July 10th, 2017 The sound of Frog’s head slamming against my grandmother’s coffee table is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I’ll remember it like I remember where I was on September 11th or the moments just before I heard my mother say, “Your father and I are getting a divorce.” Crisis moments. Traumatic events. I used to be good at those. And then I had Frog.
I mean ok, yes, I’ve always been prone to the dramatic. And yes, I’ve always been able to dissolve into tears ala Claire Danes on Homeland. But I’ve also stayed calm when I shouldn’t have. I remember being five-years-old and explaining to my little brother, who was three-years-old, what a divorce was while my mother nervously suggested that we all read a book together, as a family. I remember keeping the car steady while our fourteen-year-old husky, Lexie, died in the back seat. When my husband had shoulder surgery, I only cried after the doctor said his surgery was successful, not a moment before. But my cells have changed. Kermie has rearranged me, and my crisis management skills, into someone I don’t recognize.
I was only steps away when Frog hit his head. Just eight–maybe ten–steps away. My youngest step-daughter, E., was playing with Kermie on the couch and I had decided to take the opportunity go get a snack. A small, reasonable decision but one that I look back on and wonder about. The snack never happened because Frog turned himself over the Boppy baby pillow, off the couch, and into the side of the coffee table. He hit the right backside of his head which is probably what caused him to land in a seated position on the floor. E. caught him before his head hit the floor again.
Kermie’s face was red and twisted and screaming when E. handed him to me. He cries like me and Claire, an ugly cry. And I lost it. I began to vibrate with panic and adrenaline and an amount of fear I had never felt before. I bounced up and down and frantically said over and over that he was ok. I looked at E. Unlike Frog and I, E. was still and silent. She sat frozen in a kind of half-fetal position on the couch and fat tears plopped down her perfectly frozen face. Shit, I thought. I’m the only adult in this room.
That part–the being the adult in the room–I thought I’d gotten accustom to. I’ve been a step-mom for seven years and been in plenty of instances where I had to make a call. But still. As a step-parent, no matter how involved you are (and I am), you are not ultimately the one in charge. The biological parents, they have the final say. And sometimes, that can be frustrating. But I hadn’t realized until I became a biological mother that it was also comforting. Parenting with a safety net in a way. And that sounds silly. And maybe that isn’t even true. But before I had Frog, there was still the possibility that I could be just a stand-in adult or a kid in the room. There were rooms before (well I like to believe there were rooms before) where, if something went wrong, I would ultimately not be The One who will be held accountable for the outcome.
But now, in every room, that’s me. Because Frog makes me. Because if something doesn’t go well, even if it has nothing to do with Frog, it affects him. Because I’m Da Mama. And the level of fear on E.’s face forced me to not just panic. What happened next was up to me. Bumpgate, 2017, aka My first real test of all this new adultness.
So I did exactly what any good, feminist adult does in this situation. I called my husband.
I calmly informed Sean that he was on the speaker phone because that’s the polite thing to do. I then assured him that everything was ok in a firm, authoritative voice. But, see Sean, Frog rolled off the couch and slammed his head against the coffee table and I heard it and it was really loud, like nothing I’ve ever heard before, and Kermie seems ok but maybe he isn’t and what do you think–ok. Perhaps calmly isn’t the right word…Or firm. Or authoritative.
Sean began to ask questions. What exactly happened? What Frog’s head looked like? How was Frog was acting? These questions are all very important, but not at all why I was calling.
“Sean, stop. What do I do now? Do I need to take him to the pediatrician? Do I need to call 911? Do I need to Google what to do when a six-month-old hits his head?”
“No,” Sean stated. “I think he’ll be ok.”
“Ok,” I said hurriedly. “Thanks.” Crisis averted because Sean said so. Now, we can move on with our day.
E. went upstairs to play Minecraft. Frog, who had stopped crying, was now ready to play. And I was ready for a break. So I put Baby Einstein on the TV and was just sitting down on the couch to stare at my son for the next hour when our home phone rang. It was Sean.
“Hey, sweetie,” he said.
“Hi,” I said, curtly.
“So after we got off the phone, I did some thinking and I called the 24-hour nurse line.”
“Great.” I was irritated now. This had been handled. He said everything was fine. And now, we’re rehashing. “What did they say.”
“Well, actually…” Sean said. “I have Nurse Daphne on the phone.”
“Oh,” I said, my voice softening into a polite tremor. “Hi Nurse Daphne.”
“Hi Melanie,” she said.
Psst! Do you want more Frog in your life? No problem!
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