My 3-year-old broke his foot the day before Thanksgiving. He was “skating” around in his socks and fell. He might have hit it on furniture (that’s my guess at least), but it’s unclear because no one really saw it. He says he just hit it on the floor, but are you really going to believe that guy?
We waited until the next day to get it checked out because we always assume our kids’ injuries are going to resolve. They usually do. This time, though, his foot was still puffy and he had a pronounced limp when he tried to walk.
So, I took him to the children’s emergency room on Thanksgiving morning. When the physician’s assistant came in to look at his foot, she asked if he was clinging to me so persistently and refusing to talk to her because he was upset about being there. Apparently, she was not particularly familiar with injured children.
Later, I donned one of those protective smock things and laid on top of him so they could get some x-rays. I considered sliding my foot up there to get in on the action like Michael Scott on The Office.
Back in our room, we watched the parade on TV while we waited for the results. The parade coverage has really gone downhill in recent years. They barely even show the balloons any more—which is all anyone cares about—but at least we got to see the Paw Patrol one. I fended off my son’s continued urging to abscond from the room and flee to the safety of home and eventually the doctor came in and informed us that the x-rays showed two small fractures in the third and fourth metatarsals.
After another period of waiting, the nurse brought in a very cute walking boot. My 3-year-old did not think it was cute. He resisted forcefully as we tried to put it on. The nurse put it on once, and he promptly unstrapped all the Velcro bands to take it off. After a bit of unsuccessful cajoling, I decided to take a break and set the boot aside.
“He has to wear it, Dad,” the nurse said, unhelpfully and with a fair amount of condescension.
“Oh really?” I replied, shooting her my most withering glance. “I thought we were just supposed to carry it around. I’m guessing you don’t have much experience with children?”
I didn’t say any of that, of course. Nor did I trot out my withering glance. I didn’t say anything, really. I just kind of mumbled an apology and thought about writing. Not saying anything is my move. Apologizing for no reason is also my move. Thinking about writing helps calm my nerves.
I went back to trying to force my child into the boot, which didn’t work, obviously. After the nurse left the room and he calmed down, I managed to get it on. Who feels silly now, nurse?!? Probably not her. I don’t think she realized we were locked in a battle of self-worth, but doesn’t matter, I won!
The days since the hospital visit have been trying. As it turns out, trying to keep a 3-year-old in a boot is problematic in large part because 3-year-olds are borderline feral. Not completely feral like 18-month-olds, but borderline.
The first few days were actually okay because he wouldn’t walk on the boot at all. So, although we had to carry him everywhere, which was a little annoying, we always knew where he was. However, suddenly on about day three, he started walking on it and then things got more difficult.
Perhaps my greatest parenting regret is that we own a hose. My hose regret has never been stronger than it’s been this week. My children’s favorite outdoor activities are digging in black, sandy dirt with their fingers, feet, and faces and turning on the hose for some reason. When you combine these activities, things get particularly messy. When you combine these activities and add in an orthopedic boot, things can turn from super annoying to totally disastrous.
Long story short: I hate everything now.
In the aftermath of mud-boot-gate, we spent an entire afternoon fighting about walking without the boot. When the boot was sufficiently dried out and it was time to get it back on, the resistance went up one more level. I was about to lose it. I was on the verge of storming off to go sit on the bathroom floor and stew about how terrible I was at parenting when my 6-year-old came to my rescue.
“You know. I wish I had a boot like that,” he said to his brother while giving me a little nod that clearly meant, “Chill out. I’ve got this.”
“I would never want to take it off,” he continued. “I bet there are other people wearing boots like that right now. Maybe you could have a contest to see who could wear it the longest without taking it off!”
Ah, distraction. The oldest trick in the parenting book. A trick I know well, but don’t always deploy properly because I get too involved in being frustrated by how hard kids can make things.
But, maybe I’m not so terrible at parenting after all. He must have learned that technique somewhere. Sure, it was probably from my mom or my wife, but maybe just a little bit from me, too?
And while his distraction play didn’t work directly—the boot still didn’t go on immediately—it did work indirectly. It allowed me space to get my thoughts together and reevaluate my plan of attack. Eventually, the boot went on without too much more strife. Which just goes to show you, even at your worst, most frustrating parenting moments, a little reminder about your parenting strengths can help flip the switch.
Also, it never hurts to have a parenting wingman.
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