Growin' Up (or It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City.... or What Love Can Do...)

Tonight I became a parent.

It’s true that I’ve spent the last 2 years doing parental things. Being peed on and pooped on, dealing with tantrums and sleep depravation. Spending a ridiculous amount of time worrying and praying and Googling things like “yeast diaper rash” and "cradle cap."

But tonight I signed that invisible motherhood contract, the one that binds you to do things you never in a million years thought you'd do.

I should be at Hersheypark Stadium right now, screaming the lyrics to “Rosalita,” or maybe “No Surrender” (I really hoped he’d play that one...) or “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” After a lifetime of saying “Before I die, I’m going to see Bruce Springsteen in concert,” I bought tickets. Hundred-bucks-apiece tickets, purchased after poring over the map of the stadium online and switching my order twice, trying to get the best seats.

This is embarrassing, but I cried when they came in the mail. Real tears, seeing the words “Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band” on a pair of tickets that were way more expensive than we can afford at the moment. I told Chris it was my birthday present and Mother’s Day all rolled into one, hoping that I’d save us some money by having him not go way overboard for those two holidays, which he typically does.
(It sorta worked, which in retrospect, damn.)

My in-laws are here visiting, and they were ready to babysit. Chris left work early, we mapped out a backroads route to the stadium to try to avoid some of the traffic, and we ordered a pizza to feed everyone before we left.

And then Kostyn got hurt. He’d been horsing around for awhile and when he flung himself happily at me, I caught him like I always do. And then he did that limp-body thing that toddlers think is either incredibly funny or an effective tantrum tactic. And I pulled him up by his hands, like an idiot, like a mother, like someone who’s done it a hundred times before when all he did was giggle and let his weight sit back on his feet like a normal person and run away to chase the dog.

Except this time he didn’t stand up, he stayed limp. And I must have pulled something in his shoulder or arm, because he started crying. Softly at first, but then harder when he tried to move his arm.

It was an hour before we were supposed to leave for the concert.

At first I had hope. He’s fine, I reasoned. He’ll bounce back. I’ve seen bloody foreheads and swelling knots on his head and bruises on his knees, and he always bounces back in a few minutes. I’ve seen him tumble down the stairs and fall on his head and take a digger face-first onto the pavement, and he’s always been fine.

But he kept wincing and whimpering and holding his right arm absolutely still. He looked afraid of and surprised at the pain. I felt horrible. And I saw our night -- our one night out together, like a real date! -- slip away. We couldn’t leave him like this, he wouldn’t go to anyone but me. Clinging to me but not wanting me to pick him up for fear of jostling the arm, he cried harder whenever anyone else came near or tried to distract him from the injury. “Mama....” he’d whimper, and I knew deep down I couldn’t go, even though I lived in denial for another hour after that.

Maybe he just pulled it, maybe he’s just scared, maybe it’ll be OK. But an hour later it still wasn’t OK, though he was calmer and was able to move it up and down without crying so hard. He was definitely favoring it though, and freaking out whenever one of us tried to get him to raise the arm. I remembered how it felt when I separated my shoulder, and I rubbed his back and stroked his hair.

Finally, Chris pulled the trigger and called one of his reporters to see if he knew anyone who wanted to see Springsteen, like, right now. Of course he did, found two guys (one of them works for Chris) who showed up with a six-pack of Budweiser Tall Boys as a thank-you.

We talked about heading to the ER or an urgent care but decided if the arm was broken we’d know it, so it was probably just a strained or pulled shoulder and he just needed to lay low for a bit. We gave him some Children's Tylenol and decided Chris could take him to the ER in a couple hours if he wasn’t doing better.

Like a blessing and a curse, the longer he laid low the better he got. By the time the concert was just about to start, I was sitting in my living room with a happy toddler who was practically doing somersaults, and a six-pack of Bud. In cans. Cans, people.

During those two hours I went through a range of emotions, all accompanied by tears. First there was guilt over injuring my son. Then a pity party for my lost night out. Sorrow at not seeing The Boss live. Remorse over spending the extra dough to get such expensive tickets. Guilt for being selfish about the pity-party when I should have just been concerned about my kid. Anger at Chris for giving away the tickets instead of asking for money.

Then, another pity party. Then happiness that Kostyn was OK. Then guilt for wanting him to at least wince a little bit when he moved the arm so that I could tell myself that I’d needed to stay home, that I had no choice.

The thing is, I did have a choice. I suppose I could have left him and his brother with my in-laws as planned, hoping that he wasn’t too injured and reasoning that we would just be gone a few hours and he'd stop crying eventually and we spent a lot of money and it’s SPRINGSTEEN, for Chrissakes.

But I chose to stick around, against almost every instinct in my body. Which makes me either incredibly stupid, or a parent. I choose the latter.

I’m still not OK with it. I will ask Chris to remove the page of the newspaper tomorrow morning that has any mention of the concert, because I know it would make me cry again, as pathetic and selfish as that may sound.

A little while ago I gave Evan his bath, something I would have missed tonight, and he was really smiley and talkative. It was like he was trying to cheer me up. It worked, a little. They are sweet, those kids. And I am thankful KO is OK.

Still, I can’t bring myself to pop open one of those damn Buds.


Kim said...

I really am sorry. You deserved your big night out.

Hey--I hear there's nothing like seeing the Boss in Jersey. If you ever decide you wanna see a show here, you know you always have a place to crash!

Sheila said...

When I read your status update that you weren't going to make the show, I honestly thought to myself, boy, I'm glad I'm not in a position to have to make that choice! And then I thought about how I also don't get to experience all the rewards of being a parent. I know you're feeling the sting of sacrifice right now, but I also know in a matter of days KO or Evan will do something that will amaze you, and you'll be writing about how the sacrifice is all worth it.

Oh, and let's remember who the real queen of pity parties is :).

Anonymous said...

Oh no! You've been talking about that concert since before Evan was born!!!

Peter said...


Peter said...

Been there -- that's a tough one! But don't worry, he'll be back.

This might make you feel better: This past summer my son's birthday party wound up getting pushed back by several hours because it was at a minor league ballpark and there was a rain delay. I had Springsteen tix for that night and he said it was fine if I left the game early. Even though we'd already done the cake, presents, etc., I felt miserable for leaving and didn't really enjoy the show because of it.

Moral of the story: You'll always be happier with your kids than with Bruce.