My issues with home ownership are strewn all over the blog. Just look up the label and you’ll see them. Recently, we had issues with a toilet in our upstairs bathroom. I am by no means a plumber and have very little desire to be on my hands and knees in a cramped space with no room to work. However, the water just stopped flowing one night. The tank will eventually fill up over time but you have to schedule time in the bathroom over the period of the day or grab a jug and fill up the tank. Needless to say, I needed to get to work on it.
We thought the problem was originally because of my daughter, who is becoming more and more obstinate and independent. She is in potty training boot camp which usually consists of her wanting to use the bathroom usually before bath and bedtime. It used to be that she would walk into the bathroom, drop her drawers, and rip off her diaper like it was a parachute ripcord. I imagine the puffed out diaper deploying like the chute of a Looney Tunes character after the hapless cartoon animal hits the ground. Once de-pants she would saddle up to her potty, finish up, ask for paper and then wait for my wife or I to empty the contents into the toilet and then she would flush and close the lid. That was the case for about the first week. Come week two, we are using the potty as a step stool to sit on the insert that goes on the toilet seat. She is now in the minor leagues. Same protocol as before for cleaning up. Now, she wants to do it all by herself, without the insert, and content to just sit over the edge of the seat, teetering like Humpty Dumpty. If you try to get the insert or move the stool, she gets very upset to the point that she will toss the insert aside and move the stool back to its spot across the floor and move it back, all by herself. It’s safe to say the terrible twos are in full swing.
So, this week, after much debate and raised voices, she sat there and waved off my wife from trying to steady her and kerplunk she went into the bowl. That’s not why the toilet won’t flush but it occurred the same night. Turns out the fill valve in the tank is probably shot and needs replaced. Off to the evil blue store I go. I have no problem in admitting that I hate that big blue beacon of corporate retail. I lost some very good stores in my area thanks to it. It’s also creeping into my neighborhood in its attempt at global domination which will most likely increase traffic in an already burgeoning area, which is already congested and beyond road load capacity. Still, I was in need of parts and we were already near one.
My daughter, being little miss independent, doesn’t want to ride in a cart or hold your hand. We insist on it because, quite frankly, if my kid was going to get snatched up by some sicko, it would be here. However, she loves to go shopping and gets very haughty if we don’t all go in, if only for one item. My wife, on the other hand, can’t help but look at everything in the store, even though I have a specific item in mind and only plan on spending five minutes in the store. Can you tell I really did not want to be here? But, it was early in the evening and the thought of finishing up dinner, nightly chores and bath time before 9 PM was enticing enough to me to make the trip out. That’s usually when you find out that your night is going to turn out completely different.
Everything was pretty good up until checkout time. Yes, there was the embarrassing moment when walking through the bra isle, my daughter looked up and yelled “Booby Traps” loud enough that the couple in front of me turned to look and laugh at the comment and my blushing face. Still, for the most part she was being a pretty good girl. After switching guard detail a few times, it was my turn to hold her hand and my wife’s turn to push the cart. I informed my daughter that she had to hold my hand and could not let go. “Someone could take you,” I said. In my mind I remembered why they called the code for missing child Code*Adam. I remember growing up and watching the movie Adam on television. Mostly, I wanted to see it because at the age of seven, I watched Hill Street Blues and knew that Captain Furillo was playing John Walsh. Not knowing that this movie was based on a real story and after the fact, I kept waiting for them to find little Adam Walsh alive. It was the first time in my life I realized that kids were not indestructible and could be hurt and even killed. I suddenly realized that I am mortal and have an expiration date. As my thoughts from little Adam Walsh turned back to the little girl holding my hand, it happened.
It was all so fast. Her independence got the better of her and she tried to pull her hand away from mine. When she couldn’t succeed and started to spin around I knew that I was going to have to pick her up and carry her, cries for freedom be damned. Before I could bend down to pick her up she decided that her best course of action was to drop to the floor like a sack of potatoes. That’s when I felt the pop. She started to cry. Usually, when she doesn’t get her way, she cries. But it’s the cry without tears, the one for effect. The drama queen takes center stage and wants her way, announcing, “I do it myself.” But that didn’t happen here. After the pop, she immediately cried with real tears and grabbed her arm. At first, I didn’t think anything of it and picked her up. But the fact that she didn’t calm down made me wonder. Was she really putting on the act or was there something else. I set her down and she continued to cry, clutching her arm. Soon, my heart sank. She was wearing a coat and sweatshirt so I couldn’t a good look at her arm. It didn’t feel like anything was wrong and I kept squeezing little bits up and down to see if I could notice anything. Then I thought I was making it worse.
I tried to soothe her and get her arm out of the coat and sweatshirt to make sure my fears were unfounded. There was no sign of anything wrong, yet she continued to cry and clutch at it. That’s when it became worse. I asked her what happened and she looked at me, with those big puffy, teary and reddened eyes and said, “Daddy hurt me.” I wanted to throw up right there. I’m standing in the middle of the store with my kid, clutching her arm, declaring that her father hurt her. Immediately I felt my ears burn and the daggers of a hundred eyes piercing my body. I was that guy. I was the guy that beat his kid. It didn’t matter that I didn’t do it. I was merely holding her hand and she dropped to the ground. Perception is reality and in this day and age, when it comes to kids I am guilty until proven culpable.
Think of this. Twenty years ago, if you were to get on a plane and sit next to a passenger wearing a head wrap, what would you think? Nothing. But sit next to that same person after 9/11 and what do you think? I don’t care if you are the most objective and unbiased person in the world. You will ultimately profile that person as a terrorist, if only for a second. This is what we have become as a society and sometimes we need to be that observant. Other times we jump to conclusions and assume the worst of a person. Remember Henry Louis Gates, Jr.? Exactly. Here I was, a grown man, standing in the store holding his crying kid who just declared that her Daddy hurt her. I felt guilty. I informed my wife and headed to the car as she finished up in the checkout. She was livid. The first thing she said was, “What did you do?” I felt ashamed, sickened, and responsible. I explained what happened as we drove to the ER.
We checked her in and those stares, albeit in my mind, persisted. We headed back to a cubicle and the doctor came in to look at her. My daughter, crying more than I had ever heard her cry was being poked and prodded. My looked at me and this same grown man was reduced to a quivering ball of goo. My eyes, beet red and swelled up, dripped profusely. The sight of my little girl being in pain is hard enough, but to think that I broke her arm made me lose it, completely. I was waiting for a police officer to come in and separate me from my family. I was thinking that I was going to be in so much trouble. I felt guilty.
I stayed towards the back of the cubicle, trying to compose myself. I realize that my daughter’s fears and pain were exacerbated by my appearance and I needed to pull myself together. My wife was in charge of her at this point. I could hear the various voices through the ones in my head. “All better now. It’s fixed.” If it was, why is she still crying and not using her arm. The staff asked me repeatedly what had happened and in every instance I was told the following things, “It’s common”, “It’s nothing serious” and “It’s easy to fix” Ok, then why is she still crying. Why am I?
Soon, the crying stopped and she was clutching a Popsicle, the purple juice flowing down her tear streaked chin and onto her shirt. She still didn’t move her arm and touching it set her off on another cry. The doctor brought stickers and asked her to grab them. She was holding the Popsicle with her good arm and wouldn’t relinquish it. “It’s like a big ice cube,” she said. When asked to use her other arm to take the stickers she said, “No, thank you.” Another member of the staff asked her how old she was, hoping she would use her affected arm to indicate the peace sign that also meant two. “I’m a big girl,” she said. My kid is way too smart for you people, I thought. My wife even stuck the stickers on her unaffected shoulder, thinking she would use the other hand to grab them. She loves stickers, but would not budge, instead using her same hand to reach up onto that shoulder to grab the sticker, letting her hurt one dangle. In a last ditch effort we put the stickers on the bed and expected her to use both hands to peel them off the sheet. Nope, after she did not get any help from us, she used her teeth to hold the sheet and peeled away.
The doctor said he heard the pop and said it should be OK. He said that she would forget that it was hurt and use it again, but after an hour of being touchy about it, he suggested an X-Ray. The X-Ray technician was a friendly face. She was the parents of two of my wife’s piano students and knew us enough to know that we would never do anything to hurt our kid. Finally, I could relax a little because she looked at me and knew how I felt and reassured me that I did nothing wrong. Coming from her, I believed it.
The pictures came back fine, but they wouldn’t release her until she used that arm, much to her resistance. The doctor took one last look, bending and turning the arm, causing my daughter to write in pain and tears. Then, almost instantly, she rolled over on the bed, pulling the hurt arm away from him and supported her weight on it. He looked at me, smiling in a sarcastic way, “It’s a miracle.” Usually, an attitude like that was uncalled for, but I knew he was referring to her being alright and only crying for effect. Once again, perception is reality. We were cleared to take her home.
The official word was a new one for my vocabulary. Radial head subluxation or nurse maid’s elbow. Basically, all those times your parents said they were going to pull your arm out of its socket for being bad was not just an urban legend. I still felt like such an asshat for letting it happen. By the time we got home, the little one was laughing and playing and using her arm like nothing happened. We got ready for bed and she sat on the edge of the toilet, teetering again, but letting me steady her. I told her I loved her and that I was sorry. She said, “It’s OK. Sometimes, I get a boo boo.” At last, my heart went back into my chest. I no longer felt like some monster. She wasn’t crying at me and saying I hurt her, anymore. I understand that I have a temper. I see it in my kid. On her good days, she is the best of what make up myself and my wife. On her bad days, she’s the worst of us. So, I see how I am when it comes to temper. My wife used to say I was the most patient person in the world. Parenthood wiped that out and it fluctuates. I need to learn to calm down and relax and this whole incident was proof. I am, what the name implies, Mongo. I have all the dexterity of an oven mitt and am clumsy to boot. I break shovels and rakes just but doing basic yard work. Ask my family, my brother had no good toys left because I broke them all.
So, to think that Mongo broke his kid’s arm, accidental or otherwise is a bit of a wakeup call. I need to relearn that bit of patience my wife used to think I had. Now, in this case, it was totally a fluke but my wife knows how I am. Even with all the medical professionals around telling us that this was a common thing and that I didn’t hurt her, she still had that look in her eye. “Mongo strikes again.” Of course, I didn’t help with my breakdown. But at least my kid is OK and she loves her Daddy again. After she said that , I told her, “That’s why you have to hold Mommy and Daddy’s hand and not let go. And even if you want to, you can’t just drop to the floor like that because you can get hurt.” She looked at me and said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” She then finished brushing her teeth and we were off to bed. Then I went back into the bathroom and used a gallon jug to flush the toilet. Perhaps tomorrow, I can get that fixed, without another trip to the hospital.
I told her, “That’s why you have to hold Mommy and Daddy’s hand and not let go. And even if you want to, you can’t just drop to the floor like that because you can get hurt.” She looked at me and said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” She then finished brushing her teeth and we were off to bed. Then I went back into the bathroom and used a gallon jug to flush the toilet. Perhaps tomorrow, I can get that fixed, without another trip to the hospital.