Wake-Up Call

Our morning dance begins with my calm, cool attempt to rouse my seemingly comatose teenage son. “It’s time to get up,” I say, tapping him gently on the shoulder. No response. “Get out of bed, please,” I continue, my voice gaining volume and force. I shake his shoulder, not violently, but with intent. No response. My cheerfulness spent, I break out the mom-means-business voice: “We are going to be late. Get. Out. Of. Bed. Now!

We do this wake-up dance every day, my son and I. Yesterday was no different. Once I safely delivered him and his sister to school, I nestled into my home office chair with a second cup of coffee and started sifting through the weekend’s accumulation of email. When the phone rang and I saw the middle school’s number on the caller ID, I sighed with exasperation, wondering which of the kids had forgotten a gym uniform or lunchbox.

But no one had forgotten anything. My son was horsing around with a friend during band practice, the woman from the school office told me. He fell off a countertop and hit his head on the floor. “He seems a little out of it,” she said. “Do you want to pick him up, or should we wait and have the nurse look at him when she gets here?”

How bad could a fall from a countertop be? I thought. I am not a pessimist; I don’t always expect the worst. In fact, I figured my dramatic firstborn child was playing up the injury so he could miss a day of school. “Let’s wait for the nurse,” I said.

The nurse called me 10 minutes later with a laundry list of symptoms: nausea, fatigue, light sensitivity, sluggishness. She suggested a trip to the pediatrician’s office for an examination, so we went. But even after the pediatrician confirmed that my son had a concussion and would need a CT scan to rule out internal bleeding, I assumed she was just being overly cautious.

Thankfully, I was right. He did have a concussion, but the results of the CT scan were clear. The doctor said he could return to school the next day but would have to miss gym class for a week. Considering how much he loathed his gym teacher, I knew the latter part wouldn’t be a problem.

On the drive home from the hospital, he talked about his latest favorite video game, but I only half listened. I kept picturing him on the CT scanner table covered in a royal blue lead blanket, moving slowly into the spinning, humming machine. We had made it through almost 14 years without him breaking a bone or suffering a serious illness. We had always been lucky; I had no reason to expect the worst to happen. But in that moment, watching my suddenly small, fragile child on that table, I knew it could.

Our morning dance began as usual today, with my son feigning sleep, despite my best and continued efforts to wake him. “But, Mom,” he finally whined. “I have a concussion.”

“Yes,” I said. “Now get out of bed.” Even I didn’t buy my mom-means-business voice. We do this wake-up dance every day, my son and I. But this morning it was different.

48 thoughts on “Wake-Up Call

  1. oh yeah, it’s a whole new world after something like that happens. we’ve had a scare like that as well, and you can’t believe how fast your brain goes from light and airy to dark and heavy. when you see life’s fragility on one of your kids, it really is a wake up call. great post.

    • Thanks, mama. When I saw him inside that CT scanner, I thought of all the moms I’ve known who’ve been through that and so much worse. How do they keep it together? How do they get up every day and stay positive? I am in awe of the strength of others much of the time.

  2. Yeek! How scary and eye-opening. I’m sorry this happened, and so relieved he’s okay.

    ps- I love that he’s in band. I bet he is a percussionist. Am I right?

    • Thanks, Peach. He plays alto sax in the band but also piano and guitar. He kills me musically. Everything just comes so naturally to him. Meanwhile, I can’t even sing, let alone play an instrument.

  3. Things like that can change our perspective pretty quickly, hey? I used to dread having to wake my teen daughter every morning – now that she’s moved out, I kind of miss it 🙁

    So glad your son is OK and you both can continue the wake up dance each day 🙂

  4. I’m so glad he’s OK!

    My son is only 7, but he’s broken us in as parents quite nicely — broken arm at 4, broken foot at 6, nasty croup as a toddler, and on and on and on… I’m not sure who was more scared when he broke his arm — me or him.

    • Ugh. Your son sounds like my daughter. We called her “Danger Girl” as a toddler. She was always getting hurt. My son is my cautious, careful kid. I think that’s why I was so rattled; I’m not used to this sort of thing from him.

  5. I am a deeply committed pessimist so much so that I hope my kids make it to 14, and then, I am with Kristin, we are getting ride of countertops. I amglad you are not ruled by fear like I am. Great writing.

    • Thanks, Christie. I would like to be somewhere in the middle. It’s good to be carefree with a little cautiousness thrown in to balance things out, don’t you think?

  6. That must have been terrifying! So glad it wasn’t too serious. How adorable that he used his concussion as an excuse to stay in bed. Worth a try, right? 🙂

    • Thanks, Stacie! We had another scare today and had to head back for a second CT scan. That came out clear too, and he seems to be doing much better after a day of rest. I am so relieved. It has been quite a day!

  7. Thank goodness he was ok! It’s so scary how easily they can get hurt, just being goofy kids. I worry about my son because he is (just like his mother) amazingly klutzy and forever getting hurt.

  8. The hardest part of the teenage years is realizing they are moving out of your sphere of control and that in order for them to continue growing you have to let them.

    Moments like this, when they are vulnerable, are the ones that make wish you didn’t have to.

  9. Sometimes it really does take a wake-up call like this, doesn’t it? And isn’t it funny how we spend so many years hoping and prayer that our kids will sleep later and then when they actually do sleep later, it becomes a battle to get them out of bed. Sweet irony…

  10. That is me, hands-down. I am guilty of accusing my 7YO daughter of over-dramatizing her owies, and the trap is that when they’re really bad, I take a lot of convincing. Oops. I will keep the mental picture of your son on the CT table in mind and try to be a little less businesslike and a little more “let Mommy kiss it.”

    • I hear ya. We know our kids and how to read them, but we’re not always right. My son is more dramatic; my daughter is my tough guy. When she complains, I always believe her. When he does, I tend to be more skeptical. This experience showed me a thing or two about avoiding pigeonholing their behavior.

  11. Glad to hear your son is okay. I began to replay the image of my son having a CT scan 2 years ago when he was hit in the head with a block of ice while at school. My heart literally sunk into my shoes when they called me at home to tell me an ambulance was on its way to school. My son did have a concussion, but has since recovered. I hope to never have to go through that again!

    • Oh, my god, Shelly! An ambulance??? I think I would have crumbled to the floor. That is a phone call you never expect. Glad your son was OK.

  12. Oh that dance! Sometimes I still feel like I’m doing it and my guy is off in college. I’m happy to hear that your son is okay. And, of course, your “mean” mom voice was different. It hurts our hearts when things happen to them. That said, I love how you told the story!

  13. I have to agree with Kristin – countertops are out. I loved learning that you’re not a pessimist. I would have assumed my kid was dying! I’m happy he’s okay – concussions are scary biz. And for the record, I expect my daughters to outgrow their difficulty getting out of bed by their teenage years. Is that wrong?

    • Haha! Well, it depends on the child. My 11-year-old daughter gets up on her own, often before anyone else. She’s a morning person like her mama. My son, like his father, would sleep all day if he could. I would make my husband do the dirty work of getting our son out of bed, but that would mean having to wake him up first. Not worth the pain.

  14. I’m glad he’s okay and it was nothing serious. it’s true, you don’t think anything like that could happen and then something does – you seem them on the table like that and think “how did we get here” because it seems so unfathomable. We feel secure in the mundane day to day and then we’re reminded that life is fragile. Beautiful piece.

    • Thanks, Linda. I know it was just a standard CT scan, but that machine terrified me. The thought of what it could uncover, the future it could reveal — I don’t think I’ve ever been that afraid for one of my kids before. I know we were very lucky.

      On a positive note, I loved reading your post this week. The story telling was magnificent, and the story itself, well, it moved me beyond words. Our boys are the same age. I cannot possibly imagine… Your strength and humor inspire me, Linda. Sending lots of love and positive energy to you and your family.

  15. Scary stuff! These close calls remind us not to take anything for granted. (and your comment regarding removing counter tops, and wrapping kids in bubble wrap…. made me giggle, because I actually wrapped my counter top IN bubble wrap – well the corners anyway – when my just-barely-walking son was nearly tall enough to bang his head on the granite overhang.)

    • OK, now you are sending the giggles my way, Colleen. That is too funny. When we moved into our current house, the stone ledge surrounding the fireplace was padded. My kids were 1 1/2 and 3 at the time. Although it was ugly, I left it there. We became so used to it, that I didn’t even think to remove it till about a year ago. Never hurts to be cautious, right?

    • You are so sweet, Kristen. Thanks for checking in. He’s been resting a lot, and the symptoms have subsided for the most part — although he did have a headache and some nausea last night. I’m sure he will be back at school on Tuesday.

  16. Oh, my. I have a thirteen-year-old who has made it this far into life with no broken bones but is very difficult to wake up in the morning. . .my current method is to start trying about forty-five minutes before I actually need him to be up. Glad your boy’s okay and loved reading this!

Comments are closed.