Monday, November 01, 2010


Somewhere between chopping veggies, keeping Lila away from the oven, and picking up dropped crayons, River asked me whether a person could bleed so much that they died*.  Perhaps if the usual dinnertime chaos swirling around weren't so, well - chaotic - that question would have set off alarm bells; but as it was, I said, "Yeah.  If they lost enough blood a person could bleed to death," and went back to chopping and guarding and helping.

*(edited:  This might seem like a bleak and startling question for a 3 year old, but River is very curious about physiology and we often have frank discussions about how the body works.)

Flash forward a few days and River is getting a much needed haircut.  I finish up, brush him off, and start to vacuum when I hear a shout of alarm.  He's staring at his thumb and saying, "You cut me, mom!"  I KNOW his fingers weren't anywhere near the scissors but he does indeed have a little nick on his thumb.  I examine it and proclaim, "It's not too bad.  Need a kiss?"  Usually that would be a perfectly acceptable remedy, but today River seems really freaked out.

"No mom!  You cut me!  I need a band aid!"

Still not sure why this particular scratch has him so stressed, I patch him up and we all move on.  Later that night I'm sitting on the couch working on a photo project when River brings me a mushroom slicer from the kitchen.  I have no idea why he's brought it out, but I tell him it's too dangerous to have laying around and he needs to bring it back to the kitchen and put it away.  A few minutes later I hear shrieks of alarm.  Thom gets to him first and then calls for me to help.  I see blood gushing from River's index finger and realize he's cut himself on the slicer.

We get the cut washed off and it's a tiny little thing, but it's a bleeder.  River is screaming and clawing at his dad, and when he says, "Make it stop!  I don't want all my blood to come out and die!" it suddenly hits me.  That little throwaway conversation we had days before was not such a throwaway.  We get the cut cleaned and bandaged and River calms down measurably.

I do my best to explain that he can't bleed to death from little cuts like that, but he's having none of it.   The idea of mortality has hit him hard and reassuring words are not helping.  His fear of blood has gotten so extreme that River made us come home from Trick-or-Treating to get a band aid for the minuscule scrape he got from falling on his hand.  There wasn't even any blood.

I'm not sure what to do about the cloud of doom hanging over my little boy's head.  We started having conversations about death a few months ago, and while it often makes him sad to think of other people dying, this is the first time he's really started understanding his own mortality.  In the last two days I've heard him say, "I'm going to stay downstairs in my room all the time.  There's no sharp things down there," and "I'm not going outside.  I might fall."

If you know what an adventurous, rough-and-tumble boy he is, you understand how out of character these statements are. I know it's important for him to work through these ideas in his own way, but I sure wish I could save him the trauma of it.

This kid's got way too much adventuring to do to live in a plastic bubble.

P.S.  Here are some before and after shots of his hair.


Kerry said...

Wow that's some heavy stuff.

My niece who is almost five recently had a fixation on blood. My mom, her grandma, went to the doctor to get her blood drawn for a routine check up. When Hailey asked where Grandma was instead of just saying she's out, I actually said, "she went to the doctor to get her blood drawn" and that opened a whole can of (bloody) worms. I had to answer a million questions: how does the doctor get the blood out of her? Would the doctor take out ALL her blood? Would it hurt Grandma? Do I have to give my blood to the doctor?

And then some of those questions spawned more questions: is it a big needle? Does the needle go ALL THE WAY in her arm? What if the blood doesn't come out right? What if the doctor spills the blood? Where does the blood go?

And on and on and you get the picture...

She was very concerned all morning until Grandma finally came home and she could see that she was ok.

I hope you're little guy pushes some of this fear out of his mind so he can just be a bouncing, rough and tumble boy again!

Summer Ryan Doyle said...

It's amazing how one question can lean to another, isn't it? Kids are nothing if not an endless source of why? how? what?