Three weeks ago, I got a concussion after losing my footing at the ice rink and falling on my head.
I know. Highly cautious middle-aged mothers are not the typical profile for concussions. I’m still a little baffled, but there’s a small slice of time that has been blotted from my memory files.
The EMT who rode with me in the ambulance reported: “That young girl – was that your daughter? – gave us a very detailed account of what happened.” I can already see that because Dan’s memory is skewed toward events like “five elk seen at Columbine wallow in 2009” and Col’s toward “WWII airplane design,” Rose, who actually notices the circumstances surrounding people, may turn out to be the family historian.
The healing has been slow, steady and completely nonlinear. The hardest part has been when the kids both need something different but simultaneously, and it requires all my mental skills to chip away at the avalanche of words and emotions to get to the heart of their requests. “OK, so you’re offended, Col, because Rose has been blowing her nose in the top bunk?” “And Rose, you love pears, but Daddy ruined the oatmeal by adding pear sauce?”
I mean, it’s mind-bending enough without a bruised brain. Sometimes, I walk into the already-brewing chaos and ask, “How can I help?” and Dan says, “Go hide in our room.”
On a challenging day, when I felt nauseated, dizzy and weak, Dan called the emergency room nurse who asked if I had been playing any contact sports. “Just parenting,” he answered. And truly, under the influence of children, the brain must light up like Las Vegas at night. Fear, love, joy and aggravation ping simultaneously from the amygdala while the prefrontal cortex is simply trying to figure out what’s for dinner.
Of course, the kids have also been my greatest medicine. Our friends have generously stepped in to invite them on playdates, and having just one kid at home is like having Mother Theresa come by with art supplies and hugs. Because I haven’t been able to home-school, nag, worry, evaluate or do any of my usual parenting activities, I’m kind of like a friendly, slightly confused, noise-sensitive auntie who’s moved in. I join the family for meals, smiling at the children, even if I’m sometimes sitting at the table with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears.
Last night, on my mom’s recommendation, we put on Mozart for its brain-organizing benefits, while playing Ticket to Ride (our current favorite board game). Between my turns, I tended dinner; Col whistled and tapped the table; Rose smuggled her pet rat to the table via her hair and then shrieked when the rat scratched her neck. Which is to say, it was ordinary family life, requiring the highest brain function and tolerance. The fact that it all felt reassuringly normal seemed like the best clinical sign that my brain was healing.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog, “6512 and growing,” on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.