Saturday, May 8, 2010

"Cuts Mama With Scissors"

Some things are not what they seem.

Gathered around the big school table, the children and I were involved in a fairly benign activity: making treasure boxes from old Peet's tea tins. I'd covered them with construction paper and the children were using markers, stickers and pictures to decorate them to their liking. One child asked for scissors and so I brought them down. We've always had scissors available and there's never been any trouble.

Until this day.

Kiddo had a pair of the great-fitting kid scissors I'd picked up at the art supply store. I'd loved the small fit for little hands and just assumed that, since they were packaged and sold as "Children's Scissors" that they were indeed safety scissors.

Some things are not what they seem.

Kiddo had the scissors up by his mouth, near his upper lip. I asked them to put them down, and he seemed to ignore me. Truthfully, I don't know what was going through his head, but those scissors were still up by his mouth, so I did what any unthinking parent would do: I grabbed the scissors by the blades while he was still holding onto them.

And Kiddo did what any peeved kid would do. He held on tight to the scissors and squeezed, not wanting me to take them.

Unfortunately, my thumb was in the way.

I yelled for him to let go. Keep in mind, I had to keep my composure because it was preschool time and I was very aware of not alarming the other children at the table, so my yell was probably less desperate and scary, more of a serious and loud "Stop! Let go! OUCH!", and I actually remember deciding to mildly whack the hand that held the scissors in order to get his attention. In the midst of all this, I had the presence of mind to consider all the children. I didn't want to scare them by hitting my son hard or screaming at him, but this small pop worked enough to confuse him and he let go of the scissors.

And there was blood. I knew it before I even looked at my thumb. I put away all the scissors I could reach and went to the kitchen to grab a rag before the kids could see the bleeding. Those scissors had cut a variety of materials since they'd been purchased and since I was alone, the best thing I could think to do was to squeeze the wounds- yes, the cut had made an inverted "v" on the pad of my right thumb-- until the blood flowed out, hoping to push out any germs before applying direct pressure with the towel.This worked like a charm. This, by the way, is why I have taken so many first aid classes...because the shock of my little boy actually truly hurting me felt huge, and I operated on automatic for a few minutes. Sent Kiddo to his room while I went into the bathroom and grabbed the Neosporin, slathered it on, covered the mess with two bandages.

In the bathroom for those few minutes, I knew I had to 'do something', because what he'd done was horrible. Time Out wasn't going to be applicable, even if I did use it. What would he learn from sitting on a freaking chair for three minutes? Never letting him use scissors again wasn't an option. He needed some way to learn what he had done. He's never been cut by scissors, so the pain of this was something he honestly didn't understand. The only thing I could think of that would make sense seemed very just. He could not use scissors again until my thumb was healed. I took a deep breath and went back to work.

I think Kiddo knew something was up, because he was very demure until after lunch, when Joe came home. Let me just say that, had any other child cut me, I would've called their parents to pick them up. When Joe came in, I quietly took him aside and told him what had happened. I deeply, truly wanted to cry. My little boy had cut me. Hard. It hurt. I asked Joe to take Kiddo and our little guy was very, very sad. I explained to him that he was all done with school for the day because he'd done a very dangerous thing and hadn't stopped even when I'd asked him to. I told him that he could come and be with his friends the next time we had school and then finished my preschool day as best I could, a little relieved not to have to see him for a while.

Some things are not what they seem.

Let's just say that, for the record, I would never have bought scissors that I knew could cut flesh. How does one test this? I'll be talking to the art supply store about adding some helpful labeling to their display. Something like "Unless you are an adult Little Person with exquisitely tiny hands, you should not be using these." Good grief. Who makes teeny tiny scissors that can almost send someone to the ER for stitches?

And I know that an outsider might have seen something different than what I did. I am really grateful that A. I was the person cut instead of another child and B. I was his teacher during this. I know my son. I know he didn't expect the scissors to cut me and I know in my heart of hearts that hurting me wasn't his intention. He did what any child in my group does when someone tries to take their toy away--he held on tight. I popped his hand because I am not going to teach my son that I'll be a victim. This would have been bad for everyone involved. Some things are not what they seem, and it's easy to make assumptions about other people's children, especially when we don't know them.

As for my decision regarding the scissors: this has actually been very effective in teaching him that some things don't get better just because we forget about them. That night I changed the bandage and showed Kiddo the cut, explaining what happened and that he'd hurt me. He's asked to use the scissors a couple times since then, and I just remind him that we don't have scissors until Mama's thumb in all healed up. So he's learning about safety, about the miracle of self-healing skin, about Neosporin and bandages ("Oh, I'm sorry, I have no bandages for you to play with this time. My finger is going to need a lot of the bandages we have for now."). Hopefully, he will know that we can still be gentle with each other too. That we can come back from these things and still have this love for each other that includes both being wary and forgiving. Teaching one's own child is harder than I would ever have thought, but this day, I was glad it was me. Teaching and being taught.

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