My Brain Owie: Another Example of Kids Breaking Important Things

Some of you readers may have noticed a significant slowing of posts in recent weeks: sorry about that. I have been doing minimal “screen time” lately–computers, TV, reading humorous-but-meaningless lists on Buzzfeed–because three weeks ago, I suffered a concussion. I thought I’d had concussions before–once in seventh grade at recess, once in high school at gymnastics practice–but I realize now: I have never had a head injury before; not like this one.

I am tired all the time. I get killer headaches–still!–if I try to think too hard or stay awake for more than 8 consecutive hours. I nap like a one year old baby–long, hard, and often, with bouts of whimpering and feeling sorry for myself.

How did I get a concussion, you ask?

D2.

D2 headbutted me. (You should try telling people you have to miss work for a week because your three-year old headbutted you. It provides an excellent study in human facial expressions and people’s ability to say something other than what they’re actually thinking.)

The storybrain bandage

I was up early with D2, like often happens. We were in a playful, loving mood, and she had just woken up, so had lots of energy. We began to roughhouse on the bed–D2 loves to roughhouse. Tickling and being pretend thrown or used as a pillow … the toddler usual. But that fateful morning, roughhousing went awry.

It was time to get ready and I tried to get up. D2 climbed on my back. I kept up with the roughhousing game, gently trying to shake her off. She clung tighter, slightly constricting my flow of both oxygen and patience. I shook her off a bit harder and reached around to unlatch her vice-grip hands. She saw it coming, though, and headbutted. I don’t think it was in malice, but she was on my back and I couldn’t see her face. All I know is that her hard-headed forehead cracked me in the soft place behind my right ear. Hard.

I knew it was bad–worse than the usual child injury. It even hurt worse than when Ella broke my nose at church earlier this year at the altar during communion (this is the best parenting year, too, by the way. For real.) I have since had many parents–most parents?–tell me that their children have kicked/headbutted/punched them in the face or some other sensitive spot. One person even got a broken nose! For me, this was my cheap shot.

I shook it off the best I could, got ready, and launched into the summer camp/school/work morning routine. About an hour and a half later, though, my vision got funny. I couldn’t focus and whooshy white dots danced across my line of sight. I was driving at the time, but was close to work, thankfully, and parked quickly. (As a note, I think such circumstances bring me in line with the skill and behavioral norm in Washington, DC, am traffic. I am mostly looking at you, drivers from Maryland.)

In my morning meeting, things didn’t really make much sense and I had a hard time following what we were talking about. This, in and of itself, isn’t uncommon for a first-thing-in-the-morning government bureaucrat meeting, but I found myself drifting. At one point, I leaned my head against the cool metal door jam and considered a nap. (We all know this isn’t an outlandish mid-meeting desire either; it was exceptional only because I actually did it, rather than just wished I could.)

When it was my turn to talk–and I cannot really confirm this because I don’t remember the specifics–apparently I talked nonsensically about the movie Frozen. THE MOVIE FROZEN. Oh, the injustice. elsa ice palace stompThat when I suffer a brain injury, inconsistencies in the plot line from the movie Frozen are what start to come out–my subconscious, leaking out without filter. Insult to injury. People exchanged looks and I won a free teammate escort to the nurse’s office. (Yes, we have a nurse’s office. It is exactly like the one I had in elementary school, where you get Tylenol, a band-aid, and an ice pack for everything. All it is missing is kids with braces brushing their teeth after lunch.)

The nurse declared concussion and told me that MI could pick me up, or she could call an ambulance. I briefly thought the ambulance sounded pretty cool, but was not hit on the head hard enough to ignore the complete mortification of being carried out of one’s workplace on a stretcher after being headbutted by a toddler. Even if she’d hit me hard enough to knock my head clean off, I needed to walk out of there myself to maintain my dignity. (In the end, I limped out of there, leaning heavily on MI while holding the nurse’s ice pack on my head. Dignity is relative, right?)

Hours and days and even weeks passed and mostly I slept. I took five hour naps. I went to bed at 5:30. I woke up at noon. I feel asleep in the car (shotgun, Maryland, you can only sleep while in shotgun!). My kids learned to creep carefully and quietly around the house and be extra nice to me on account of my “brain owie” (which D2 does not know she was responsible for. I should ask her, actually what she thinks happened to me. It is probably hilarious.)

Unlisted sport #8: bonding with your small child. A dangerous, full contact sport.
Unlisted sport #8: bonding with your small child. A dangerous, full contact sport.

I can’t work a full day yet and get bad headaches if I try to do almost any adult activity; last week on vacation I had to miss seeing a summer blockbuster movie in the theater because it was too large a screen and too intense a soundtrack and I couldn’t handle it (just like when we took Ella to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” Except we went… so much screaming. So many tears…) And yet, it has been pretty fantastic. My kids are soooooo nice.  MI is taking care of me in a way that I haven’t experienced maybe since we had kids.

Sure, my job is about thinking, which I can’t do as well anymore. And I am going steadily more stir crazy without my usual workouts. And I know there are words I used to know that I can’t come up with anymore (shortly after the injury, I called a plate a “dinner circle,” for example). But I get to sleep all the time and am surrounded by the best version of my family–caring, kind, and a bit more quiet.

Plus, I have convinced myself that eating ice cream is the only way to ice your brain from the inside. Time for my treatment and my nap.

Take good care of your brain. You never know when you are going to need it.
Take good care of your brain. You never know when you are going to need it.

Lessons from the First Kid

Lessons: Yes, your baby can be naked in PF Changs, though people get judge-y. Two sets of clothes, always two sets of clothes. Never bring the small pack of wipes. Everything is a wipe in a time of crisis.

One of my favorite commercials ever is from the ‘First Kid, Second Kid’ series by Luvs diapers. They nailed this:

Not that I was THAT much crazy for my first kid. We don’t own that many umbrellas and they hadn’t yet invented squeezy baby food bags. (Seriously. HAD NOT INVENTED. I think I feel about that the way housewives of the 50s must feel about cooking dinner before the microwave: like, why did I even bother to start so early?) But I have some great first-time parent stories.

1.      The first time I took Ella to church. I dressed her in a WHITE VELVET dress (Why

IMG_9846do they even HAVE those??) with white tights and a onesie that contrasted perfectly with the dress detailing. And little baby shoes (why do they even HAVE those!??). And a matching hair bow. And she looked beautiful–angelic–and I was ready to show her off and feel perfect and proud. We got there and we sat down and reached in to pull her out for the Pride Rock-esque unveiling.

Sliding my hand under her to lift her out–wait, slimey? So slimey. Oh. OOOOH. Immediate retreat to mother’s room with carseat and slime baby. Can it be washed? No… Can they be saved? No. Do I have anything else…. No. We emerged 40 minutes later, both still somewhat slimey and the baby in a diaper… and a hair bow.

Lessons: no white, no shoes, always extra clothes, try not to leave the house.

 2.      My first time taking Ella to meet a friend at a REAL RESTAURANT. I had learned: stocked diaper bag, change of clothes, stroller, baby toy. I was ready.

As I parked the car, I checked to make sure everything was in order. And a good thing!! Her diaper was full and her pants a bit un-fresh. NO worries. I have a portable changing pad and extra clothes, so I will just take care of it right here. I am so prepared; she will still be so cute.

We enter the restaurant, friend admires, we order. Then Ella promptly has an adult-size bowel movement made out of baby slime poop that is immediately everywhere. So… we retreat to the bathroom. The ever-so-mildly dirty first pants are out in the car, out of reach; these *ARE* THE BACKUP PANTS!!! I don’t have enough wipes! How do you get paper towels while not leaving your baby unattended?? Should I just throw it all away? That’s wasteful…but this is a restaurant, in America… Can your baby just be naked in PF Changs? Is that allowed?

Lessons: Yes, your baby can be naked in PF Changs, though people get judge-y. Two sets of clothes, always two sets of clothes. Never bring the small pack of wipes. Everything is a wipe in a time of crisis.

3.      Calling the doctor to see if my baby was sleeping too much. Yes, I made this call, when Ella was about 4 months old. She slept until 8:00, woke up, ate, went back to sleep until noon, woke up ate, went back to sleep until 3. Two days in a row. I was used to her eating every 90 minutes so this sudden constant sleeping… was she okay? Was something wrong? Was she in a sleep coma because she wasn’t getting enough food? Did she need me to wake her up to eat more often? Was she over stimulated? Was she under stimulated? Should I wake her up to feed her or to stimulate her baby mind more…or less?

Lessons: Babies are almost always fine. Do not ask *why* the baby sleeps; say a quick prayer of thanks, turn on the TV, flip through a magazine, have lunch using two hands, make yourself some brownies. Never wake napping baby.*


Flash forward: Today I had lunch with several friends who have children younger than mine and find themselves still navigating the ‘First Kid’ stage. How far away those problems felt. Worries that needn’t be worried; issues that would sort themselves out; kids who would be just fine. 

Gone, for example, is my one-time paranoia about proper bedtime attire and whether the house was too cold and if I could use a blanket or instead needed a baby sleeping bag and what kind and zippers-or-snaps and…

[Me, calling up the stairs, halfheartedly] How is getting on your pajamas?
[Silence.]
HOW IS GETTING ON YOUR PAJAMAS?!
[Silence.]
PAAAJAAAMMMAS!!!!!!!!!
I am . . . getting ready to put on my pajamas.

… I’ll take it.

The perspective change I’ve already had post-infants probably implies that my updated set of current kid worries will also probably sort themselves out. Time to grab a handful of cheerios and brace.


*This advice is intended to be funny and ironic, not medical or universally applicable. For example, some people have gluten issues with brownies, real or imagined, and I get that. Modify as appropriate for you and your family.