One of the main American stereotypes about fathers it that we’re more lenient, allow kids-will-be-kids mischief, and generally have a “light touch” when we’re parenting. There are definitely times when this is true of me, but there are others where I’m less lenient and Jenny is more hands-off. So it depends on the activity or issues at hand. And I enjoy that this nuance is true of our relationship and our parenting styles—I find it complementary (though it can lead to friction and disagreements). So, one thing I hate is when something happens to make it appear that I’m playing to the barely-vigilant American father stereotype. And something did happen.
We had just returned to the grounds of the O’Neill after a soft serve ice cream outing. Jenny had to go to rehearsal, but wanted a quick nap beforehand. So I was with Gabe, walking around the many shady paths that meander throughout the O’Neill. No less than ten minutes after Jenny left, Gabe slipped on some dry leaves and did a header on to a chunky stone. I flinched to stop his fall, but even a couple feet behind him was too far—I saw him hit the rock and heard a soft thunk.
He started to cry. I picked him up to see a cut above his eyebrow oozing blood, running down his temple and on to his shoulder. He looked up at me with a confused look like, I’ve never felt this before. Then he felt his cut, And what is this stuff?
With him in my arms, I hustled to the office where there was a first aid kit.
As I was jogging over to the office I had two competing thoughts in my head: I hope he doesn’t need stitches and I hope he doesn’t get blood on my new shirt.
I had just bought some new, sorely needed summer shirts that day and was, of course, wearing one. To avoid the bleeding I held him away from me, at arms length, which made me feel a little less than stellar parent—I know Jenny would’ve cuddled him close, blood, snot, tears, or bowel movements be damned.
Once we got to the first aid kit, I ripped open a gauze pack and he immediately focused on the ripping sound and took the crinkly wrapper in his hands, a smile brightening his face, and let out his trade mark “Ooooh.”
I put a Band-Aid on the cut, but an hour later he needed another one. The cut was small, no longer than a finger nail, but deep. After another hour we packed into the car and went to the local urgent care. An hour-and-a-half later, the doctor was examining at his cut. The options were use some skin glue at the urgent care, with less fantastic cosmetic results, or go to the children’s ER and wait—for who knows how long—for someone to sew in 1 or maybe 2 stitches. I agonized over the decision, thinking about what he would want in the future and what Jenny would think. I tried calling, but she was in rehearsal with her phone turned off. Arg. I didn’t want to drag Gabe or myself through what could be a long ER wait—and they might decide glue was best anyway. Those 10 minutes I spent trying to decide were perhaps the most stressful, as I had no idea what Jenny would prefer or which was the better option. It’s really hard to make those kinds of one-off decisions without the input from your partner. So I gulped and made a decision for both Jenny and I, and went with the glue. He cried loudly for about 20 minutes as they cleaned the cut and applied the glue and Band-Aid, but he was soon back to his Oooohs when he saw some shiny stickers. (ed note: for the record, Kyle, I would’ve chosen the dermabond in an instant, myself, so good job! Maybe this will make you feel better, but they use dermabond for c-section incisions, too!)
Over the next few days everyone noticed his bandage and asked about it. Many times they would then tell their own story of a small facial or scalp scar, often while smiling and pointing proudly. I knew Gabe was joining a large crowd, but their responses gave me hope that it wouldn’t really impact him at all in the future—it would just be a fact of his life.
After all that drama, Jenny’s parent’s arrived and helped out for almost a week—playing with him, taking us out to eat, tromping around on the beach. Luckily he hasn’t had any more cuts (can’t be said for bruises), but he has had a lot of fun playing with his Grandma and Grandpa Connell. And I’ve enjoyed getting a few more hours off each day, which came at just the right time: after Jenny’s rehearsal and show, where she was gone all day for a week. Apparently my primary-parenting was showing, as another playwright wanted to know if I was doing OK and said I had been looking “pretty rough” the week before. So things ultimately ended well this week, though Gabe and I are not looking forward to Grandma and Grandpa Connell leaving!