Elias has been wearing a Band-Aid on his chin for about five days. Give or take. I’ve sort of lost count. He and Brayden have been playing in a ginormous box for about a month and as much as I try, I cannot remember how this box ended up in our house. The Super-Box-Spy-Station is equipped with all sorts of hand drawn gadgets and gizmos and every time I attempt to put it out with the recycling, thinking they’ve forgotten about it, they haul it back inside and spend hours in it. Like all things, this box lends itself to both good times and bad times. The latter being the cause for this perma-fixed brightly-colored Band-Aid plastered to my youngest’s face.
If asked, Elias matter-of-factly tells people that he sliced his chin on a box. He doesn’t go into a lengthy description about the size of the box or that he was wrestling his brother for the prime seat in the box. He gives no details about what unfolded after he cut his chin or how the Band-Aid came to be. Nope. He just says, “I sliced it on a box.” And the left is rest for the inquirer to wonder about. Or not.
When Zoe was two or three years old she spent a good portion of her life decorated in Band-Aids. Random people would come up to her and ask with unmasked concern, “What happened to your face!?” And she’d peep at them with one eye, the other being covered by a Band-Aid, or breathe a nasally response, her nostrils stuck together with an adhesive strip, “Nothing! I just like Band-Aids!” Band-Aids or attention? Maybe both. I’m a sucker for themed Band-Aids — I figure if you have to sport a Band-Aid, it might as well have Kermit or The Avengers on it! So of course there’s that.
Attention may have something to do with Elias’ Band-Aid but I’m not convinced it’s the sole purpose and I know it wasn’t the initial reason he put it on. After he sliced his chin his spirit was wounded. Going from playing a fun game with his brother to arguing with him felt lousy. Having sliced his chin in the process felt worse. He was sad. Brayden was sad. As I watched the two brothers try to work through their emotions — sadness, anger, remorse — they eventually came to me with disproportionate concern. Elias asked, with his brother holding his hand, “Is my face going to scar?!” I was surprised that he cared about getting a scar and while I wondered where this idea came from, I was more annoyed with their fighting and I waved them off absently, “No. No, it won’t scar, Lovie.” Barely looking up from my book.
They both stood there looking at me, waiting for something more, and I sat looking back wondering why they wouldn’t go the heck away. Elias started to cry again and Brayden began asking how I could really know there wouldn’t be a scar. His insistence made me stop and look more closely. “I really don’t think it will scar.” I said again more convincingly –while making eye contact and pausing for emphasis. “I heard you the first time, Mom!” exclaimed my pusher-backer through his brother’s sobs. “But how do you know it won’t scar?” We went back and forth like two fools arguing about where to sit in a box and it was only after the thirteenth time that I finally relented and gave him the answer he was looking for. The truth. “I don’t.” I sighed. “I don’t know that it won’t scar. But I think it won’t.” And that, of course, was the answer that satisfied and quieted them both.
I suspect they’d have finally walked away had I stayed put. Maybe they’d have hopped back into the box. Maybe that was a good enough answer and they’d have been done worrying. If I’m honest, I’d have to admit that I think so. I think they were satisfied. But something in me stirred; dissatisfied with the fact that I couldn’t be certain of anything, I got up from my chair to get a Band-Aid. “This will help. But you need to put bacitracin on and you need to keep it clean.” I spent time talking about scar prevention and wound care and blah, blah, blah … I spent too long talking about the idea of a scar and how to prevent it all the while thinking for sure there was no way in hell Elias would put a Band-Aid on his chin. But he did. And guess what happened? My message, like the Band-Aid, stuck and instead of being comfortable with uncertainty they became fixed on trying to prevent a scar.
Every day Elias takes the Band-Aid off before he swims. After, he comes home and diligently replaces it with a new one. Sometimes Brayden helps. Funny thing about the Band-Aid and the boo boo — the slice on Elias’ chin is healing but all around it, where the Band-Aid adheres, he’s developed a sore, red rash. Last night I had to tell him that he had to let go of the Band-Aid. To say that he was confused about why something that was supposed to be helpful had made things worse is a major understatement.
We talk a lot about being different in our house. Diversity is celebrated and not being concretized in who you are or attached to who you might become is a good, good thing. Both mean you’re curious and evolving. Both mean you’re on a journey that’s unknown. People, thank goodness, are different. Can you imagine how boring life would be if we weren’t? We all have boo boos — some more obvious than others — like the blind athlete with his guide at Ironman Florida, we know what he’s working with. Or at least we get a glimpse of it. But we don’t know the recovered addict, the cancer survivor, the one who is grieving the loss of a loved one — whatever it may be, we don’t know those stories. They aren’t plastered in front of our faces or covered up with a lively Band-Aid. Band-Aid or not, we have to appreciate that we all have boo boos.
Elias wore his Band-Aid — it gave us a visual cue that he was hurting, that he was sad and that he needed some attention — but somehow it became more than that, it became about trying to manage the unmanageable and the unknown. We just can’t do that. It doesn’t work. It leaves us red and raw. Instead, we need to learn to let some things go. Period.
This morning on the way to the bus, Brayden made a comment about the scars on his hands and I had to stop myself from shushing him and shouting, “NO MORE SCAR TALK!” Instead, I took a breath and listened when he said, “I have so many scars! And look, this is a new one!” He went on to describe where each one came from and how much he didn’t like them. “I just don’t want my hands covered in scars!” he said. “Honey,” I replied, “Those aren’t scars yet, they’re boo boos that are still healing. They’re from all of the fun outdoorsy things you did this summer and they’ll fade in time. And if they don’t, well, each one holds a story of where you were, what you were doing and who you were at the time. They’re part of your story. That’s all.”