Jerry Mahoney recalls the time his son pushes his twin sister off a stage, the subsequent trip to the hospital, and the lessons they learned… The grownups, at least.
Sometimes, there’s no mistaking the fact that my children are being raised by two gay men, like when we go to Barnes & Noble and the first thing they want to do is jump up on the kiddie stage and belt out the new Madonna song. “L-U-V! Madonna!”
It’s not like we encourage it. Maybe they were born that way.
Still, we weren’t too surprised when we took them to the park and they made a raised platform into a stage for their latest singing and dancing extravaganza.
“Y-O-U! You wanna!”
What did surprise us was how we ended up in the emergency room twenty minutes later.
It all happened very fast. Sutton stepped in front of Bennett, Bennett got annoyed and, like Nomi Malone in Showgirls (a reference they will surely come to appreciate someday), he gave Sutton a very deliberate and fateful shove.
Drew and I both saw her fall, but she was just out of our diving distance. We dove anyway, and then we heard it…
More than the horrifying image of Sutton tumbling head-first off the “stage”, what I’ll remember most is the sound. My daughter’s skull against the hard brick walkway below it.
Then, a scream. The scream started instantly, which I knew was a good sign from when we were afraid Bennett had a concussion. There was no debating, though. This merited a trip to the ER.
I raced back to our minivan with our hysterical daughter in my arms. I tried to feel her legs. Were they moving? Did she react when I touched them? Geez, was I crazy for having such horrific thoughts? The fall had uprooted significant chunks of her hair, which were coming out in my hands, covered in tears and snot.
Thankfully, though, no blood. Everyone says head injuries bleed an unfathomable amount. How was it that she was not bleeding at all?
It had been a huge fall. Drew and I both guessed it was about two and a half feet, roughly the entire length of her fragile little body. It was bad.
I sat on the floor of the van, holding Sutton’s hand, as Drew sped down the Bronx River Parkway. We knew just how to get to the hospital because it had only been two weeks since Bennett was there. Our second trip in less than a month for a possible concussion. We fully expected a social worker to interrogate us in a dimly lit room.
After about ten minutes, Sutton calmed down. I wiped her nose and dried her tears. I tucked the loose strands of hair into the seatback pocket so she wouldn’t see them and panic. She was moving all her limbs, and she said her head didn’t hurt now.
“Bennett pushed me off the stage,” she said, over and over. She didn’t seem angry. She was just recounting the story, the way she might say, “I saw four gooses” or “My donut was chocolate” after a happier trip out of the house.
I reassured her anyway. “It was an accident. Right, Bennett?”
The truth was, I couldn’t be sure. Bennett had been going through a hitting phase. Mostly, he hit the wall or his highchair tray when he was angry about something. Sometimes, he hit his sister or me.
How did this happen to my kids? They loved each other. They were best friends. They spontaneously held hands all the time. How could one purposely do something that would land the other in the hospital?
Now Bennett was complaining. He didn’t like being stuck in the ER. He didn’t like the TV shows that were playing. He was hungry. I took him for a walk, but he didn’t like the big fish tank in the children’s hospital lobby. He wanted to leave.
So I took him to the minivan, strapped him in his seat and closed the doors. He thought I was taking him home, but the truth was I brought him here so I could yell at him at the volume I felt the situation demanded.
“YOU HURT YOUR SISTER! DON’T YOU REALIZE THAT’S WHY WE’RE AT THE HOSPITAL? WE’RE LUCKY SHE ISN’T HURT MUCH WORSE! NONE OF US WANT TO BE HERE, BUT YOU’D BETTER STOP COMPLAINING BECAUSE IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!”
This failed to calm him down.
Four hours later, the doctor sent us home. Sutton was fine. No concussion, barely even a bump at the point of impact.
Drew and I have driven past the park since then, and we’ve revised our estimates downward. The fall was closer to a foot and a half, if that. Maybe we overreacted due to the circumstances. Maybe the horror of the moment was bigger than just the fall. We needed a doctor to calm us. We needed to hear that our little girl wasn’t so badly hurt, but we also wanted to believe that our little boy wasn’t really so bad.
It wasn’t long ago that both kids were completely baffled by violence. Now, however it happened, it’s part of our lives.
The kids have learned from the experience, but so far, not the lessons we might’ve hoped. Mostly, they’ve learned that if you get hurt, your dads freak out and take you to the hospital, where they let you eat chocolate chip cookies from the cafeteria. Bennett will trip and fall in the living room, then announce, “I’m hurt. I need to go to the hospital.”
He still hits. We’re working on it. We’ve tried time outs. We’ve tried rewarding him with YouTube videos if he can go all day without hitting. We read him kiddie propaganda books like “Hands are Not For Hitting” to get the message across.
It wasn’t such a severe hit at the park that day. They never are. He doesn’t have the strength. His hands are tiny and soft like cotton swabs. He swats with them, and half the time when he takes a swing at you, he misses altogether. When he does it, you want to laugh.
We don’t laugh, though. Those tiny, meek little swipes he takes can have quite an impact.
Photo—Small boxer from Shutterstock