“What’s this? Is it a bruise?” my mother-in-law asked, looking at my eighteen-month-old’s forehead. She rubbed it with her hand, to get it off in case it was dirt. It wasn’t. It was in fact, a gray-yellow, very distinctive, bruise.
At first, it was hidden under his ragamuffin blond hair. But a haircut a few days later made it much more prominent. Like Ash Wednesday ashes that won’t wipe off.
“What will people think?” I worried. “Will they think we neglect him? Will they think I’m a bad mom? It’s right in the middle of his forehead!”
Worst of all, I had no idea how he got it. I don’t remember him hitting his head there. What kind of mom am I if I don’t even remember him bumping his head?
But then I remembered how when I was a kid, my mom called Poison Control so many times that she stopped giving them her name. (I put weird stuff in my mouth at alarming speed.) I recalled when she was about the same age as my younger son how my sister-in-law fell out of her high chair and lost consciousness for a minute. (She was okay.) And how my husband caught my younger son licking an ant trap a few months ago. (What the hell, child?)
We were all doing our best. Despite truly good parenting, our kids still had harm come to them. Our love couldn’t bubble wrap them.
No matter how hard we try, we can’t protect our kids from ever getting hurt. At some point, they’ll face pain, whether mental or physical. When that day comes, we need to hug them, see if they need professional help, and move forward. No use feeling guilty over black-and-blue marks on foreheads. What good does it do?
Instead, I look at my son and see him smiling. He’s waving his hands to music and giggling. Now he’s folding his hands behind his head to nap in his car seat.
And I know that we’re both going to be okay.
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