My son has a concussion. He was knocked out for over a minute after an attempt to leap over a badminton net ended in a head-plant onto the gym floor.
He’ll be puny for awhile, the E.R. doctor promises me—and for a moment I imagine what puny might look like.
If he could just be puny and rest on the couch and whine and feel sorry for himself and demand ice cream and cool drinks like other kids.
The trauma moms in my online parenting group more accurately predict what early childhood trauma + concussion looks like:
“Expect more argumentativeness than usual, extreme mood swings and non-compliance.”
Oh. Okay. Argumentativeness, mood swings and non-compliance. This is where I live. I’ve got this.
My son is a terrible patient, combative and cranky.
“Wanna fight?” he asks.
“Nope,” I say. “But I bet you do.”
“Give me your best shot,” I say. “I can take it.”
Nothing brings the losses of his life to front and center quite like being sick, quite like needing a mom.
He wakes up.
“Don’t touch me,” he says. “Don’t look at me.”
“Don’t talk to me! Just don’t say anything.”
I sit in silence. I know how to wait until it passes.
He eventually throws his legs heavily off the couch and struggles to sit. He rubs his face.
“Mom feelings,” he says. “Sorry, Mom.”
For the first two days, every minute of healing is a battle. Every sip of water. Every bite of food. Every nap. Every painkiller. Every quiet activity.
He refuses to eat the lunch I cook.
“I’m not eating your food,” he says.
He complains about his head hurting but won’t accept a painkiller.
“Not from you,” he says.
“Would you like Dad to get it for you?”
Healing the concussion isn’t so different from healing the trauma. We dance these steps a thousand times a day. I am a tree. I am water. I am a butterfly. My body knows all the steps to avoid the fight.
Sometimes he asks the questions with words. Sometimes he asks me with his eyes. Why didn’t she take care of me like this? How can you love me so much when you’re nothing to me? Not my kin. Not my blood. How can I love you? And always this one. What do I have to do to make you stop? Can I ever make you stop like she stopped?
I answer these questions every day. Not with words. There aren’t words to explain how this works. Why this works. These are questions that have to be answered in the actions of bodies, in presence, in breath.
He sleeps on and off all day, and every time he wakes, I am there beside him. He looks panicked until he sees me. Then he smiles and nestles deeper into the blankets.
“Momma,” he murmurs.
“Baby,” I say.
Once he wakes up startled, his eyes wild, unfocused.
“Who are you?” he growls at me. For a moment, he really doesn’t know.
“I’m your mom who loves you,” I say. “Remember?”
He falls back against the pillow, sighs.