The email from my friend Margot* said, “Bad day.” After I read it, I agreed. I’m sharing it with you, readers, because what happened to Margot and her son, Luke, could happen to any parent and child. You might read Margot’s story here and say, “I would never do that,” and maybe you wouldn’t. But have you never slipped up, ever? I have–in ways that have made me think for days, “Wow, close call.” Margot’s story hit home for me not just because she’s my friend, but also because there’s something we can all learn here about our kids who are still children, even when they start to look like they’re not.
How many horrible stories have begun with the opening “It was a beautiful day…?” But it was a beautiful day, one of those perfect, long summer Saturdays where everything is sun-kissed and it feels like the afternoon will never end. My ten-year-old, nearly five-foot-tall son, Luke,* and I had just finished shopping for his back-to-school clothes, an essential task as he seemed to have outgrown nearly everything he owned overnight.
We stopped at my favorite gardening store on the way home to buy end-of-summer flowers to plant later that afternoon. While paying, I asked the lady at the checkout counter what to do about the huge decorative grasses dominating my garden. She told me how she and her boyfriend had pruned theirs back by gathering the blades in bunches and cutting off several tufts at a time.
At home, Luke headed inside for the couch and I worked on various flowers in the garden, dead-heading them before attacking the tallest decorative grass with my large garden cutters. As I snipped each blade back, it occurred to me that this method would take forever. Recalling the lady’s advice about bunching and cutting, I sought Luke’s help.
“Luke!” I called several times. Getting no response, I took a more direct approach. “Can you please get off the couch and come out here and help me in the garden? Stop lying around. It’s a gorgeous summer day outside.”
Luke came outside and held bunches of the grass, offering advice while I trimmed. “Mom,” he said as I clipped, “you need to get that piece right–,” and he let go of the tuft he was holding and stretched out his right hand, pointing his index finger exactly where and when I was cutting…as I snipped off the tip of his finger.
“Emergency room, now!”