Sticks & Stitches: When Accidents Happen

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I just had to go and tempt fate.

Last week I wrote about why I let my kids try risky things, about how if they do get it hurt, it’s always doing normal kid stuff … like walking.

 “I’m probably pressing my luck here, but he’s never been injured beyond a minor scratch or bruise from climbing, riding his bike on dirt trails, jumping ramps or skateboarding.”

Total rookie move … because guess where we ended up days later?  In the Emergency Room.

Eli was playing with another kid and walked behind him as he was swinging a rather hefty stick.  It caught him right in the mouth.  He needed a couple of stitches on his lip and a few more on the inside of his mouth.

The kid is such a trooper.  He cried when it happened, of course.  It was scary – I’m sure it hurt like hell and there was a lot of blood.  But once we got him calmed down and made our way to the hospital, he never cried once.  He barely flinched when they gave him the numbing shots.  Not a peep when the doctor stitched him up, other than saying “Ow” a couple of times.   I want to cry just thinking about it.

I’m not trying to be melodramatic, as I know that far more terrible things happen to children.  Stitches and broken arms are a rite of passage for many, many kids.  But it is the most serious injury either of my kids have ever experienced.  And as the writer of a blog that is centered around letting kids play freely, while knowing and accepting the inherent risks such play presents, I feel like I can’t write authenticly if I don’t let you know that the experience definitely rattled me.

I got a clear glimpse as to why a parent would choose to say “no” instead of “yes.”  I have every urge to watch Eli like a hawk from now on.  I want to cover him in bubble wrap.  I want to protect him from ever having to experience any kind of pain again.  His wound is on the outside and visible.  My wound – that I didn’t do my job as a parent and keep him safe – is open and festering just below the surface.  I know it sounds a little ridiculous, but for the first time I understand the emotions and fear that can very easily turn a parent into one that chooses to helicopter over their children.

The truth is, it could’ve happened any time.  Why do we love our neighborhood so much?  Because of the trees and the kids.  Trees make sticks and kids are going to play with them (though we didn’t let the opportunity pass to talk about playing with sticks safely).  It could’ve happened on one of their many bike races they hold in the cul-de-sac.  It could’ve happened during one of their many impromptu games of street hockey or kickball.  Childhood is chock full of near misses and terrible things that could have happened.  And sometimes accidents do happen.  But in between those near and not-so-near misses is the kind of fun that childhood memories are made of.

While I will continue to be passionate about play, I also recognize that we will need a period of healing, both physically and mentally.  I am going to hover a bit, until both of us feel better.  I’m realizing that it’s okay, and that perhaps instead of immediately judging those parents who are a little more hesitant than the rest of us, we could find out why.   What’s happened to their kids in the past, or to them as children?  What are they afraid of?

I’m reminded of the weeks after I had my knee surgery.  I’d never been injured, never had surgery, and I was scared.  Scared to put weight on it for the first time.  Scared to go down the stairs.  Scared to go back to work.  Scared to exercise.  Finally my physical therapist told me that I could choose to spend the rest of my life treating it gingerly and it would probably never be the same again.  Or I could choose to work it – strengthen the muscles, do the rehab, build it back up to where it was before – and it would be just as good or even better than it was before surgery.  It was a leap of faith, but I chose the latter.  A year and a half later I don’t even think about my knee most days.  I exercise, I move heavy pallets at work, I run around with my kids and I’m never anxious about it.  But it took a lot of time and many, many baby steps to get there.

It will be like that with Eli, I think.  We are both shell-shocked and a little scared.  It will take time to move past the fear of accidents that are lurking around every childhood corner.  I can spend the rest of my days as a parent being afraid of what’s around the corner, or I can choose to walk past those fears and enjoy the good things around the corner.  You know us well by know, and know that we’ll choose the latter.

We’ll just need some time to build up our speed again.




  1. Sharing pain and fear is an act of love that will be remembered long after the injury is lost to time.

  2. Great blog – the injuries are part of the experience, like it or not. And so is the chance for healing and nurturing and extra concern and monitoring. I think you hit lots of the essential in your post. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Jeff. The experience was definitely a reminder to me that if I’m going to be comfortable asking other families to play passionately, I have to be just as willing to accept the risks … and sometimes the injuries.


  1. […] will probably take me a little longer, though!  I wrote about the accident in more detail over at The Risky Kids, including my fierce desire to wrap him in bubble wrap and follow him around wherever he […]