Fiction

The False Security Of A Helmet

So yesterday I took my son to the skateboard park (you know where this is going, don’t you?). He was slightly overwhelmed, but a couple of his friends were there, doing their tricks and racing up and down the site. Finally he started taking a few risks, allowing himself to fall off the board.

I admit a certain sense of pride. No one wants a timid child, but with a son it seems all the more important to “grow a pair” to use the obvious euphemism. I was happy to see him pushing his limits and trying to do something “scary.” Watching him perch atop a ramp, inching his skateboard (I must have bought a good one, because all his friends wanted to ride it!) back and forth to the precipice… I could almost hear his little mind egging himself on to be brave.

Eventually he would tip over the edge and down the ramp he would go, nearly always jumping off before completing the run. But he was learning, and the nervousness I felt was quelled by the knowledge that teaching your baby bird to fly requires a few pushes from the nest.

Of course, when it came to the “one last time,” I had this sixth sense that told me he would get injured. He took a leap and fell onto what I thought was his shoulder. He came up wincing but—what with all those males around him—he didn’t cry. That he saved for home. The tears started almost immediately as we hit our apartment. He was moaning about his head, saying it wasn’t his shoulder but his head he’d hit.

We are having one of those horribly hot springs, with spikes well into the 90s. We hydrated at the park, but I figured he was just overheated. I figured he was bummed because playtime was over. I figured he was eight! What I didn’t figure was that he might have a concussion. Sure, the thought crossed my mind, and I nearly blinded him checking his pupils for dialation (they tightened up, but not without him yelling at me that I was being mean). However, I was pretty sure he was just worn out and grumpy.

Then he vomited. Our pediatrician’s phones were down, sending me into a near panic. I mean, this was far from a 911 moment, but it was 5:45. Was the office still open? Should I just go to the ER? Which ER? Figuring the office was still open, I grabbed kiddo and off we went.

Did I mention he’s eight?

On the way over (about a 10 block walk), he started to say he was feeling fine, even wanting to eat. I’m thinking, “Either your head is busted or it aint!” The nurse practitioner put him through a series of tests but said it didn’t appear that he was concussed. No fewer than six times, however, someone at the clinic asked my boy (apparently not trusting the mother’s report), “Were you wearing a helmet?”

Of course, he was, and I assumed he would be fine. I ended up walking home (my son eating a popsicle that, happily, stayed down) thinking, “Maybe I should’ve just let him play video games afterall.” It’s a sad indictment when a mom feels guilty for letting her boy out to play.

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