I have this long list of subjects I wanted to tackle in the new year, with all kinds of references and notes. However, 2015 is already pretty much dominated by a single subject – a broken leg.
It happened while figure skating with my friend and his 3.5 year old daughter, Murphy*. As the one adult in her personal village who still skates (casually, but with lessons in my past), I’d always planned to introduce her to my second-favorite sport when she was old enough to try. My partner and I bought her first skates as a Christmas present and spent a few hours of Christmas Eve skating with the whole family. This was pretty much a bunch of dreams-come-true for me, getting my loved ones to skate with me.
Even better, Murphy loved it and was excited to get back to the rink, so on January 25th we finally took her on a father/daughter/auntie trip to a rink in a local park. We were finishing up, skating around one more time holding her hands on either side, when she stumbled and I jerked to try not to fall off her, wrapping my right leg behind my left and tearing apart my tibia and fibula above the ankle and just below the knee (a total of 4 fractures).
Or, as my surgeon put it, my ankle was unattached to my body from a skeletal perspective.
All I wanted was to share one of my greatest passions with a little girl who had been saying she wanted to try ice skating more than anything else in the world. I didn’t mean to introduce her to sports injury, ambulances, or emergency rooms. At least, not yet…
Of course, if she decides to seriously pursue skating, or any physical activity, she’ll get used to seeing (and having) injuries, and that’s the lesson I hope she gets from this whole experience. As soon as I’m cleared to skate I have to get right out there, not just for me this time (as it was with my childhood and adolescent injuries), but to make sure she sees that injury is just part of getting out there and doing things that are fun and worth doing.
Role models you see on TV and the internet are different from the ones who are right in front of you. Murphy will see her heroes fall, but she won’t be in the emergency room giving them kisses while they’re screaming in pain.
The worst thing is that these are the moments of early youth that stick with a kid. At least, for me – I sliced through part of my ankle with a lawn mower and was in a car accident that injured my father at age 4, and I remember both of those fairly clearly. My very first memory is from age 2. So, I am going to assume that this clever little girl will hang onto this one.
I’m not that great with kids in many ways. I like playing with them and taking them to do fun things but I have little experience dealing with them in any sort of bad times. I usually just give them back to their parents. I was barely ever a sitter, don’t and won’t have children, and don’t generally work with them other than occasionally playing all-ages shows (and I will admit, kids are often my favorite audience members, they are never afraid to dance or clap along!). I have been close to a few over the years, but it’s pretty rare.
I think we handled things well that day. I couldn’t help screaming (I was holding my own bones together with my hands, after all – it hurt) but on the ambulance trip we started joking around and making her laugh. She stayed in the ER with me until I was full of painkillers and mostly stabilized, so at least she has some idea that I was already getting better. In turn, she made me feel better, both by being sweet and just by giving me a reason to focus on someone else instead of my leg.
I hear she’s been telling everyone who will listen about her ambulance ride and how much she loves doctors and nurses. She’s always been a big fan of doctors, apparently, but now she’s obsessed. Who knows? Maybe she’ll wind up becoming a doctor because of this, and I have nothing to worry about.
My plan is to have her over soon to sign my cast (even if it’s not plaster) and make sure she sees I’m not in much pain (thank you, modern medicine!). In the long run, I’ll take her skating again. However, I’d love to throw this out to the internet, especially all you smart geek parents who may have been through something similar with your kids or those close to you. How do you make a negative experience like this as positive a lesson as possible when a child is just starting to have rational conversations?
I have plenty more observations to share that might be more obviously appropriate to this site, about everything from health care and related sciences to how a geek household cleverly copes with convalescence.
This, though, seems most pressing. How today’s girls grow up is definitely something we’d like to talk about more here, too. Some of them will grow up to be us, some of them will turn out differently, but all of them matter.
If only there was any sort of consensus on how to handle anything when it comes to children…
For now, we’d love to hear what you think.
*Name changed because I don’t think kids this young belong on the internet in identifiable form.