If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: don’t slam the door.
“Stop slamming the door!”
“DON’T SLAM THE DOOR!”
“If I hear that door slam one more time…!” (Then…what? I haven’t yet decided on that part.)
When one has four kids ages 8 and under, there is door-slamming. It is one of my biggest parental pet peeves because THAT IS HOW PEOPLE GET HURT. And I know this, because when my mother was a child, she slammed her 2-year-old sister’s finger in the door and CUT IT OFF. Cut off. Her finger.
So no surprise, my mom made sure I grew up with a healthy fear of doors. (Actually, that doesn’t sound healthy at all.) More specifically, she instilled in me a fear of losing a limb or extremity to a door. I’ve done my best to carry on her parenting legacy with my own children, but my campaign has proved to be an enormous fail.
This is what my failure looks like:
The baby (who is nearly 2 and 35 pounds) is getting into the big kids’ toys and messing up their game: he’s shoved through the bedroom door and into the hallway, and SLAM.
The oldest is taunting the 4-year-old, who is losing his mind because HE’S LAUGHING AT ME, and SLAM.
The 4-year-old won’t stop bugging his sister and trails after her into the bathroom–SLAM.
Which brings me to the other night, when the slam was followed by–I wasn’t immediately sure.
“Is that a wail or a laugh?” I asked my husband.
And then it became shrill and piercing, and I was running toward the sound, hurdling over toys and the sofa the way mothers do when they hear something like that. I found my 4-year-old Mark in hysterics, his left hand clutched to his chest, pinky finger unrecognizable.
GOOD GOD HE’S LOST HIS FINGER, I thought, panic setting in. My 7-year-old daughter wept quiet, guilty tears in the corner of the bathroom.
My chest was tightening as I searched for what to do what to do WHAT DO I DO, SHOULD I CALL 911??? I imagined what I might say, “Yes, help, my 4-year-old has an injured pinky finger, please hurry!”
Uh, no 911. Instead I did something very out of character–I remained calm. I grabbed my shoes and bag and quietly asked my husband to get my keys. Mark’s crying became more high pitched.
“It hurts SO BAD!”
We discussed briefly which emergency room to use, and a fresh batch of tears burst from my daughter when she overheard the word, “hospital.” She had broken her brother.
At least, I thought she had broken her brother, which is why we went to the ER. Also I forgot EVERYONE HAS THE FLU. About 337 people in the waiting area (give or take 300), and I’m pretty sure they all had it. Or if they didn’t, they do now. There is not enough Purell in the world.
The examining physician suspected as I did–“probably broken”–but an X-ray proved otherwise. Not broken, just “really smushed,” according to a nurse. “Now don’t forget to get your card punched–the 11th visit is free!”
(Kidding. She didn’t say that. What she actually said was, “Don’t forget your parting gift of influenza!” Or she might have just said, “Here’s your paperwork.”)
Mark was a mild sensation in the ER, shuffling around with his injury dangling in front of him, all sad cow eyes and tear-streaked face. A woman huddled in a blanket and attached to an oxygen tank murmured as we walked by, “I just feel so bad for that baby.” Another lady in a face mask nodded, “It’s just pitiful.”
He did look pretty pitiful. When asked about his injury, he would sniffle, “My sister slammed the door.” The response was often “Yeah, my sister did that to me once.”
Do you see what I’m talking about now, with the door? THAT IS HOW PEOPLE GET HURT. I’ve been saying it and saying it and hollering it, and none of these kids listen to me. And now look what happened. Mark’s finger is REALLY SMUSHED.
This is why you should listen to your mother. Let this be a cautionary tale, one to share with your children, with your children’s children, that nobody else might suffer as Mark did. I’m just talking about awareness, and if sharing Mark’s story saves just one finger from smushing–well, I’ll be shocked. Because my aunt lost her finger, it was CUT OFF (before they sewed it back on), and how many times have I used that story to warn my kids? Is anybody listening to me?
Now go get a flu shot.
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)