It started off as a great evening as we set off on our yearly tradition of the “Polar Express.” With homemade tickets in hand, all the jammie-clad kids piled into the van clutching their hot chocolate and popcorn. Even the dog was in the spirit as she stole from popcorn cup after popcorn cup.
As I narrated the scene of light shows and yard front displays, the kids sang Christmas carols and appropriately bickered in the back so as not to make it so storybook perfect.
When the “Polar Express” pulled back into the garage, I was spent. Being that much fun is exhausting. As the kids and their cousins took their craziness to the basement, I headed to the couch. Not three minutes later I heard it: the blood curdling scream that was unmistakably serious. I didn’t move. I don’t know why, perhaps just gearing up before handling whatever squabble created that sort of sound emanating from the basement.
By the time I reached the bottom of the stairs, it was obvious that this was no scream resulting from a sibling squabble. My youngest was on his knees, head down with a pool of crimson red blood beneath him. I grabbed him and ran upstairs with no clear plan. His blood soaked head was nothing compared to the sounds coming out of him. That’s when it hit me: I am not prepared for this.
I really didn’t know what to do.
It must have been apparent as Julia, my 10 year old daughter, yelled at me to sit down. I had a towel over Nick’s head but where was all this blood coming from? It was in his eyes, ears, everywhere. But it was the look on his face did me in: pure panic. That’s when I knew I was going to pass out.
After putting my head between my knees and cursing under my breath that my husband, the critical care nurse, was noticeably absent, I realized it was up to me to take action. Do I call 911? I knew I had to get him to the ER but I could barely stand up, how would I drive? My tunnel vision cleared and I looked around that the chaos around me: multiple kids crying, blood everywhere, me (still in my jammies from the Polar Express) and I realized it was up to me to take control.
After barking a few orders, quickly making a few phone calls, I was off to the ER with my screaming boy in the back of the van.
This whole chaotic situation brought me to my knees. After an hour in the ER and some great medical attention, Nick was just fine. But was left with a pit in my stomach. I am an adult who has dealt with high stress situations before and this brought me to my knees? What if I wasn’t home? What if this happened during one of the brief periods of time where Paul and I left the three kids home alone?
Our kids have always been responsible and trustworthy. At 12, 10 and 7 they can handle brief periods of time home alone. We never leave them for more than an hour and we have always felt confident that they can handle it. But, this situation has me rethinking that decision.
What would they have done if the same thing had happened when they were home alone? The lightsaber that slashed Nick’s forehead open could have taken place any one of the thousands of times the kids have replayed epic Star Wars battles in the basement.
That’s when I realized we need a better plan. Instead of making the impossible declaration that I am never leaving them alone again, we need to have a plan. We assume they know what to do. They know how to call 911, they know that if there is a fire, the only priority is getting out of the house. Those are the emergencies that we have discussed. I know now that it’s more complicated than that and we hadn’t really prepared our kids for any situation.
Upon returning home and laughing at the fact that I almost passed out amongst the chaos, Paul agreed to being more prepared. This is our plan:
- All kids need to take the babysitting course as soon as they are old enough, even if they never plan to babysit outside of our own home.
- We need to role play some scenarios where someone gets hurt (much like the situation that just occurred). Practicing what to do several times will hopefully help them not to end up like me with my head between my knees and ready to pass out.
- Make sure the first aid supplies are always located in the same spot and practice using them.
- Post all emergency numbers and have each kid practice dialing the numbers on the cell phone that is kept on the counter (in place of our home phone).
- Make sure the house cell phone is always plugged in and fully charged before leaving the house.
- Practice a fire drill. We did this when they were younger, why did we stop now that they are older?
Now, I am sure you are much better parents than we are and have all of these important pieces in place. If not, don’t wait for a situation to bring you to your knees to be prepared.
Off to try and get blood out of the carpet. Wish me luck!