Falling face first into humble pie

My dear friends,

If you want to learn the bitter irony of the boomarang nature of the universe, say to your strong but slightly clumsy husband, “I bet when our daughter breaks her first bone, it will be with you.”  Then, a week from making this nasty and totally pointless statement, take your ever-so-graceful self to pick said daughter up from her nanny share, wearing platforms and carrying 2 bags while holding her as you walk down a marble staircase.  You will find yourself sitting your ass down deep in a vat of humble pie, as you topple down the steps and, while your baby clutches to you, her leg slightly twists and ends up being fractured.

Lately I have been wondering if I have been piling too much on my plate, as it has felt like I’m right on the precipice… well, of a fall.  I have also been pondering how to gather the support around myself that I need to handle my busy life in a more regular, consistent way.  With this latest challenge, my community has been so wonderfully supportive, with prayers, food, rides, and encouraging messages.  And believe you me, I’ve needed them.  Spending the entire day yesterday at the medical center, doing tests on Olive that often made her cry painfully, then waiting for hours for results was harrowing.  When they showed me the x-ray of her little leg, I couldn’t even see the fracture, but I could certainly feel my heart breaking.

Shortly after getting the news that her leg was indeed broken, I, in all my infinite wisdom, picked a fight with my husband about how we would get home (not having a car really makes this stuff all the more stressful).  We bickered for a little while, until I turned to him and said, “I think we’re just really sad that our baby has a broken leg.”  He agreed, and we figured out the plans to get home with much more compassion for each other.  Every single day I pray that Olive will be safe.  This morning, I told God how mad I am that she was hurt.  But I’m not really mad at God, I’m pretty effing pissed at myself.  My mom friends, knowing that I would be castigating myself, have all told me about the millions of scary things that have happened to their own kids.  And I’m not in some wallowing self-pity place, I’m just feeling sick to my stomach watching my poor active 13-month old have to scoot around slowly with her full-leg cast, and knowing it happened on my watch.

So I’m combating the pit with my best defense, humor.  Olive’s cast on the streets of San Francisco is like a huge neon sign that blinks CARELESS MOTHER!  Which prompts everyone and their sister to ask what happened, and give me a frowny face.  I usually say that she was protecting the town from a vicious pack of baby ninjas, but sometimes I get more specific — if the person is walking a canine, I say “a dog sat on her.”  If they are loading a truck, I say “she was unloading a shipment at the docks”.  However, if it is a parent asking me, I know I only need to say “I was carrying a lot, going down a flight of stairs and…” they can finish the sentence, because, that’s parenting.

My humorous defense may be silly, but it keeps me from getting all melancholia about it.  Kids get hurt, a lot, and I need to get used to it.  The kid I have is amazingly resiliant — she literally only cried when she was feeling the physical pain from the fracture being touched, and always bounces back in an incredible amount of time to her dancing, curious self.  Our last stop yesterday was to the injury center, where they were to put the cast on.  I was exhausted, hadn’t eaten in many hours, and was flying solo as Joel had to bring the borrowed car back.  But when I walked in and the 2 people putting on the cast were named Oliver and Rose, I knew everything was going to be okay.  She charmed them instantly, barking like a dog and laughing when they pretended to be scared, letting them hold her and dance with her around the room.

It is ridiculous to spend even one moment in hindsight thinking, but I have been known to be rather ridiculous, at times.  I suppose the one “take-away” I am allowing is that I need to ask for help more often.  I was carrying too much, and it was unnecessary.  But continuing that line of thought takes me to a rather un-humble place once again.  Who is to say that ANYthing I could have done could have kept this from happening, or that the alternatives would have somehow been better?  She could have been hurt worse.  And who is to say that scrapes and breaks aren’t important learning experiences for kids, about how to overcome adversity?  Basically, I need to let Olive get hurt, not take it personally, and not become a Helicopter Parent.  Part of loving is being able to fully show up for that person’s pain, to be able to bear that unfortunate things happen, we don’t have to judge them “good” or “bad”, we just have to be present for them.  As Yeats said, “Love has pitched his mansion in the place of excrement; for nothing can be sole or whole that has not been rent.”  So I will live in this mansion of love, no matter how smelly it may sometimes be.  It is true that brokenness usually leads to wholeness, if love is present throughout.  And this tough little girl has that in spades.

13 thoughts on “Falling face first into humble pie

  1. Rhea,

    I am awake at 3:30 am with worsening laryngitis feeling SO crappy and the only relief I have felt is the last hour of a) realizing only now that you have a blog because I am not as active on the internet as I once was and b) reading it cover to cover. I love the mix of photos and the variety of topics from prayer offices to breast pumping. I am now subscribed.

    I have felt it before and I will say it again. There is something so uniquely alive about you—particularly about you with Joel and now Olive. I think about you guys and I just feel inspired to live more fully. So thanks….

    And about Olive’s broken leg, I think you are right on track. I remember when I was five and my dad shut my whole little hand in the trunk of the car because I reached in without warning. No harm no foul. 🙂


  2. Can’t sleep. Am so very sorry about Olive. I can’t drive for a while. Do you want to use my car?
    I love you and you and Joel continue to be the very best parents I know today in San Francisco and beyond. Oh how hard it must be. Olive will heal and so will you. Love you and all that you are.

  3. I’ve posted this other places, but it is one of my favorite things ever. It’s Brene Brown’s TED talk on Vulnerability:

    She says this stuff about parenting and children around minute 18 that is really wonderful, but honestly I could (and have) listened to this whole thing over and over again.

  4. Rhea (and Joel), may this be the worst thing to happen to Olive ever! I’m sorry that all 3 of you had to go through it.
    At least she is too little to have the dr. send you out of the room and ask her what really happened! Sarah broke her arm once and the dr. did that. I could her her from the next room saying, “Well, the first time I jumped off the shed roof nothing happened, but the next time I got hurt.” I suppose parents always blame themselves when anything happens.
    May she heal rapidly, and mom and dad along with her. She won’t remember it, but I know you will, forever.

    God bless all of you!

  5. Oh Rhea, I’m so sad that happened to you and Olive!! We totally live in the same neighborhood, so if you do need help, I’m here for you!!!!

  6. Oh sweet Rhea and baby Olive… I’m so sad for your fall. And so thankful for your lives in my world. I’m remembering when I dropped Lily on her head… Missing and loving you!

  7. Love, love reading about you and your family sweet Rhea. This one brought me to tears- and left me feeling like I want to cover you in blankets inscribed over and over again with the words “grace.grace.grace.” Because you deserve so much of it- mother, friend, woman, lover, in this challenging, however beautiful world- grace. I need to meet the little angel soon please. Well wishings, sweet healings, with love, Chrystal

  8. Dearest reese, it is a pleasure to be allowed in…I hate that you had to learn anything via falling down stairs with your girl- but damn! I love your heart, your willingness to see and your rockin humor- sometimes I do think you write this just to me:) love you

  9. Pingback: Sticks and stones may break my bones… « thirty threadbare mercies

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