I like to keep it real with you people so I’m going to admit to a recent low parenting moment.
I was in the middle of a very busy day last week when my 10-year-old son, Aden, came home with an ice pack on his slumped shoulder and a miserable puss on his face. He’d been tackled while playing football at the park with friends.
He was wincing–but not crying– as he summoned all his medical knowledge to explain that he had dislocated his shoulder. I’m no doctor but I know that a dislocated joint looks nasty and causes constant pain and discomfort, similar to labor.
There was no way he dislocated his shoulder.
I was headed out to volunteer in my younger son’s art class and luckily my mother was visiting and agreed to stay with Aden while I fulfilled my smock duty. I gave him a pain reliever and instructions to ice the spot on and off for the next hour.
But as I went through the motions, all I kept thinking was what a pain in the ass this sudden injury was and how it was completely disrupting my day. And then what a rotten mother I was to think such evil thoughts.
It’s easy to feel empathy and want to comfort my kids when they’re feverish or throwing up. I’ve been on many a playing field, clutching my stomach with worry over a bad hit or a wound gushing blood.
But this was one of those nebulous, ‘could be nothing’ injuries that drive me nuts.
By the time I got back, Aden was sitting on the couch, engrossed in some Disney channel show and seemed just fine to me. When he realized I was in the room, he grabbed at his bad shoulder and slumped it further down to Quasimodo standards.
It’s not that I thought he was faking exactly, but I was pretty sure he was experiencing a dull ache and a sharp need for attention. He continued to insist the shoulder was dislocated, and whined about the pain.
I reluctantly called the orthopedist. The nurse said their X-ray technician had left so I could make an appointment– the soonest one was two days later. Or I could go to the emergency room, wait two hours for an X-ray, and have a physician’s assistant tell me to go see an orthopedist.
I opted to wait and see.
I also called a close friend who’s an orthopedic surgeon who told me that of course he couldn’t diagnose him over the phone but he definitely had not dislocated it, and would probably feel sore for at least a week.
Both medical opinions made me feel a little less guilty that I was basically neglecting my child.
Aden slept fine and didn’t complain of pain in the morning so I sent him to school. Within two hours, I got a call from the nurse claiming he was in so much pain he couldn’t finish the day and I had to pick him up and not return until we had seen a doctor. She didn’t ask him to take his sweatshirt off (a sweatshirt he managed to pull over his head without apparent distress that morning) to examine the injury, she just acted on his pain complaints.
Instead of feeling bad for the kid, I was annoyed that I had to pick him up early and couldn’t get work or errands done. The nurse added to my errand list by suggesting I go immediately to CVS to buy Aden a sling to relieve his pain.
When I picked him up, he got in the car grinning and asked what we were doing the rest of the day, like it was a sunny Saturday afternoon.
(I’m a terrible horrible person.)
I was snippy with him in the car as we drove to CVS, and refused to get him candy at the register. “There will be no treats! There will be no TV! You should be in school!” I yelled. He shrugged his one good shoulder and skipped out of the store. We had tried on the sling to make sure it fit, and he was smiling ear to ear as we walked to the car.
” I kind of like it when I get to wear a cast or a sling,” he admitted cheerfully.
Remember, he’s my middle child of three boys. His brothers each have huge personalities, talk incessantly, and often suck all the air out of a room. So when Aden can briefly grab the spotlight, he milks it.
Realizing that made me soften a bit and drop my sassy attitude for the rest of the day.
The next morning, the orthopedist looked at the slight swelling in Aden’s shoulder and asked him to move his arms to demonstrate his range of motion. He took an X-ray and guess what?
That little stinker has a medium sprain and torn shoulder ligaments and a tiny fracture on his collarbone!
It’s basically the equivalent of an adult’s separated shoulder, but kids are so rubbery and active, it heals much faster. Course of treatment? Three weeks in a fancy sling (upgraded from CVS model) and no activity whatsoever until he sees the doctor again.
I was surprised and chagrinned.
I still don’t think a trip to the emergency room was necessary that first day, but I might have offered a little more compassion.
In the end, Aden wasn’t looking for sympathy, he just liked having something that made him feel special. Everywhere he goes, people ask what happened and he happily explains the injury and diagnosis in great detail.
I’m thinking the novelty will wear off in about a week when people stop asking and he realizes he still can’t play on his fall ball team or with his friends for another two weeks. Then he’ll really need me, and I’ll make sure to be there for him.
That is, if I can work sensitivity into my busy schedule.