We've all experienced that horrible moment in which we witness our kids stumble, fall and smack their head against the ground. We hold them as they burst into tears, we apply ice to the bump and we agonize about whether to rush them to the emergency room.
But every now and then, I was reminded last week, the tables can turn.
It seems I possess a very special flavor of clumsiness that causes me, once a year or so, to bash my own head when I'm trying to close a door. (I know. Don't ask.) This time, it happened as I was tossing some laundry in Nora's closet. I backed out of the closet and started to swing the door shut -- but I didn't quite get my big noggin out of the way in time. The door hit my forehead so hard I saw stars. I shrieked in pain and, before I could think rationally, crumpled to the ground, holding my head.
Unfortunately, Nora was playing in her room and witnessed all of this. She's seen me hurt myself before. I've nicked my finger with a knife while cutting up fruit for her lunch, I've stubbed my toe walking across the living room I've endured lots of little hurts that were enough to make me utter some not-nice words and stop what I was doing for a sec. Mostly, she sees this kind of thing and doesn't really care. But last week, she started bawling as soon as I hit the floor. As quickly as I could manage (it took a second), I sat up and assured her I was OK. But she wasn't convinced -- probably because I wasn't terribly convincing, and my head was already sprouting a nice goose egg.
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Dad, who was doing dishes at the time, came to my rescue. After checking to make sure I was OK, he distracted Nora by taking over the pre-bath process I had started, leaving me to lie on the couch with an ice pack on my forehead. I heard the sound of water running in the bathtub, so I was startled to see a stark-naked toddler come into the living room and peer over the side of the sofa to look at me.
"Mama OK?" she asked.
"Mama's OK," I assured her.
I was just getting back into my groove of moaning and feeling sorry for myself when she reappeared, still naked, to check on me again.
"Mama OK?" she asked.
"Mama's OK, kiddo." I said.
But this time she noticed that I'd taken the ice off my head (It was cold! I needed a break!), and she frowned. She took the ice pack off the coffee table and shoved it back into my hands, pointing at my head.
"OK, OK. Geez," I said. But I smiled at her. And that's what she needed in order to know that "Mama OK" for sure.
Dad finally got her into the bathtub, and the ice finally started working its magic on my head. But mostly what made me feel better was knowing that Nora, even in the thick of the me-centric toddler years, has developed the ability to be concerned for others. I felt terrible for making her cry and worry, but I have to admit that sometimes as a parent it's nice to be the one worried about, if only just for a minute.