He was sitting on the bench outside his classroom with his teacher, his head wrapped in gauze. Crusted blood discolored his eyelids and brows. He was little pale, bundled up in his bright green down jacket.
They had told me on the phone that he had fallen and cut his head, badly enough that he would probably need stitches. I figured I’d bring him home and take a look. Maybe we could get by with some butterfly bandages.
But when I saw him sitting on that bench with his teacher, I knew there was no point in unwrapping his head to take a look. It was written there in the small, shaken body of my ten year old and across the calm and serious face of his teacher.
“You think it needs sewing?” I asked anyway. I couldn’t remember the word for stitches, even though the school secretary had said it to me moments earlier.
The teacher nodded slowly and without hesitation. He exuded such calm and tenderness in that moment.
So it was off to the hospital we went. I wasn’t overly nervous about his cut. Heads are known to bleed a lot, after all. I had gotten stitches in my head when I was ten after being hit in the head with a rock. I remember there was a lot of blood - and all I needed was one stitch.
After driving around in circles on the hospital campus and literally praying to find an open parking spot (it was just as I said aloud, “Okay, God, I could use some help here,” that a car pulled out in front of us), we did eventually find our way to pediatric emergencies, and it wasn’t a long wait to be seen.
The nurse unwrapped the bandages and began to gingerly inspect his head. I decided to be brave and take a look myself. Holy shit, the gash was nearly two inches long, and I swear you could see down to his skull.
I could feel my perspective start to shift - from stitching up a cut on a boy’s head to my little child is lying there with his head split open. All of a sudden, it became a picture of vulnerability. His vulnerability, my own vulnerability, the vulnerability of being human.
Vulnerability showed up and an awareness of my powerlessness. I cannot protect this little boy from the fragility of life.
Initially, I wanted to push against this realization. My muscles tensed up and blood drained from my face. Our nurse politely insisted that I sit down.
As I sat, I remembered to breathe. I realized there was nothing to fight against here. Instead of bracing myself, I released the tension I was holding. And I held lightly the awareness of vulnerability; I knew it was precious, and I didn’t want to bury it.
In those moments sitting there, I could feel the connection between me and my child take hold in a new way. Or perhaps it was only my awareness that was new. Either way, it rooted me in that moment.
I felt gratitude swell in my chest. Gratitude for my son, for his calm and loving teacher who didn’t panic, for our parking angel, for the medical staff, for the classroom full of students who ran to get help (and who were - unbeknownst to us - making get well cards at that moment), for my family, for all the ways we are all connected.
And a simple thought went through my head:
We are here to love one another.
“I was afraid. Were you afraid?” his teacher asked me softly the next day.
“Yes,” I replied.
“But only for a moment.”
Jessica Curtis is a professional coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.