that moment, I didn’t know who to feel worse for – my child with the gushing head wound or my child who had become hysterical with guilt and remorse. Or myself, who was still covered in blood, trying to manage the situation on my own.
I promptly popped Elsie in the bathtub to wash the blood away, just so that I could evaluate how bad the wound actually was. Zoe is still clinging onto any free limb of mine, sobbing and apologizing profusely. I try to get her to breathe deeply, to count with me. I tell her that Mummy isn’t afraid, so she has nothing to be afraid of…that Mummy is making Elsie’s ouchie better. All while sloshing water over Elsie’s blood-soaked curls as she, by this point, has decided to milk the situation for all it’s worth. Elsie, blubbering in the tub, wails, “Mummy! My feelings are really hurting! I can never walk again!” (We may have brought a bit of a drama queen into this world.)
Finally, I get a glimpse of the gash – it’s only about an inch long but it won’t stop bleeding. At this point, it looks like it could use stitches, so I scoop Elsie out of the tub (because obviously she can’t walk anymore) and call my mother-in-law to see if she can watch Zoe while I take Elsie to the walk-in clinic.
At the mention of Elsie needing stitches, Zoe was flung into even deeper despair, as she screamed, “No, Mummy! Elsie will have to have the medicine for stitches! And then she will throw up! I don’t want Elsie to throw up!” (Zoe has had her own horrific experience with stitches in her lip, having to be put under, and then consequently throwing up from the anaesthetic afterwards.) Finally, I calmed her down, telling her that the doctor would use a different medicine for Elsie’s stitches so she wouldn’t get sick. Meanwhile, Elsie has miraculously been “healed” and is able to walk…in fact, she’s twirling and dancing around the kitchen, still with blood dripping down her head.
As we leave to go to the doctor, Elsie continues to jump and hop around, excited that she gets to go to the “hosbible.” I wrap Zoe up in my arms, by this time plagued with major mom guilt for the way I over-reacted to the gushing fountain of blood coming out of her sister’s head. (I recalled somewhere in the back of my mind that head wounds apparently are worse than they look. And so, in all likelihood I had completely overreacted to the situation.) I tell Zoe that I am not angry at her, that Elsie only got hurt because Zoe was defending herself. That while the way she reacted to Elsie was wrong, I should have stepped in to mediate much sooner.
And then we are off, Elsie talking excitedly the whole way to the clinic, while I puzzle in my mind how I could have two such opposite children. The younger, who by rights, had it coming to her for being such a pest. And the older one, so sensitive and prone to guilt, who ironically, the one time she actually stands up to her sister, she herself is the one thrown into the depths of despair. All the while, I’m chastising myself for my part in the drama. Calm and collected hardly describe my reaction.
Turns out, we opted out of getting stitches. The doctor could have given Elsie a couple, but they would have been purely for cosmetic reasons. Given that the wound is at the back of her head and no one will ever see the scar, we decided to slap some Polysporin on it and call it a night. We were home before we knew it, the girls both cozying up to Grandma to read some bedtime stories.
Long after bedtime, I crept into the girls’ rooms. I ran my fingers through Elsie’s curls, proud of what a tough cookie she is, hoping that she will realize that the consequences for being a pain-in-the-butt little sister can sometimes be pretty painful. I crawled into bed with Zoe, hugging her tight to me, thankful that she is learning to stand up for herself, hoping that she will realize there are ways to assert herself that cause a lot less pain to others and to her gentle soul. And then, I went downstairs, double-checked that I had wiped all the remnants of blood off my neck, and poured myself a glass of wine. Just another day for the books.