Yesterday all Toby could talk about was going to the pool. He wanted to go first thing in the morning when he woke up. Unfortunately, we didn't have much food prepared in the house, and I had to spend the afternoon cooking. I told Toby I would do my best to get us to the evening swim session from 6-8pm. He spent the rest of the day asking every few minutes if it was time to put his swim trunks and sunscreen on.
"Is it time to go to the pool yet?" he asked at 1:00pm. "Should we get our swimsuits on, just to be ready?"
"Buddy," I answered, while chopping red peppers and onions, "by the time I get done making the chicken salad sandwiches and flatbreads it's going to be 3:00, and by the time we got to the pool after that it would be closing for swim lessons at 4:00. We're going to have to wait until the 6:00 swim session. That's five hours away. Go find something else to do for awhile."
"Ohhhhh!" he whined, staggering backward with the pain of this news, which I'd already told him twice before, "I can't wait! I'm going to go off the diving board like fifty times! Seriously, I can't wait!"
"Toby, go away," I cautioned him, losing patience, "I will tell you when it's time to get ready."
He managed to spend some time playing in a cape in the back yard, but the heat only reminded him of how much he wanted to swim. He wiggled a loose tooth, and them came to me and begged me to pull it out for him. Growing more annoyed with the interruptions, I grabbed a paper towel and yanked it out, which made him happy for a good fifteen minutes. Eating chicken salad sandwiches on warm, fresh flatbreads cheered him up for awhile, but it wasn't long before he was back to pestering.
"OK, fine," I caved at 5:00pm. "You guys can go put on your swimsuits and sunscreen. Hannah, can you help put the boys' sunscreen on? Emma, bring me your hairbrush and pony tail holders. Let's get ready to go."
"Whaaaahooo!" Toby cheered, running back to his room. "Time to jump off the diving board!"
Within a few minutes we were suited up and lathered up, and Toby was begging to unlock the van. "Sure, buddy," I said, peering into the hallway mirror and smoothing the last bits of sunscreen on my forehead. Toby cheered, turned around, bent over like a track star, and ran full-speed-ahead around the corner toward the kitchen. One second later there was a loud crack, followed by a horrible scream.
All moms know their children's' screams. We can identify from four rooms away which scream means "She stole my legos," which one means, "Someone's chasing me with a squirt gun," and which one means, "I have a paper cut and my life is flashing before my eyes." I have sat calmly and sipped coffee in front of guests who are panicking when my children scream. "No, no, I assure them, that child just stubbed their toe on the bathroom door and they will appear hopping on one foot in three…two…one… cue the hopping child." There are very, very few screams which will raise my heart rate at this point in my mothering career, and when they happen I usually find myself scolding my wounded child with something like, "Good grief, Hannah, I thought you were actually hurt. I don't want to hear a scream like that again unless you're missing a finger."
But this scream sent an immediate jolt of adrenaline into my mama brain. "Toby!" I called over the screaming. "Come here! Let me see it. OK, buddy, let me see," I coached as he came running with his hand clasped over his left cheek and blood dripping down his face onto his swim shirt and down onto the hardwood floors. Judging by the amount of blood I immediately changed my mind and told him not to take his hand off the wound while I rushed him toward the bathroom.
Of course, the bathroom door was locked, and the occupant was unable to unlock it at the moment. So I shuttled, poor screaming Toby toward the kitchen, leaving a trail of blood drips behind us. I must have had blood on my hands at that point because as I swung my hand up for the paper towels I splattered blood on the counter, the Kitchen aid mixer, the butcher knives, and the wall. I used the first wet paper towel to uncover Toby's face, and the second to dry the wound enough to examine it.
"OK, buddy, OK, " I repeated, "Let me see it. Shhhhh! Take a deep breath and blow it out like birthday candles. There you go. Blow it out again. OK." Trying to keep him calm, I looked at his blood stained shirt and joked, "Well, I don't think you'll be wearing that swim shirt to the pool today."
Instantly Toby's tears welled up again, "Well, can't we just rinse it out or something?" he pleaded.
But looking at the half-inch long, deep, and gaping gash on Toby's left cheek bone, I knew I had to break some tougher news to him. "Kiddo, I don't think we're going to be able to go swimming tonight. I need to let a doctor look at this. You might need stitches."
This is where poor, brave Toby lost it. Talk about adding insult to injury. All he wanted was to go swimming, and now we were heading to the doctor instead. Puddles of tears ran down into the wound and soaked the paper towel he was holding. "I'm so sorry, buddy. I know it stinks, but we need to get you taken care of," I consoled him.
"Do stitches hurt?" he asked.
"Not too much, they give you a medicine to numb your skin so you don't feel much, and sometimes they can just use a glue to hold the cut together."
"Glue?!" he asked again, with wider, wet eyes. "Does glue hurt?"
"Not much at all, I said. You'll be OK, let's get ready to go. Everybody change back into clothes!," I called out, "we're going to go visit the new urgent care building."
"Sutures?!" a keen-eared Toby piped up. "What are sutures? Do they hurt?"
The doctor left briefly to gather her supplies and find an assistant. I held Toby's hands and bent down to look in his eyes. "Listen, bud," I coached him, "it's a lot like a blood draw. Remember how you sat so still and brave for your last blood draw, and everybody was so proud of you? Remember how it hurts less if you sit still and brave, and it hurts more if you fight? It's the same with stitches. We need to do them to help that gash heal well, and the doctor will be as gentle as possible. She doesn't want to hurt you, but you have to help her out and be brave, OK?"
He nodded, with his blood-shot eyes all brimming with tears, "OK."
The doctor appeared with a tray of suture supplies, and the assistant came in with a large sheet in her hands. "I think we'll just wrap this around him to help him hold still," she said.
I declined. "He'll be alright without that," I assured her. "He's a tough guy, right Toby?" Toby nodded.
I held Toby's hands, and the assistant helped hold his head still while the doctor washed and sterilized the wound. Elijah and Hannah kept crowding around, trying to watch and I kept shooing them back to their chairs.
"Are you a homeschool family?" the doctor asked. When I said that we were, she replied, "I knew it. I can always tell. They're so well behaved."
"Aw, thanks," I answered, "you hear that, Toby, you're doing a good job!"
The doctor smiled, "He's doing awesome."
The worst part was the needle with the numbing medicine. Toby tensed up. Tears welled up again. I coached him to take deep breaths and blow them out and he followed my instructions. Once he realized the the wound was numb, he relaxed and smiled. Then he turned on the charm.
"Can you feel that?" the doctor asked, pinching his cheek.
"Nah, I'm good," he responded cooly, and giving a thumbs up. He laughed a little as the doctor pulled the sutures through his skin under his eye and tied them up. We talked for a minute about how a third suture might help, and I told the doctor to go ahead and put a third in if he needed it.
"Yeah," Toby agreed, "go ahead. I'm good. I'm so good."
We all chuckled at his bravery. "I guess I don't need to hold his head," the assistant laughed.
"Toby, you've done better than a lot of grown men who come in here for stitches," the doctor praised him. "I have an idea, when you come back in five days to get these removed, you can just stay with me, OK? I'd like to keep you."
Toby beamed with pride and with relief when the stitches were finished. After a dab of antibiotic ointment and a dump trucks band-aid, which his mother would be way too cheap to ever buy for him, he was all set to go.
"Toby you can come back and visit us any time you want to, OK?" the doctor said, "We wouldn't mind helping you again at all."
I thought that might be a dangerous invitation for a seven-year-old boy, but I appreciated the compliment and the grin it put on Toby's face. His grin faded a little when they gave us the final care instructions, which included no swimming for a full week, but he kept his brave face on, nodding, "That's OK, I'm good."
Everyone was chuckling as we left with Toby waving good-bye and thanking them for the stitches. After a popsicle, some Tylenol, and a cartoon of his choice at home, Toby was ready for bed. When I reminded him that the tooth fairy also owed him a dollar for that tooth he lost earlier, and told him I'd pay him upfront, since the tooth fairy is sometimes unreliable, he was all grins.
How's he doing today? He's good. He's so good.