Some parenting moments are bliss. Some include intense pain. Most are drudgery and frustration tinted with laughter. There’s sometimes just the teeniest bit of yelling. Occasionally.
But some moments make you stop.
I didn’t see my son fall and break his arm. I didn’t get a terrifying phone call. I just picked him up from school and talked with him about the best and worst of the day just like we did any other day. The seventeenth or eighteenth thing he told me on the walk home was that his arm hurt.
Easy, as broken arms go. And so we didn’t handle any of it like a trauma. Time didn’t stop. The day didn’t really seem different (except the long wait for an x-ray), the school year finished without further incident, and summer began pretty much as usual.
But today the cast came off. And my eldest baby’s tiny little arm emerged from the green fiberglass weak and vulnerable. He said the air hurt and he was scared to touch anything. So I tried to hold his hand. But that hurt, he said. So I kept a respectable distance even though it killed me.
We were escorted toward the examining room, but he seemed hesitant. So I told the nurse we were going to wash his arm before we saw the doctor. We slipped into the orthopedic department’s bathroom.
I have not, since my boys were babies, been so careful with the water temperature as I was with this peeling, pasty, dirt-bracketed arm. And not since he was brand new have I so gently washed him. I wanted to scrub off three weeks’ of unshed skin cells, rub off the grime that had accumulated around his little thumb.
Instead, I carefully removed his elementary-school filth and restored, for one moment, a time in which he completely trusted me. Without making him feel scrubbed. Or small. I got to remember how much time dissolves into genuine care. And he got pure nurturing without feeling little.
Today’s arm-rebirth was sweeter than the quiet Scrabble sessions we have while his brother is at preschool. It was calmer than his lethargic fever days when he sleeps fitfully until he rests on my shoulder and is then out for hours cuddled against me.
Today time stopped so at least one limb of my seven-year-old could be a newborn again.
But this time we already knew and understood each other, so the moment seemed even more sweet and tender.
Maybe because I know now that we might not have more episodes of naked vulnerability.
With a newborn, you expect them to need you for a while.
Seven years later, I’m not sure if I’ll get any more moments like this.