The unthinkable moment

The unthinkable has happened. My precious boy who spends hours hurtling towards danger has gotten hurt. And I am a bad mother. I should have prevented it. I should have protected him. But I was too busy hanging pants on a coat hanger.

The timing was horrible. Not because it stopped me from hanging pants, but because that morning, Roxi, Finn and I had moved into my parents' home for a month while builders renovated our one small bathroom and kitchen. (They said they’d only take two weeks, but we know better.)

We had been there for only three hours in which time I’d set up Finn’s camp cot in the spare bedroom and strewn his toys on the floor in an attempt to acclimatise him. ‘See my boy, there’s tractor and farmer! There’s bunny and big ball. There’s pig, cow and sheep! They’re all going to live here with us at granny and grandpa’s house so you must feel all secure and sleep through the night like a good boy!’

Finn had enthusiastically launched into a game of pull the tractor and trailer through the maze of farm animals. I had taken the opportunity to go into the bedroom next door to unpack our obscenely large suitcase of rapidly crumpling clothes. I was hanging the second pair of pants when I heard the chilling sound of breaking glass.

I knew it was Finn. My first thought was that he had destroyed an expensive and prized ornament belonging to granny. I rushed through and instead saw the bedroom window shattered and Finn sitting directly under it. It was clear that Finn must have abandoned his farm game to climb up onto the bed only to go careening into the window.

I scooped him up and noticed splashes of blood on the cream carpet. And then I saw the nasty gash running across the entire back of his head and knew we had to get to an emergency room immediately.

The next hour was worse than the hours of trying to subdue a colicky baby, or the hours of marching him up and down to console him through a middle ear infection. The sedative the harried doctor gave him in an attempt to make him sleep only made him fight harder in his drowsy confusion. We held him down in order for the five stitches to be put into the back of his small head. He cried for the full hour it took to stitch him and bandage him. At one point I gave up trying to console him, knowing that crying was the only thing that he could do until it was all over.

We brought him home limp and miserable with a bandaged head. But he would be okay. The scar would be covered up by his hair and there seemed to be no concussion related side-effects.

It’s been a week, the stitches are out and Finn is back to his normal self except for the rather vicious looking scab on the back of his head that he points at proudly and calls his eina. In fact Finn was pretty much back to his usual self about two days after the incident.

I, on the other hand, have taken longer to recover. How could this have happened? How could we have been so stupid as to put a bed next to a window? To leave a little toddler unattended in a room with a GLASS window? To even LIVE in a house with A GLASS WINDOW? Everything suddenly seemed fraught with danger. Clearly we needed to be living in caves like the olden days when glass didn’t even exist.

I cried myself to sleep for four nights after the incident. I cried because my baby boy had been so badly hurt. I cried because I couldn’t protect him. And I cried because it could have been so much worse and I suddenly realised how quickly awful things can happen to our precious children.

But I have found consolation in two thoughts. The wise words of a psychologist and mother of two who said that scars and broken bones are ultimately less damaging to our children than the fear we might instill in them by being overprotective. And then there's always the proud looks of male family and friends who smile at Finn and say, ‘Chicks dig guys with scars.’

Who’s to blame when accidents happen to toddlers?

Read more by Susan Newham
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