I know I should be ashamed to admit it, but one of the most pleasant mom afternoons I’ve had recently happened because my son was in pain, after a classmate’s hammer accidentally connected with his pinkie in shop class. Sounds a little sick, I suppose, but I’ll admit it. Noah had just spent three fabulous days in Michigan with his buddy’s family, so it was nice to spend time with him, even though we spent it cooped-up at an urgent care clinic. And I’ll be honest – it felt good to be needed. Like most 13-year-olds yearning for freedom, Noah has little use for me beyond where I can drive him and how much pocket money he wants once he gets there (so not true, but you get my drift), so when I get a chance to mother him I kind of relish it.
It started when I picked him up early from school Wednesday afternoon. He was miserable. The pain was really getting to him. But on our way to the urgent care clinic we discovered that it really is possible to shift gears in a manual automobile with your left hand, if your right is otherwise occupied – you know, comforting your kid.
“Is this legal, Mom?”
“I don’t know, but how cool is this?” I asked, as I depressed the clutch with my left foot and shifted the car into third gear with my left hand. He smiled, an encouraging sign. You know how when your kids are in pain you’ll do anything to distract them, even stand on your head and sing silly songs if you think it will help? It really does. Laughing in the face of pain with someone is good medicine, and not just because of the healing endorphins laughter generates.
Noah wore out a few ice packs as we waited to get an x-ray and see a doctor, but we amused ourselves again, this time with the scale in the triage room. When it was my turn to stand on the scale and the digital screen said “STEP OFF” before indicating my weight, Noah laughed so hard that the tears streamed down his face. I have a hunch this will be his new favorite snarky comeback.
As it turns out, he’s got a small hairline fracture. He has to wear a splint on his pinkie for a while, but somehow he’s still able to text. And, apparently, play video games on his Xbox. You know, the important stuff.
“Mom, I can still hold my controller!” he shouted from the other room a few minutes after we got home from the clinic. I could hear the smile in his voice. All’s well that ends well.
Or is it?
That night I had a dream that Noah was in the driver’s seat of my car, driving, and I was in the passenger seat. We hadn’t yet left the lot where we’d been parked, but he’d already started the car, put it in reverse and backed out of our spot, all before I realized that it was him behind the wheel. Then he shifted gears and put the car into drive, his foot poised over the gas pedal.
“Wait!” I shouted, suddenly realizing that I hadn’t yet taught him everything he needed to know (besides, there’s the not irrelevant fact that he’s only 13 and hasn’t even taken driver’s ed yet, but I digress). I told him to stop the car, but he didn’t. Instead, he slowly depressed the gas pedal and inched the car forward. I wasn’t ready for him to drive, yet, but ah, there’s the rub.
God forbid I ever catch him shifting with the wrong hand.
• Jennifer DuBose is a contributor for the Kane County Chronicle. She lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.