My little boy, 6, plays hard. He runs and jumps and tackles and…invariably…falls. Cuts and scrapes and bruises are a way of life around here. He’ll come running to find me, all alarmed and agitated. “Mommy? Mommy! I’m BLEEDING!!!”
The drill is always the same. Wash the wound, apply some antibiotic cream, followed by a bandage. Within minutes, the crisis has passed and he’s back outside, running and jumping and doing all those things little kids do. Sometimes he even comes running for ointment and a bandage for a bruise or a growing pain…and the second all is applied, he’s back to his normal happy self.
My daughter is another story. She’s eleven. Her scrapes and bruises are no longer of the flesh. Her aches and pains dwell beneath the surface, and they run far deeper. She’s dealing with hot-and-cold friendships and peer pressure, with cool kids and mean girls, hushed whispers and turned backs, fifth grade math and standardized tests, the looming end of (the much loved days of) elementary school and the exciting yet terrifying beginning of middle school. She’s no longer a little girl but she’s not yet a big girl. She doesn’t understand why friends she’s known and played with for years and years suddenly don’t call or include her anymore. She gets hurt when there’s no seat saved for her at the lunch table. Her heart breaks when she finds out about a party everyone was invited to, except her.
And I just feel so helpless. Sometimes she’ll come to me; other times I have to figure it out on my own. Sometimes I’ll see a post on Instagram and realize what has happened, hear something from another mom, or simply see the hurt or confusion in her eyes. And the mom in me, the mom who once cleaned and bandages her skinned knees, wants to clean and bandage those wounds, too. But it’s not that simple anymore. Because these wounds are life wounds. I can wipe away her tears and hold her close, stroke her hair. I can give her words of wisdom and tell her about similar situations I ran into when I was a kid, about friendships that went awry and how sometimes people simply grow apart. I can promise her that everything will be okay, that she and her friends will either find their way back to each other or she’ll make knew friends, better friends (which we, as adults, know is true.) But none of that takes away the sting or the devastation of the moment. None of that puts the smile back onto her face. None of that sends her bounding back out to play, like her brother with his ultra-cool Star Wars bandage on his shin.
It’s all part of growing up, I know. Perfectly natural. And being there for her, loving her, supporting her, is as important as any ointment or bandage. (It IS the ointment and the bandage.) But as I hold her close and try to absorb as much of her pain as I can, I can’t help but think…skinned knees are a whole lot easier than skinned hearts.