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Where I recount one of the longest nights of my life

by John on March 15th, 2012

I’ve actually gone back & forth about posting this a few times . . . see, it doesn’t involve running, or cycling, or boobs, or eating right, or music, or any of the other things that bring you here. But, this is “daddy runs a lot,” and it’s a big daddy moment — and, well, I feel better when I write and organize my thoughts, so I’m putting this out there.

I left the office on Tuesday and it was beautiful out. Talking to Duffy on the way home, it sounded like we had some hamburger that we needed to cook . . . so burgers for dinner sounded good. I stopped by the grocery store for a vegetable (asparagus, which I love when grilled) and then home, where I remembered that Duffy had to head out to work, as a technical assistant to a writer’s workshop — it’s a Tuesday thing, but this was the first Tuesday . . . and, honestly, I had forgotten what day of the week it was.

So I grilled some burgers and some asparagus, leaving just enough time for a family dinner before my wife had to leave for work. The best part about dinner was that CJ used the grilled asparagus spears as edible lightsabers. Yes, he actually ate them, and ate no small amount of them.

After Duffy left for work, I looked outside, and it was beautiful — sunny, temperature in the 70’s, just a little bit of a breeze. I was playing the parenting gig solo, and we had about an hour before sunset, so I decided to head over to the park . . . let them run around until they’re tired, throw them in the tub, and see if I can have an easy bedtime.

Typically, when we go to the park, we take a two-person wagon, so I got the dogs and got the wagon out, and my toddlers let me know, in no uncertain terms, that the wagon was not going to work for them. So, we left the wagon at home, which meant that I carried Leila while making CJ hold my hand. We got to the park and did the typical park activities — went down the slide, swung in the swings, ran around, had some reminders that we don’t throw mulch. Just when I started to feel the slightest change in temperature, meaning that sunset approached, I started to round up the kids.

Leila started to run from me, because she was not ready to go. And, in the time that I was chasing her down, CJ started to climb a picnic table. Just as I picked Leila up and was looking back at him, I saw him start to fall from the bench. I ran, and for a split second, I thought I was going to catch him — but I didn’t make it, and he fell, face-first, to the concrete floor.

I pulled my cell phone out, immediately, ready to call 9-1-1. It looked bad, from my side. However, he immediately got to his knees and started crying. I put my phone away, picked him up, and he stopped . . . I thought that might be the worst of it. I carried both kids back home — CJ sobbing on and off, Leila screaming like a banshee because she did not want to stop playing. Daddy was walking as fast as he could.

I got in the house, put an ice-pack on CJ’s head, and tried to evaluate him as well as I could. I was worried about the possibility of concussion, and he had a decent-sized goose egg growing on his forehead. But, I asked him if he wanted a bath, and he said yes. I asked him if he wanted some milk, and he said yes. But, he was crying near constantly.

So, we went to take a bath, and I made him walk from the bedroom to the bathroom (he really wanted to be held). He stumbled a little, but that’s not uncommon for him on a good day. During the bath, I verified that his forehead wasn’t bleeding, ensured that he didn’t bite his tongue, made sure that his jaw wasn’t broken — bath time is, normally, his favorite, but he was crying to be held the entire time we were in there. He wanted to be held.

After bath time, we put on pajamas, and then went to watch Sesame Street to get them to sleep. CJ & Leila started drinking milk from their sippy cups, and then CJ was asleep, as Leila was fully wound up. I started looking up symptoms of concussion in toddlers, and found that, considering he never lost consciousness, we might be ok evaluating him in the morning. But, of course, I wasn’t sure.

I texted Duffy to warn her that CJ was going to have a bump on his head, and that I was worried about concussion — and then I talked to her father, a physician’s assistant. He asked me about his pupils (slightly dilated, but the same size) and whether I could wake him . . . and I could, but he wasn’t happy about it. But then he puked, and I got everyone ready for the Emergency Room.

The thing is, when I made the decision to go to the Emergency Room, it had to be done right then. If I had thought things through, I would have realized that I’d be sitting for a long time at the hospital, and I would have taken a few minutes to clean up the room as best I could (I did clean up the bed, but left soiled clothing & pillow cases on the floor). I would have gathered a change of clothes for me . . . carrying a toddler who is puking means that I’d likely have puke on me at some point during the night (nevermind that I was wearing shorts that I purchased when my waist size was 4-6 inches bigger than it is right now), but I just threw the kids in the car & went.

I checked in and sat . . . and sat and sat and sat. Leila was ecstatic — she’s a miniature version of me, only she knows that she’s cute. It was dark outside, so the windows in the Emergency Room worked as poor mirrors. Leila was waving to anyone who would wave to her, and to herself when she ran out of people. She was picking up magazines and arranging them on chairs . . . she was, truly, in her element. CJ clung to me & whimpered.

Duffy arrived just a little while later, having left her job early . . . I do not envy that ride for her — it was bad enough for me, but I knew everything that I could possibly know. Her mind must have been racing.

Eventually, Duffy’s mother came to pick up the hyper little girl for an impromptu sleepover at grandmother’s house, right as Leila found that there were lots of buttons to press, on the vending machines and that, if you walk close enough to certain doors, they open up for you.

Then we tried to figure out why you keep a person with a concussion awake . . . because every non-medical person we were talking to seemed to “know” that you’re supposed to keep a person with a concussion awake, but nobody knew why. Eventually, we just let CJ sleep if he wanted to sleep. And he did – except when he woke to puke.

You can say that we were adequately worried.

Perhaps an hour after Leila’s departure, we were called into triage, and they took CJ’s vitals and sent us to an exam room.

We met with a doctor, who scheduled a CAT scan, and then went to the CAT scan room, where he slept through the whirring machine. Seeing the little dude on the CAT scan table was incredibly difficult.

However, half an hour later, the doctor was back, and there was no bleeding on the brain. CJ got some medicine to calm his stomach, and we were on our way — but, he puked all over me on the walk to the truck.

He slept between us all night, and it was among the better nights of sleep he’s ever had (he’s never, ever been a good sleeper), but he woke, twice, to puke . . . and we very nearly took him back to the ER.

I don’t think I slept at all. I could have slept — I mean, it was quiet . . . but, whenever I closed my eyes, I saw the moment when I didn’t reach CJ in time as he started to fall, and I woke myself up with a violent fit. And, to avoid further moments like that, I started trying to keep myself awake, as the fewer moments like that, the better, even if it meant that I wouldn’t be able to function in the morning.

Eventually, morning rolled around — and I called off work, because I was, simply, not functional. But, then CJ woke up — and while his color was a little bit pale, he was his normal self. He wanted to play with Legos. He wanted to watch TV. He asked for milk, repeatedly (we wouldn’t give him any, because milk puke is among the worst kinds of puke, and we couldn’t be convinced that his stomach was settled).

After a quick shower, where he still wasn’t fully happy, but was happy enough to give his toy R2-D2 a bath along with him, we picked up his sister and went out to breakfast (where he nearly fell off of a booster chair, nearly giving me a heart attack). But, he ate some bacon, and some french toast (or, at least, the powdered sugar off of the french toast).

With the good weather continuing, Duffy watched the kids as I took a quick bike ride, and then I watched the kids as Duffy took a quick trip to shop for clothes. All the while, CJ avoided napping . . . and, if there was a single harbinger that CJ was ok, that was it. After the shopping trip, and a very tearful temper tantrum from Leila as we put some of her new clothes on her1, we all went out for a family jog. And, after 2 minutes in the jogging stroller, CJ napped.

We made it through, with minimal tears, until bedtime, when we had his normal “but I don’t want to go to sleep” fussies. Honestly, except for the bump on his head, I think he’s fully recovered.

Looking back, I know there’s no way that I can prevent them from injury each & every moment of every day. I know that his falling wasn’t, fully, my fault . . . but it’s really difficult to not blame myself. In time, this will all wash into “a bad memory,” but for now . . . well, if I had hair, no small number of strands would be white right now.

So, that was my Tuesday into Wednesday — what’s funny is that, after one of the worst nights of my life, Wednesday was actually one of the best days, ever. There was quality family time, a great big breakfast, steak, beer, cycling, running (as a family), cuddles . . . it’s just a shame that it took the trip to the ER to bring that about.

And no fear, we’ll be back to the parade of dick jokes & boobs soon enough.

1 it really shouldn’t surprise any of you to find out that my daughter is an aspiring nudist.

From → Parenting

  1. I don’t envy you and Duffy that night. When I was sick and in the ER, there was another family waiting with a little girl. I don’t know what was wrong – she was just sort of gently sobbing. But I don’t know I’ll ever forget the look on the dad’s face.

    You can’t protect them all the time but I’m sure that doesn’t make it suck any less when there are booboos.

    I think the moral of the story is that bacon makes everything better – toddler’s head and daddy’s heart.

    • Yes, bacon fixes everything. And it’s a little freaky just how much CJ enjoyes his bacon.

  2. That right there sounds like a very scary situation and unfortunately quite typical when raising kids. I think all of us have had a similar trip to the ER with a sick or injured toddler.

    I’ve had about 4 such trips and they are never easy. The worst part is wanting to switch bodies with them and take the pain on ourselves. If only that was possible.

    At least the day after was such a good one….Lord knows you all earned it.

    • Yeah – it’s horrible that a great day required such a horrible night, the night before . . . but I guess everything has its price.

      I’m hoping these trips will be few & far between . . . but with how fearless my daughter is, I somehow doubt it.

  3. What an awful night! I’m so glad CJ is ok.

    (Falling asleep after a head injury can cause brain swelling which can lead to a coma. It’s ok for adults to nod off, you just have to wake them up with some frequency and check how cognizant they are…much more difficult to assess with small children, which is why it’s good to keep them awake/alert).

    • And that’s why you should fight to keep a kid awake . . . got it.

      Fortunately, any/all damage was minor and temporary. But thank you.

  4. ugg! I do NOT envy your night! So scary! Anything that involves my little one and getting hurt makes me all nauseous and panicky.

    also? why does that stuff ALWAYS happen with the other parent is gone somewhere? SERIOUSLY!

    • Why does it happen when a parent is solo-parenting? I’ll tell you why.

      Murphy is an asshole.

  5. That. Is. Terrifying. There really isn’t anything you could’ve done, but I know that slow-motion feeling… About a week ago my 10 month old lurched out of her high chair before it was buckled and landed face-first on the kitchen tile. I froze, and then scooped her up and cradled her, afraid to look (I’m not great in emergency situations). She turned out to be okay, but there’s nothing worse than not being able to save them from it completely. I’m really glad he’s okay.

    • The worst part about the slow motion is that, when time seemed to slow down, I really thought I was going to get him before he fell. So that’s been playing on repeat, in my head, driving me more crazy.

  6. oh, those are awful moments… just glad it all turned out ok.

  7. Kim permalink

    These are the worst nights. I hope they are few for you. You had me tearing up, here, I know these feelings & nights well. I’m so very happy that CJ is happy & OK!

    • Yeah — all turned out ok in the end . . . but, damn, did it suck to get there.

  8. benzeknees permalink

    I think almost every parent has had the obligatory trip to the emergency room with every one of their children at some point. It’s scary for you and it’s scary for the children & so the children tend to cling because you’re their rock in this scary situation. “Daddy will fix everything” I’m glad CJ is OK. You did good Daddy, don’t blame yourself.

    • Yeah, that “daddy will fix everything” look is heartbreaking when there’s nothing I can do to actually fix it . . . and he gave that to us a few times that night.

      And, I really don’t blame myself — well, I pretend that I don’t. I know, deep down, that it wasn’t, actually, my fault — but that’s taking some convincing.

  9. Oh, John. We’ve been there. Three times (yes, three before he was age 2… Don’t call CPS!) I’ve watched accidents happen & haven’t been able to do a thing to stop it. Terrifying. Thankfully, he has been fine every time, but that does little to alleviate the post-traumatic reliving parents do.

    I’m so glad CJ is okay!

    • Oh, my heart hurts for you, knowing that you went through what I went through so many times for such a young one.

      My doctor, and an EMT friend of mine, though, remind me that “until a certain age, kids bounce.”

  10. Aw man. That just hurts my heart to read. …I keep looking over at the pic of your kids next to desk and shaking my head.

    I’m glad to read he’s okay and will spare you my own horror story w/ Mad.. it was all my fault and while it was 2.5 years ago, I can still see the whole event play out, every awful moment.

    Shit, that doesn’t help, does it?

    Best thing: Maddy doesn’t remember ANY OF IT! AND neither will CJ.

    • Heck, CJ doesn’t even remember it now. He gets confused whenever Duffy or I look at his forehead, as if he’s thinking “the entire package is cuter than any part – and dammit, my eyes and dimples are my best features, why do you care about my forehead?”

  11. Xtremestepdad permalink

    I know it’s sometimes hard to keep your cool when it’s your child, but sounds like you did! Kudos!

    • Well, I tried to keep it together — and, for the most part, I think I managed to hold my cool when I needed to.

      though, once we were all home, I might have had a few drinks…

  12. [shudder] Nothing is worse than your child being hurt or ill, and seeing them be injured–being right there and unable to prevent it–Gah. So glad your little one is okay. They are remarkably resilient, aren’t they?

  13. So scary! I’m glad he’s ok. My son has bumped his head so many times, I’m ready to buy him a helmet. I freak out every time he gets hurt. It sounds like you handled this much better than I would have.

    • When we went out for breakfast the next day, CJ very nearly fell off of a booster seat, and I started thinking if we could get him to wear his bicycle helmet everywhere.

  14. Oh, the pain of parenting.


    I have been in your shoes, and I never want to be in them again.

    Though, I know, we can never prevent life from happening.

    I was glad to read that all was fine….when I hear the stress of parenting moments, I’m right there with you.

  15. The worrying about kids, the fear for them is crazy and intense right? I don’t know if you can explain it to nonparents. Glad he was okay.

    • You know, there was a time in my life that I was the “parent” to two dogs — and I thought I had the tiniest bit of a clue about what it meant to be a parent to humans because of that. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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