He was invited into the pain when his older brother came up with the idea.
I was invited into the pain when I heard his scream.
We were at church and had just spent the last 10 days out of town with a mixture of Spring Break, a 12-year anniversary escape to San José del Cabo, Mexico, and a speaking engagement at a women’s conference in Des Moines, Iowa.
It was a whirlwind of more than 10 packed bags, three different hotel beds, one all-inclusive resort, four airports, and one happily reunited family.
My alarm had gone off at 6 a.m. that Saturday morning. I brewed myself a cup of coffee, grabbed my computer and snuck out of our hotel room to find an empty couch so I could go over my notes one more time. When I returned to the room, my entire family was still sleeping soundly. I wasn’t about to wake them so I got ready by the light of the cracked bathroom door.
I went by myself down to breakfast and later returned to the room to kiss my sleepy husband and children goodbye.
While I was at the conference, my husband spent the morning with the children in the pool before packing everything up.
The morning was memorable as I had the opportunity to minister to women all across the state of Iowa. After speaking, I was able to listen to the second session before needing to head back to the hotel.
I had preached that morning, and my husband was to preach that night!
I drove to the hotel, parked, and strapped the car seats back in the van. I then returned to the room with a dolly in tow. We filled it with luggage and children and then stuffed everyone and everything into the van.
We swung through Culver’s drive-thru for some chicken and custard, and then drove the three hours home.
We made it back to town in just enough time to bring all the bags in from the van, change our clothes, and get to church for the 4:15 p.m. service. Whew!
As we had been traveling all afternoon and had missed an entire weekend of buddies and church family the week before, my older boys were a little more “squirrelly” than normal.
We were lingering (as we always do) after the 6 p.m. service and my “Round the Troops” alarm on my phone hadn’t gone off yet. I was in conversation with a woman when I heard the scream…
I believe that every mother’s superpower is not only being able to hear - but differentiate - her child’s cry.
I stopped talking mid-sentence and said, “Excuse me, that’s mine!” and took off running.
I found him in the hallway - right inside one of the five exit doors. My oldest, Nathan, was standing next to his younger brother with big, frightened eyes. Josiah, our second, was on the floor screaming in pain and frantically grabbing at his leg.
I instantly knew something was wrong.
There was an older gentlemen and a young mom standing next to the scene and I desperately asked, “What happened?”
No one was saying anything so I turned to Nathan and firmly said, “Start talking!”
I didn’t catch much of his explanation over Josiah’s screams other than the words climb and fall.
The older gentleman standing next to me said he heard a Crack! And the young mom standing next to Josiah was simply frozen in bewilderment.
I looked at the her in the eyes and urgently said, “I need Jeremiah. Go get him!”
She took off running! As did Nathan (come to find out later).
Without wanting to make any more of a scene, I quickly scooped my 42-pound six-and-a-half-year-old son up into my arms and carried him back to the offices where I could assess the damage a little further.
My husband appeared - along with our friend Peg who he had been talking to. She quickly made a disclaimer that she wasn’t a bone doctor (urology being her speciality) but was happy to take a look at his leg.
We pulled up his jeans and found immediate bruising, but thankfully nothing protruding and no blood. He was able to wiggle his toes but screamed when I later tried to have him stand.
Another friend came back with two ice packs and I applied one to his leg.
By this point, his pain had intensified and his whole body seemed to be in complete shock. He was crying uncontrollably and his teeth were chattering.
I remembered doing the same thing when I broke my arm as a little girl.
With the pain being dismissed as a bad bruise, I couldn’t help but push back a little - I just knew in my heart that something was wrong. I decided that an ER trip was not only wise, but necessary. Call it due diligence or a Mother’s Intuition, but looking back, I’m so thankful that I heeded.
So, in a rush to leave, I had my oldest help me get the younger two into the van. I found my husband to inform him that I needed him - or someone - to stay at the house with the other children while I took Josiah to the ER.
He saw my distress and knew I wasn’t buying the sometimes typical Dad response of “He’ll be fine.” He grabbed his stuff, locked his office, and was out the door before I was.
On the way home to drop off the others, I had Josiah bawling in the front seat - in physical pain, and Nathan bawling in the backseat - in emotional pain.
Between screams, Josiah angrily said, “Nathan told me, “Josiah, let’s do some dumb stuff.””
And then I slowly began to understand the details of what happened…
Nathan had told Josiah to climb onto his back in the hallway and then stand on the handrail near the exit door. And it would have been a pretty cool trick if one could stand on a wall!
Instead, Josiah slipped and his foot caught and wedged his leg in between the wall and the handrail as his entire body fell away from the wall.
By the grace of God, there was a young mom leaving at the exact moment Josiah fell. Instead of bashing his head onto the cement floor, he fell into her. And that was who untangled him from the handrail before I came running towards his scream.
Once home, I brought the younger two inside. Nathan stayed in the van as he wanted to go with Josiah and I to the ER.
I told him that I would ask his Dad.
I frantically dug through the bag that had been carried in hours before - searching for Josiah’s Insurance card. Jeremiah said that Nathan could go and I located the card at the bottom of the diaper bag.
I drove my older boys the short distance to the hospital and parked. Once again, I scooped Josiah into my arms and quickly carried him across the dark parking lot into the ER.
I knew the one working Registration and could have cried when I recognized the nurse that came out to get us - not even two minutes of sitting in the waiting room.
The night was a bit of a blur but where I want to push the pause button was in the hallway outside of X-ray…
Josiah was behaving bravely and cooperating well - amidst his intense pain. And as a result, the X-ray technicians asked for Nathan and I to wait outside in the hallway.
It gave me the opportunity to access Nathan’s pain. And what I saw reminded me that emotional pain can be just as brutal as physical pain. I had never seen him so distraught! His face was a splotchy-red color and his eyes were puffy and swollen.
I could have responded with a “What were you thinking??” or a “How could you…??” but I decided to offer him the same thing I would want offered to me in a similar situation: Grace.
I pulled him in close and just wrapped my arms around him. He buried his head into my stomach and bawled. I lowered my face next to his and told him that we were going to get through it.
When I heard Josiah scream (again) on the other side of that thick, extra-wide hospital door, I said without hesitating, “It’s broken.”
Hearing that immediately brought Nathan to tears again. I realized that there was no need for punishment as his heartache was punishment enough.
I pulled him in close again and assured him that accidents happen. And while his arms were wrapped around my waist and his face smothered into my pink blouse, we had (what I like to call) a “teaching moment.”
I told him that his idea was, in fact, “dumb stuff.” My (normally) very logical and intelligent boy had simply made a bad choice and a poor decision.
He hadn’t thought through their trick and instead of us all being at home - sitting and eating our normal Saturday night Bedtime Snack of milk and Raisin Cinnamon toast - we were standing in the hallways of the ER.
I told him that they were to never do that again.
And I told him that Josiah would forgive him.
And I told him that I forgave him.
And then I told him something that I hope he remembers: I told him that he needed to forgive himself.
I explained that the terrible feelings he was feeling were called Guilt, Shame, and Regret. (And I didn’t tell him this, but I was glad he was feeling those emotions as it implied he was truly sorry.)
He hadn’t made a vindictive or malicious choice. He had just made a “dumb stuff” choice. And it might have cost the intactness of his brother’s leg.
And he needed to forgive himself for the part that he had played.
I went on to explain that since it was his idea that landed his younger brother in the ER that night (with a potentially broken leg), he was partially at fault. And I told him that if there was going to be a cast - and as long as there was one - he was going to be Josiah’s personal slave.
Hearing that, he pulled away from me and laughed.
I laughed too - and then assured him that I wasn’t joking.
Nathan had just been nominated Josiah’s Butler.
Josiah made it back to the room where we found out it was - in fact - broken. Quite badly, as the word “complicated” was used.
It couldn’t be set that night so they were going to splint it for safe-keeping until Monday morning where we could be seen for a consultation. (On a side note, if you’re going to break a bone in a small city, don’t do it on a Saturday night when all the clinics are closed for the weekend!)
It was going to be a little while - waiting on a splint and a script - so I called my husband to come and retrieve Nathan so he could at least get some supper and some sleep.
Before Jeremiah came to pick him up, I informed Josiah of the Butler Plan and he smiled for the first time that traumatic night. His brother’s “dumb stuff” idea had landed him in an ER room with a “minimally displaced segmented fracture to his mid to distal tibia.” But somehow, the thought of Nathan wearing a bow tie and waiting on him as he rang a bell seemed to soften the blow a little.
Just a little.
Three-and-a-half hours later, we finally made it home and settled in at midnight - 18 hours after my alarm had woken me up for the day. I fell into my bed - with my broken boy sleeping next to me - in an exhausted heap.
In the morning, I learned that while we were still at the ER my oldest had cried himself to sleep. And if I could have been in two places at once, I surely would have.
Both of my boys had something broken that night - one a bone and the other a heart.
And I’m undecided as to which one hurts more.
Colossians 3:13 says,
“Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (NLT)
As mothers, making “allowance for each others faults” with our children shouldn’t exclude the “dumb stuff.” And the “dumb stuff” shouldn’t be immune to our forgiveness either. If anything, it should be escorted to the front of the line! Modeling forgiveness and responding with patience and grace will have long-lasting effect on our children’s future choices and decisions.
So don’t stop hearing the screams and running towards the pain. Your children need you - whether they are 6 or 56! And if there is a consequence to bear, make it somewhat enjoyable by finding a bow tie and ordering a bell.