I have two sons who have been locked in the house with each other for an entire year. They haven’t seen their friends, been to Kung Fu class, been in school, or to a public playground since the world fell apart. Things are getting wild over here. The boys’ arguments are starting to get more physical, and while I am usually in favor of jungle justice — work it out yourselves and I won’t interfere until there’s blood — I can’t stand the aggressive violence that has been creeping in to their territorial disputes.
Imagine my surprise, when the first child in our household to require stitches was my three year old daughter. Sure, we’ve had ER trips with the boys to check for concussions and deal with out of control asthma, but of all the many cuts and scrapes, neither has ever required stitching up. There’s still time. Some days it seems like serious injury is the goal, rather than an accident. But yesterday, it was Mary who needed a trip to the hospital.
While we made an effort not to push stereotypical toys on any of our kids, they ended up gravitating toward gender-specific items on their own. Mary is more of a girl than I have ever been in my life. She carries a purse, has opinions about her hair, chooses her own clothes every day that are exclusively pink, and tends to her dolls with motherly affection. Yesterday’s incident was not the result of a violent dispute. She saw her stuffed llama, given to her by her beloved aunt, and dove for it. She overshot and smashed her face on a sharp edge, squirting blood everywhere and alarming the entire family.
She cried of course, but when she saw how concerned Mom and Dad were, she tried to calm herself and reassure us it wasn’t so scary. Then her tongue found the hole in her lower lip that went through to the outside, and cried all over again. They say head wounds always bleed a lot, and though this wound is on her head I’m not sure a face would qualifies as a head would. At any rate, there was a lot of blood, and certainly the most that has been spilled in our home.
We determined pretty quickly that she would need stitches, and since my husband had gotten vaccinated through work, he had to take her. I hate not being the ER parent. I don’t feel useful every day, but I feel I am the most use during an emergency, and I usually do the doctor visits and urgent care crises myself. I need to hold my kid and talk to the doctor and use all my mental energy to figure out how to heal her. Because of COVID, I couldn’t do that, so my husband had to watch his precious girl’s face get sewn back together. It was bad all around.
I couldn’t sit down knowing the pain and fear my daughter was going through a few miles away, so I cooked. I had a fairly big Sunday meal planned and at first I decided to just skip it. We had no idea when my daughter would be released from the hospital or whether or not she would be able to eat, so it seemed ridiculous to bother with dinner. But after I’d remade all the beds and folded the towels, I started to cook.
When I don’t know how to comfort people, I feed them. So I made Molly Yeh’s version of Swedish mazariner, which is a rich almond tart. These are so good you’ll want to cancel your birthday cake and make the tarts instead. I happened to have all the ingredients and the glaze is pink from raspberry juice, so I made sure to make those first so my little girl who loves pink could see them when she got home. I thought about just stopping there, but I had already brined the chicken for Thomas Keller’s fried chicken recipe, so I kept cooking. The chicken takes forever because of the brining and drying processes, but it’s crispy and beautiful with lots of flavor. I always find brined meat too salty even though I like my food on the salty side, and this was no exception. However, I could actually taste the other components of the brine in the meat all the way to the bone, so that was pretty amazing. I got the recipe from his MasterClass, but there are copycat recipes online. Maybe hold back on the salt in the brine or brine for less time if you try this one out. I also made his traditional mashed potatoes (not the French ones) and some green beans.
The boys made Mary some art and get well cards, and we set the table with pink and purple napkins. By the time she and my husband returned home, it was two hours after our regular dinner time. She ate the pink top off an almond tart and asked for a bubble bath, so I took her upstairs while the boys finished dinner. She was still numb from lidocaine and didn’t seem to be in too much pain, but she was exhausted and emotional like you’d expect a toddler up two hours past bedtime who’d just had her face sewn together to be. Mary is a tough kid. She cries the least when we get our flu shots, and doesn’t panic when water gets in her eyes in the bath. She has a lot of feelings, but most are not pain-related. There’s something about seeing your little girl hurt, though. TV shows, movies, and anecdotes from friends prepare you for rough boys who are always injuring themselves trying new stunts. A girl, who is delicate and dressed in pink but also sewn up with blue thread, is really unsettling.
I know she’s strong, but I never want her to have to prove it.