Glow Stick Kids

My biggest fear as a new parent was breaking my child. Here was this little lumpy thing that I felt should be carried only if necessary. Most of the time I preferred her to be low to the ground or secure in something with straps. No fast movements, warm liquids, sharp objects, or itchy materials around the baby. Don’t break the baby.

I’m in no way advocating breaking your children but some things are made to be broken. It is a fact I have had to accept. Egg shells are designed to break from the inside out. If they never cracked baby birds would never escape. Wildflower seeds sometimes need fire to complete the journey to a flower. Glow sticks are unimpressive until they are cracked and shaken, then they give off beautiful colored light. It must be the same with kids and bumps to the head.

Our youngest child completed this milestone recently and I realized that each of them has at least one significant concussion-level head smack. If you or I were to do these same things the result would be death, coma, or years of speech therapy. I lose a few years of my life each time on falls and I never get used to it.

The first incident, and so far the scariest, was the first child Calamity Jane. She loves horses, stories and is a walking accident. Even when she concentrates on not doing a very specific thing, like spilling a juice cup, she somehow still does. One day, toddler Jane was practicing running from the kitchen to the hallway and back again. The last lap she decided to venture off the carpet and into the actual kitchen which requires a hard right turn on smooth tile. She was barefoot and there was something wet on the kitchen floor.

I could claim that we had just mopped but that is highly unlikely. Maybe it was spilled juice, water from Dog’s face (our Boxer drips randomly), or condensation from a poorly insulated house. No one is pointing fingers but whatever it was, she slipped sideways in a full run and bounced her head on the tile. The sound was a sickening hollow bowling-ball thump and she was slow to get up. There was crying and panic from Mommy which made the injury crying worse.

I am at work and get the call to rush home. We try to evaluate. We text our extremely patient family doctor. I am sorry to say that we even checked WebMD. WebMD suggested she had a rare disorder that attracted her head to tile floors. Alas, there is no cure for tilefaceidis.

Our doctor promptly called and asked a few questions:

DR: “Was she unconscious at any point?”
ME: “I’m not sure.”
DR: “Okay. Is she lethargic?”
ME: “Yes” (It was nap time, she had been crying, and two panicked parents were probing her head and eyes. Of course she was tired.)
DR: “Has she thrown up?”
ME: “No.”
DR: “Alright, bring her in and I’ll evaluate. Try to keep her awake and if anything changes go to the ER.”
ME: “See you in a minute.”

I strap Jane into her car seat and adjust the rearview mirror to stare at her. Supermom is standing at the door with tears in her eyes as we pull away. She has to stay with the new baby and wait for whatever horrible news the doctor may have. That has to be one of the worst feelings a parent can have is the dread of the unknown. Somehow I drive without looking forward as I try to tell funny stories and keep Sleepy Jane engaged in conversation. Her eyelids are sinking and the eyes are rolling around at the edge of sleep. I sing Hannah Montana, this is getting desperate. Not even jokes about cat poop keep her awake! We are about a mile from the doctor’s office and stopped at a traffic light when her eyes open wide and she immediately vomits into the floor. Super.

I run the red light like a fugitive and swing the car around towards the nearest emergency room. I park on the sidewalk at the drop off area and run inside with fragile Jane. The receptionist seems nice but way too calm. I am holding a vomit covered sleepy child! Action! People! Action!

I explain the critical details, “She hit her head and now she is sleepy and puking and I sang Hannah Montana and not even cat poop works.” Maybe I was blubbering a little. Things picked up. Nothing makes people uncomfortable like a grown man crying. A consultation showed good response and awareness, her CAT scan showed nothing out of the ordinary. By the time we were getting ready to leave Jane was dancing around and talking about her horses and drawing pretty pictures. I leave the hospital with a vomit shirt, puffy eyes, more grey hair, and possibly a parking ticket while she skips along like nothing happened. Not that I would want anything different but still…

Maybe that wont happen again….

Prima the Ballerina, our second, had her emergency room visit when she was around three years old. We were working on sleeping in a big-girl bed and she didn’t like staying in bed. She would sneak to the door and peak out into the hallway until I would check on her and she would then race back to bed. Fun game. This night she was enjoying the adrenaline of getting in trouble and would wait until I was close to the bedroom before running back to bed. I could hear what she was doing and it was driving me crazy. I put her to bed and before I even made it to the kitchen I hear her bedroom door creak open. I rush back to the room and hear her giggle. There was a sound of little feet rushing across the room, a grunt, a loud bang, and split second silence followed by screaming. I rush in and scooped her up and there was already an inch-tall purple bump above her right eye. She had tripped while running and flown headlong into the bedpost.

The panic is always the same.

Text picture to doctor. At 10:30 at night.

Follow up phone call from doctor at 10:31. High five to responsive doctor.

We weren’t sure if twinkle toes had gone unconscious or not so back to the Emergency Room. This time Mommy went while I stayed home and thought of the worst things that could happen. This visit produced the same good result but the ER doctor on-call gave particularly crappy advice. We paid $300 for Ibuprofen and were told to check on her in the middle of the night to “make sure she’s not in a coma or anything”. Who tells parents crap like that? That is kind of what this visit was about, preventing a coma. Unbelievable. With no CAT scan or anything to settle our minds we spent the next 24 hours poking her while she slept as a ‘Coma Check’ routine.

Surely they won’t all do this…..

Don Threeto had her head incident at a vacation cabin. We had just gotten settled and were showing the kids the room they would be sleeping in. The cabin was a rustic theme with hand hewn wooden post beds. There was a large stack of pillows at the head of the bed and before I could utter a word, the Don was in a full swan dive at the pillows. The top pillows were hiding a solid wood pole that was part of the headboard.

Thump. Purple bump. Crying. Panic.

Luckily our physician was nearby and a flashlight pupil check with some generic Ibuprofen was our fix. The one positive thing out of the incident was verifying to our doctor that our kids have a tendency towards head injury and we weren’t punching them or anything.

More recently child number four, Lady Bug, fell out of a small kiddie camping chair and spiked her forehead into the hardwood floor. I know, I know. Killer parenting skills at work here but I can’t be everywhere all the time. Things happen. The offending chair has been eliminated.

Same instant purple bump. Same crying. Same parental panic.

Well almost the same. I checked pupils with a flashlight and tried to gauge her condition. We have plenty of children’s pain relief at this point and we administered the proper dose. I will still worry obsessively for the next few days. Lady Bug will probably not remember anything about it.

This childhood pattern can only have two explanations; A) All kids are made to fall and bump. It is a part of growing up. Or B) I have failed to teach some essential physics like gravity and momentum at the appropriate age. I think (A) is the correct answer but I have ordered “Your Baby Can Understand Physics” just in case.

So if you didn’t teach your kid about gravity and have more than one trip to the ER because of it, this story is for you. Don’t worry about it, kids are like glow sticks. You’re welcome.

Underdaddy to the rescue.


  1. Here is a trick you can do next time you go camping. After you break the glow stick, cut it open and run the liquid through a fine strainer to filter out the glass vial that held the reactant. Then you can paint, or fling around with the glowy liquid to create a woodsy fairy land. It’s non-toxic, but I wouldn’t drink it.


    1. I assume you’re talking about actual glow sticks and not Glow Stick Kids, right? Cause that would be rather macabre, not to mention criminal. Hmmm. Is *that* why Underdaddy asked the stain question?


  2. I’d say what you’ve described is one of the important Parenting Rites of Passage. Times four. It never get less frighteneing, no matter how many times you go through it. You’ve inspired me to share our late-night ER experience with Pebbles. Coming soon. As soon as I find the time, that is.


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