Saturday, August 09, 2008

in praise of band-aids

It’s band-aid season at my house. I find them everywhere. In the washer after the spin cycle. Stuck to the carpet along the edges of my hall. Inside Nora’s socks. In my bed. Clinging for dear life to the drain in the bathtub. Curled up like a baby pigs’ ears on the floor of my van. Nora is obsessed with band-aids, or baa-baas as she calls them. We’ve gone through hundreds of them this summer. I’ve taken to putting the box up on top of the fridge to make it last longer. But then I get it down to take care of a real owie and forget to return it to safety and then I’ll discover an hour later that Nora has used up half the box in a concerted effort to baa-baa every exposed inch of flesh on her body and she has run into enough trouble with unwrapping and unsticking the rest that there are now two intact bandages left in the box, holding onto each other and quivering like the final contestants in a really cruel beauty pageant.

One day, with the band-aids safely out of reach, Nora made do with what she could find. She emerged from the bathroom with a broad grin and a strange shininess to her countenance. She had squozen (it’s a word if I say so!) the entire tube of Neosporin out on her lap and spread it thickly over her arms, legs and feet, like some kind of high-gloss, anti-bacterial spa treatment.

Nora’s just really into the concept of owies lately. When she gets a bona fide injury—and any scrape, mosquito bite, scuff, or broken toenail will do—she isn’t satisfied until the world kicks itself up to DEFCON 5 and slathers her with the urgent attention and ointment and flexible fabric bandages she so desperately requires. What amuses me the most is that when I plunk her next to the bathroom sink to attend to her wounds, she turns herself towards the mirror so she can watch herself cry. She’s tragically beautiful when she cries. There’s something about having your pain and suffering reflected back at you that doubles the call for self-pity. Oh the injustice of it all! She’s thinking. I never did anything to the sidewalk. Why has it bitten me? I am an adorable creature. Everyone tells me I’m the cutest thing ever to grace the planet. There’s just no call for that kind of vindictiveness. Then she tells me she needs “two baa-baas....and more” because there’s clearly blood involved this time and big-toe wounds are notoriously prone to gangrene.

Maybe this obsession is a sign that my daughter will someday find herself in a medical profession, like her brother Gabie. Or maybe she’ll just be a professional hypochondriac. I’m just hopeful that when summer ends, we’ll see a decrease in the band-aid consumption. This is the season that has introduced Nora to the thrill of the great outdoors. She loves to ride her little bike and run around wild and free with the big boys. The world is her oyster. Or maybe it’s her spiny sea urchin, judging by the injury rate.

One of the great masterpieces to survive from the Hellenistic period of sculpture is an image of a boy with a thorn in his foot. He sits on a pile of rocks with one leg crossed over the other knee, studying the bottom of his foot and tweezing out the thorn. It’s rare in Greek art to see children depicted in sculpture. Greeks were more interested in the ideal: the perfect athlete, the goddess of beauty, grown men with washboard abs and chiseled confidence. But here’s a child with a problem. He’s oblivious to all else but this thorn in his foot. The lines of the sculpture—his shins, arms, even the angle of his nose—all point us to the center of his space and the center of his attention. There’s this crucial, all-important thing he has to take care of before he can go anywhere. Once you have a thorn in your heel, it’s going to drive you crazy until you get it out, simple as that. Kids are simply more honest about the process of pain and pain relief. Why suffer in silence when the natural thing is to get help or at least help yourself? Adults should be so smart. If band-aids make my daughter feel better, she should have them, lots of them, boxes and boxes of them as long as they continue to work their magic, as long as her wounds are this easy to heal.


Annette Lyon said...

We're in that stage with my youngest. Every tiny thing needs a band-aid. The bathroom is constantly littered with wrappers!

I love that statue; I've never seen it before.

jennie w. said...

I've never understood why they make band-aids with cartoon characters. Have you ever met a child who doesn't already want a band-aid, plain or otherwise? That's like making candy with cartoon characters. They'll eat it no matter what. It's like gilding the lily.

happy mommy said...

Oh, my. If your Nora and my Marin were ever to be in the same room, it would simply implode from the preciousness.

I buy generic bandaids in bulk.

Kimberly said...

I love this perspective, though it has me blushing. I'm a mean mommy and don't let my girls play with the bandaids.

Maybe I should be glad they're owies are so easily fixed, for now?

tjhirst said...

My son just informed me that there is only one band-aid left in the box. He was the boy in the statue with an inured foot last week and regular band-aid changes. When I took the stitches out this weekend I saw how quickly it healed and wonder now where is that adult box of band-aids I am looking for?

Deb said...

You are brilliant as always! I love this stage when all can be healed with a band-aid or a kiss. When does life change - my teenager is fairly certain that NOTHING will fix the earth shattering problems he has to deal with, such as parents that don't realize the importance of staying out until 1 am to "hang out" with friends, or the trauma of being forced to get a hair cut, because his parents are completely out of touch. Would I trade the scraped knee for the almost man he has become? Never! But it was only yesterday that a simple band-aid and kiss was all that was needed!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

In a house of three boys, we go through a lot of bandaids and most often it is for the invisible boo boos that I can't see, but they can certainly feel.

Thank you for this post- beautiful!


MoziEsmé said...

That sculpture is so descriptive! And Nora sounds so sweet, especially the mirror part!

Fortunately my baby isn't into bandaids much - I've put only one on her and never found it again; still wondering if she ate it. Me, on the other hand . . . I love the bright fun ones!

Annette Lyon said...

Random and irrelevant comment--but the other night, I had a dream about the Spiral Jetty. As I've never BEEN there, it had to be because of your post on it!

Nan said...

I have a series of photographs of my eldest son having a thorn taken out of his foot. It is hysterically funny, and even he had to admit, when he saw his own facial expressions in the pictures, that he is a DIVA. My other two boys can keep still while they are stitched up without anaesthetic. But Chas? Must have got all of the pain receptors I had to give. And all of the drama genes.