Recently, I found myself in conversation with a coworker about second children. Her sister is deciding whether or not to have a second child, and one of the reasons in favor would be to provide a companion for her oldest. In response, I uttered then a sentence that has been on my mind since.
“I had Maddie so that Riley would have a companion.”
Whoa. It didn’t sound very Mom-PC. Did I really have a child just so that her sister would have someone to play with? In a sense, yes, I suppose I did. Another way to frame it would be that I wanted a family that included sisters who had that very special sister bond.
And that is exactly what I got. Maddie is the best gift I’ve ever given and could ever give Riley. Never had that been clearer to me than this past weekend.
Saturday began just like any other Saturday morning. I was getting ready to drop the girls off with Lesley to attend an appointment. The girls were calmly watching Paw Patrol and avoiding my urgings to put clothes on. That was the scene one minute. The next minute, Riley was on the floor crying and holding her head. Even this was not an unusual scene for a Saturday morning. Riley has a knack for being still one minute and, without any discernible motion, having fallen down the next minute. All of this was the norm until I noticed a spot of blood on her knee, then a stream of blood coming from her head. Then I noticed the inch-long open gash on the back of her head. She had hit the coffee table on the way down.
It was one of those moments that you anticipate as a mom and wonder about how you’ll handle it. Open wounds, being vomited on, and the teenage years rank up there as unpleasant experiences you have no idea what to do with as a parent. Until it happens, that is, because all of those eventually will. I handled it the way I do all my child medical questions. I text my aunt, a pediatrician.
Stitches? I asked. No answer. I consulted another aunt, a nurse, who then consulted her husband, a regular parent. Yes, was the verdict, it would likely need stitches.
By this time, Riley was completely calm and leisurely got herself dressed and ready to go to the doctor’s office. Her main concern was that she wasn’t going to be able to go to Lesley’s house to play. In fact, she was insistent that Lesley was perfectly able to take care of her head wound.
With Riley’s calmness, my mom worry turned to a more typical worry. How was I going to handle two kids, one injured and one a classic two-year-old, at a doctor’s office? I am but one person, after all, and going anywhere with a two-year-old really should require an army of mothers.
I needn’t have worried though. Maddie calmly walked by her sister the whole time. She stayed by her side as we waited in the waiting room and followed her, like two ducks in a row, as we made our way to the room. The doctor assessed the wound and decided that four staples were in order. Riley was brave and lay down on her stomach for the staples without any dramatics, although she was visually nervous. Maddie, without any direction, climbed up on the stairs that were adjacent to the table Riley was lying on, sat down right by Riley’s head, and calmly, encouragingly, watched her. While I held her hand, Riley and Maddie stared at each other with a gaze only sisters have during the whole procedure. I knew then, these two girls have a bond no one else will be able to fully understand or break. Through all of what life throws at them, they will have each other. Always.
Did I have Maddie to be a companion for Riley? Yes, I suppose I did. And I would never take that decision back.