Monday, August 2, 2010
After our BBQ chicken, potato and green bean dinner last night, Jason was horsing around with William on one of our zero gravity chairs, when screaming ensued. We all raced over to see William’s beloved B, his ratty teddy bear, face up in the burning citronella bucket. Jason snatched him from the fire and I raced him to my mom’s motorhome, where she ran his smoldering head under the tap to try to limit the damage.
The kids were screaming and crying, the stench of burnt fabric and stuffing hung in the air, and we were all shell-shocked because this isn’t just any toy. This is his security and his closest friend – the talisman which eases his transitions to anything new and which he smells frantically in times of stress like he’s hyperventilating into a paper bag.
We’ve told him over and over to leave B in the trailer and not to bring him outside, but he finds ways to sneak him out so he can sit in a lawn chair and smell him. This kind of thing was an accident waiting to happen, and there was a good lesson in consequences in it for William, but when it comes time to teach the really hard things to our kids, it’s always very hard on the parents.
He was so distraught, beside himself with grief, and at four the emotions are so close to the surface that there is no room to pretend anything except what you are actually feeling. Gran had the presence of mind to get her first aid kit, and wrap B’s head in gauze so William wouldn’t see the full extent of the burn and the damage, and I dabbed some burn ointment on him in an attempt to disguise the citronella and the smoke smell.
I handed B to him, and he took him gingerly, while we all made jokes about B’s new pirate look, and chattered about how his head needed to heal before camp is over and Gran sews a patch over his burn that would be better for smelling. I held my breath, wondering how William would react, and he took it in stride, pulling a little at the gauze and then accepting that the damage was done and there was no going back, and finding a small section of his good ear, and placing his nose against it.
We can’t protect our kids from the big or the small things that can hurt and devastate them in this world. We do everything we can to keep them safe, but sometimes despite our best efforts, injuries and accidents occur. And then we gently help them through the best that we can, and hope that what they learn will stay with them for their lifetime.
I was moved by how shaken up Ava was. She cried harder and longer than he did, and when the storm had passed, she told us, “I was just so upset for William, as he loves B so much.” Her compassion was inspiring to me. Now we have to hope that B’s bandage stays on until William is ready to see the extent of the burn, and accept B with his new scars.