Last week our 17 year old managed to step on a chewed and dried up piece of animal skull out in the yard that slid about half an inch into her foot- lengthwise, just under the skin. It was deep enough that it was a long, ugly cut under the skin, but the problem was that the only part open to the air was the narrow area made by the entry. Essentially, it was a long puncture wound made by something that has to be crawling with nastiness. If it had torn the skin it would have be better. I could not figure out how to get it clean for the longest time.
It bled some, but she tried to take care of it herself before she came to me and so it didn’t bleed enough (wounds like this should be allowed to bleed freely, it helps wash out the wound), so by the time I saw it, it wasn’t bleeding at all. I had her soak it in warm epsom salt water (her foot was filthy) for a very long time, but the bottom half of the cut, under the skin, did no’t even look like it had been touched.
She also did this right before lunch- as in, I had just set down a bowl of nice, red, spicy ramyun noodles when she came in and asked me to look at her foot, and the ramyun no longer looked appetizing. I felt ill. After flushing it multiple times with peroxide in a syringe, it became obvious that I needed to cut away the skin covering the wound so we could clean it better.
Her brother had been with me the whole time, helpfully bringing peroxide, a towel, the syringe, this and that, and cracking very bad jokes to distract her from the business with her foot. When I said I thought we were going to have to cut open the dead skin, he covered her ears for her and started humming loudly.
I ask her brother about his dissection tools and he stopped and told me, “I know you aren’t asking me to take care of this, because the goal is to clean that thing, right? I’m pretty sure me vomiting on it would not be hygienic.” She grumbled about us plotting her execution right in front of her.
Three half hour soaks with clean, warm, soapy, epsom salt water, multiple syringes of peroxide, a safety pin, rubbing alcohol, an xacto knife, and a paperclip later, we finally had it open and at last, clean. Good thing we opened it, too, because after the first two soaks and half a bottle of peroxide, when I finally got it open, I could still see plenty of dirt. Ugh. IT took us two hours.
As she soaked it for the last time, and I tried to eat something, her brother made us peanut butter cookies.
An online friend said what impressed her the most about the story is that I knew what to do about it and had the tools to take care of it. She said it said a lot about life with these two.
I suppose. On another memorable occasion this same child who just skewered her foot on an animal skull, also cut open her foot and severed four tendons in two toes (she was jumping in the bathtub and jumped on one of her sisters’ safety razors, and it wasn’t all that safe). I wasn’t home, but they called me on their way to ER. As her daddy and oldest sister were rushing out to the ER, 2nd sister came in from taking care of the animals, Daddy told her to clean up the blood before I got home and saw it. I am told that she looked into the bathroom (where the accident happened) and asked the younger siblings, “Who did we kill, and where did we put the body?”
The FYG needed surgery for that one, and she cannot straighten those toes.
Other wounds I’ve cleaned- the boy sliced his thumb with somebody elses hunting knife. The knife had been used the day before to dispatch a wounded animal- something nasty, like a possum or a squirrel.
Horse bites, cat scratches, 27 stitches in the face for a fall off a bed onto a drinking glass, the Boy bit through his bottom lip at least twice when he was learning to walk, five staples in the head for a tumble down an 8 foot concrete well pit, tumbles out of trees, and somebody once rode her bike down a steep hill, through a rose bush and into a brick wall. I will not tell you all the places I was picking out thorns with tweezers, but whatever you’re imagining, yes, but make it worse. They went through two layers of clothing, her speed of impact was so great, the same child who stepped on the skull, and severed the tendons in her foot also got a pretty good sized slice in her foot from stepping on a broken sprinkler head, and she needed stitches in her arm from cutting it on a car sideview mirror. Oh, and Pip lost all four of her top teeth when she was two because a chest of drawers she was climbing fell down on her face.
I feel like I’m missing a few dozen of the worst. The boy has some scars on his knuckles that look like he’s been in a fist fight (he’s kind of proud of that), but they are from a bike accident- he was riding fast, lost control, and rode right into the mailbox, knuckles first.
The 27 stitches in the face incident? I was pregnant, stateside, my husband was in Japan. The wounded child’s first response to the blood pouring out? “Oh, no.” I waited and waited to call her father, and the first words I blurted out over the phone were still, “Well, the good news is that the Equuschick can still see.” I don’t think he’s forgiven me yet. The glass came down through her eyebrow to just beyond the edge of her eye and then out again- like a giant checkmark.
I’ve actually lost count of minor knife wounds to fingers and hands, or the burns on arms from the wood stove.
About the same time frame as the bone cut incident, the same friend asked me what we do for PE, she wanted some ideas, and the truth is, I mostly just try to keep them alive.
These youngest two are very driven, physically, and I don’t have to do much but tell them to do PE. Actually, I don’t even have to tell them. They do it regardless. I put it on the schedule so that I remember to make sure not to cram their schedule with books to the point they have no time or space for the physical activity they crave and need.
Variously they have chosen: shooting hoops outside; archery; running; yoga; jumping on the rebounder; working through a Marine boot camp program of sit ups and push ups; jumping rope; and a video called 30 day shred (my son isn’t allowed to watch that one), or Leslie Sansone’s DVD’s (he is allowed to do that one if he likes). The kids and their dad also play volleyball every chance they get and the Boy does something called Holly or Hally Wars- I can’t really even describe this, but they make armor and weapons from PVC pipe, pool noodles, and duct tape and then they compete in the woods at a friends’ house and there are lots of whackings and thwackings. After somebody broke his jaw they made a rule about no head shots. The Boy used to lift weights at my mother’s house but she gave the weight set away to somebody else, much to his frustration.
When they were small we did hula hoops, jump ropes, hopscotch on the floor with masking tape, and sometimes I just made them run laps up and down the stairs or around the house. And they climbed trees (and fell out of them) and ran around in the woods and creek (and fell in), rode the pony (and fell off)….. Hmmmm. There seems to be a trend here.
Our daughter is going to be learning something called a balloon workout at a family camp thisweek. She’s kind of an adrenalin junky, and the boy is a muscle junky.
They weren’t allowed to do much screen time when they were young, but their older siblings did even less, and none of them were as driven to physical activity as these two are. It’s just their bent.
In our rubber padded, cotton wool society that freaks out over skinned knees and splinters, and acts as though getting a finger pinched in a door is a dreadful dereliction of parental duty, I probably seem like an irresponsible parent.
But safety, as I shared last week, isn’t a virtue. And freeplay is a *need*, and in our pursuit of a completely safe and risk free childhood (combined with our mania for test scores), children are getting less and less of the play they need:
One line of evidence comes from the results of a battery of measures of creativity — called the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) — collected from normative samples of US schoolchildren in kindergarten through to 12th grade (age 17-18) over several decades. Kyung-Hee Kim, an educational psychologist at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, has analysed those scores and reported that they began to decline in 1984 or shortly after, and have continued to decline ever since. As Kim puts it in her article ‘The Creativity Crisis’, published in 2011 in the Creativity Research Journal, the data indicate that ‘children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesising, and less likely to see things from a different angle’.
You can’t teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom, and it blossoms in play
According to Kim’s research, all aspects of creativity have declined, but the biggest decline is in the measure called ‘creative elaboration’, which assesses the ability to take a particular idea and expand on it in an interesting and novel way. Between 1984 and 2008, the average elaboration score on the TTCT, for every grade from kindergarten onwards, fell by more than one standard deviation. Stated differently, this means that more than 85 per cent of children in 2008 scored lower on this measure than did the average child in 1984. If education ‘reformers’ get their way, it will decline further still as children are deprived even more of play. Other research, by the psychologist Mark Runco and colleagues at the Torrance Creativity Center at the University of Georgia, shows that scores on the TTCT are the best childhood predictors we have of future real-world achievements. They are better predictors than IQ, high-school grades, or peer judgments of who will achieve the most.
You can’t teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom.
Giving children plenty of unstructured free play time is giving them time to think, time to develop the life of the mind, and the work of the mind is done in the mind, not in organized by adults games, worksheets, and tests.
P.s. Apologies who found the details in the story of the bone puncture in the foot stomach churning. I found it upsetting, too. Writing about stuff like that? It’s how I deal.