Last week taught me that I need to watch less American TV. Except perhaps for “Supernatural”, but I don’t exactly watch that for the touching and pithy life lessons.
I had a big afternoon on Thursday. Two contract-job interviews, one of which was a behavioural interview (I HATE behavioural interviews – I reckon I’ve conducted hundreds, but when it comes to being on the other side of the table, I SUCK. Big time); I suffered a bunch of clusterfuckaches all afternoon, dovetailing into my interviews (awesome) and had no time for a wee nanna nap before picking up the kids from care (first world problem, yes it is).
I collected Scout from after-care and discovered I’d failed Parenting 101 – she complained that her long-sleeved shirt only had 3/4 sleeves and on further investigation we realised she had worn a size 3 shirt to school photos and I hadn’t even noticed. She hadn’t really noticed either and simply thought she was rocking a tight-fitting number with a trendy arm-length.
We collected Inky from creche and I stopped outside the kinder room to chat to a friend whilst Scout went in to tackle Inky. And I mean tackle Inky. Scout is a very affectionate, tactile kid and has a habit of picking up little kids she loves and swinging them around in greeting. The little kids adore it apparently (?!?!?) but she gets told off by me every single time. My mother’s rhetoric bounces around in my brain as I remonstrate, “Please be careful, love – one day someone’s going to lose an eye!” Yes.
I say goodbye to my friend and hear a blood-curdling shriek. Followed by dramatic sobbing. Scout had picked up her little sister, swung her around, and dropped her. I didn’t think much of it at the time, signing her out and giving her a cuddle. But Inky continued sobbing all the way out of creche and in the car (you know the sob, heartbreakingly desperate, interspersed with fractured breaths as they struggle for air). As I pulled up at home and let the girls out, she stood gingerly on the nature strip, her left leg bent slightly, these tragic wet tears welling up in her eyes.
“Come one sweetie!” I say. But she refused to move.
“OMG, can you not walk?” I said with horror (although I actually said “Oh my God”, not “OMG”). She started sobbing again.
My child was lame! Maybe not as lame as her mum, but lame nonetheless. If she didn’t try to walk on her left leg, she wasn’t in any pain, so I decided to see how she was the following morning. I was a bit of an emotional wreck – the anxiety of potentially starting a work contract in one week, a tonne of study left to do, random clusterfuckaches that I hadn’t had time to have diagnosed, a lame child kicked in. I didn’t sleep well that night.
The next morning Inky still couldn’t walk so we hotfooted it to the Children’s. She was so patient with the whole “adventure”, charming nursing staff and crawling excitedly toward the aquarium (which was such a pathetically sad sight in itself, I felt like crying all over again). So suffice to say I was not hitting my motherhood peak that morning.
The reception staff registered her and said:
“Oh! She’s been hear recently!”
“Ummmmmm, no? Maybe, ummmm, 18 months ago?” But in my head I was saying, “What do you mean recently? How recently is significant? Is coming in for a high fever 18 months ago a pattern?” I felt paranoid and defensive. I thought that she was insinuating some kind of pattern – a pattern that might suggest I had possibly caused Inky’s broken bone?
I wanted to yell, “I didn’t cause this! There are WITNESSES that can attest same!”
I sat down in the waiting room. Emotional. Drained. Why did I have such a guilty conscience when I had nothing to feel guilty about?
I looked down at the stroller’s storage compartment and spied a plastic champagne glass from a recent trip to the park with some sparkling red dregs swishing around in the bottom.
I wanted to yell to the waiting room, “I’M NOT AN ALCOHOLIC! THIS IS FROM LAST WEEK!”
I sniffed in. Inky had done a jaw-droppingly pungent poo. I checked my bag. No nappies (of course). I could have bought some from the concourse upstairs but I didn’t want to lose my spot in the queue. So she crawled about the waiting room leaving a trail of noxious whiff behind her.
I wanted to yell, “I AM A GOOD MUM! I JUST DON’T WANT TO LOSE OUR PLACE IN THE QUEUE! HER HEALTH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR OLFACTORY GLANDS!”
I had a vision of Coop calling Child Welfare to investigate me based on a broken bone, a suspected alcohol problem and feculent negligence. It was ridiculous.
Several people that morning asked, “How did (the leg injury) happen?” I responded, but wondered “Did I answer too quickly? Did I give too much information?” I felt like I was being judged, but it was my own self-adminstered perception of being judged – the hospital staff were probably not even batting an eyelid. Damn you, Private Practice.
Inky had an x-ray and the doctor couldn’t find any noticeable breaks, although suspected a tiny fracture would probably show up on a bone scan. He likened her injury to a “bone bruise” and said she’d probably be up and about in a week or two.
On the upside, I assumed that my job interview MUST have gone well as the client indicated they wanted someone to start in one week, which would thoroughly f*ck up my timings being at home with a lame child whilst my husband was in Sydney.
I fully believe that parents with kids who have a pattern of broken bones need further investigation. In most cases, it will just be an accident prone child (or in our case, an overly passionate elder sibling) but I think protecting kids with abusive parents is critical. It’s interesting, though, that many parents (like me) still feel guilty when there’s nothing to feel guilty about.
A dear friend of mine has a little boy who, a couple of years ago, got a black eye. He was even chosen for the front page of our local rag about the dangers of one of the nearby kindergarten playgrounds, based on this very injury. It was highly visible and she felt incredibly judged by people who didn’t know her – random strangers in the street, shop attendants. She knew she’d done nothing wrong, but there was no escaping the judgement she felt.
It’s human nature perhaps, for many parents to be concerned about what something “looks like” to the outside world. It reminds me of a particularly disliked saying that a particularly disliked (by me) ex-manager of mine used to spout when rabbiting on about my apparent negative work “attitude” - “Perception is Reality”. Except it’s not. Not by a long shot.
For now, I’m stepping away from the remote control.
For at least a week.
And I got the contract job. They want me to start in two weeks.
Do you have a guilty conscience when there’s NOTHING to feel guilty about?