“Well, it’s broken.”
We are in the urgent care, after a day spent enjoying the snow and it seems that final sled run has put more than just an exclamation point on Happy’s half-birthday.
The doctor moves towards us with the x-rays and points to the location of the break. It would be easier if this were an arm break or a leg break. What we are looking at is a broken pelvis.
And so he immobilizes Happy with a soft cast—locking his body from belly button to big toe into a straight arrow.
“He has to stay immobile until he sees the pediatric orthopedic specialist tomorrow,” he tell us. “No weight bearing at all.”
And so we carry our six year old out like he’s a plank of wood being lifted horizontally over the threshold. We slide him into the back seat, feet first. We prop him up on pillows and cover his hip in ice and let him listen to an audiobook much later than his bedtime while he eats dinner in bed. His dad sits in the chair across from him and just stares at him, memorizing every sliver of skin while trying to forgive himself that this happened on his watch. I read him extra bedtime stories, sing him an extra song, cover him in kisses.
A common conversation in our household centers around not being transactional—not doing things just to do them, to check them off a list, but instead being self-aware enough to be really present for what we are doing with each other and especially with our boy. You have heard this parenting adage before: the days are long but the years are short. Though I exhale every time I come out of putting Happy down each night, there is a simultaneous sting when I close that door—the awareness that there is one less time I have to put him down.
In bed, I start to problem solve the situation. If Happy has to be immobile for the next six weeks, I have to be prepared to teach him from home. I think through what I have to say no to, what I shouldn’t volunteer for, where we can ask for help.
The next morning, we load our little boy up into the car and drive to the city to meet with the pediatric orthopedist. As we wait in between tests and x-rays, we play I Spy a million times (which is 999,917 more times than I am usually willing to endure), I tap dance until Happy is laughing so hard I worry we might hurt him even more, I make up songs. I don’t want him to remember this time in his life as “when I broke my hip and had to lie on my back bored out of my skull for weeks and weeks.” I don’t want him to think he is alone in this. I don’t want his recovery to be just a transaction of ice bags and elevated legs.
And just as he is gulping air to recover from my tap dancing with spirit fingers, just after he tells the doctor that I am the WORST TAP DANCER EVER, the doctor tells us that his broken pelvis—which would have required surgery- isn’t really broken. There’s an injury there that we’ll have to treat, but it’s not broken.
The relief is like the release of a pressure valve, like a cannon of confetti being shot into the air, like saving grace. And because we were present for the disappointment, the despair, the darkness the night before, we can taste the sweet relief as if it is fresh honeycomb. Our eyes well. We high five. We listen to the doctor’s instructions.
“What’s for lunch?” Happy asks as we prepare to leave.
“Whatever you want,” we tell him and he wastes no time saying, “Does that mean I can have a hot dog?” He’s lost none of his savvy in this scare.
So much of our world these days is designed to steal us away from being present. Our smart phones, social media, streaming videos, overload of commitments and more keep taking us away. And then life hands you moments, moments that remind you (us) that what is most important is right in front of you, not on some screen.
This week, I want to encourage you to think about where you are being transactional and where you are being present and gently coach yourself into greater presence and less pressure. Say yes to what matters, no to what doesn’t and sing and dance like it might be the last time you can (even- or especially- if your people make fun of you).