“I love the feeling of the wind in my hair!”
Madison, my 9 year old yelled as she screamed by on her bike. We were on a camping trip and Madison was riding her bike up and down the path in front of our campsite. First time in months (thanks pandemic).
On her next pass by, this happened:
“A mosquito bit me and I crashed!” She managed through tears and trembling lips.
Torrents of crying, shaking and whimpering. I rushed over to pick her up as my wife and Harper (5 year old) hustled down the road to meet us. As I was running a recent Seed Crystal post title entered my consciousness.
“Well, here is the Disaster part.” I thought as I helped Madison up and over to the Airstream. Hello Disaster, welcome to our Journey. I started working the Next Right Action worksheet in my head.
Pause. Take a few breaths. Encourage Madison to take deep breaths. Wait for my wife to get here. Look around for any other dangers. Think.
Clarity: There are two major categories of problems here. First, the acute injuries, how bad are they, get them addressed. Second, any emotional injuries. Her overall motivation to ride bikes could be injured. Her risk tolerance overall may be injured. Separate these two and take one at a time.
Urgency: The acute injuries are immediate. See if serious enough for medical care. The emotional injuries can be addressed after the physical injuries are assessed.
Agency: Neither the physical nor emotional injuries were in my control. Madison’s body and mind must fix themselves. While I have zero direct agency to solve her problems, this is a perfect situation to apply guidance and wisdom to (hopefully) shorten her path to healing. And to reframe the event as an Adventure instead of a Disaster to be avoided in the future at all costs.
I found the first aid kit in the Airstream. Wet a washcloth. Got out the alcohol wipes. Gave Harper a doll to play with. As Jen worked on Madison, we kept finding more scrapes. Right knee (lots of blood and missing skin), left knee (not as bad), right elbow (bad), left elbow (smaller scrapes), forehead just under where the helmet was (very small, no blood). No broken bones, no mental confusion, no poor vision, no need for medivac helicopter. We concluded this was a clean up and patch job.
It became clear that the clean up would require more than a wash cloth though, so Jen took Madison to the shower. More screaming and crying, but we got her clean. I started some popcorn in the microwave. Harper played with her dolls and kept saying “I feel bad that Madison is hurt.” When Madison came out of the shower, Harper went over to hold her hand. I was awed by the instinctual sense of empathy and comfort Harper displayed. Harper had not seen much disaster in her short life, yet she instinctually knew how to comfort her sister. Thanks evolution!
As Madison started to calm down, Jen applied the ointment and bandages. I handed her a bowl of popcorn and sat down next to her. Time to turn this disaster into an Adventure through wisdom, humor and empathy.
“The scratch on your forehead is not so bad. Good thing you were wearing your helmet! Think how bad it could have been.” +1 for helmets.
“See this scar and big bump on my elbow?” my wife said. “It is from a motorcycle crash where I didn’t clean it well and didn’t tell my parents. The scar is much worse because I didn’t take care of it right when it happened.” +1 for cleaning the wounds immediately.
“I have crashed my bike more times than I can remember.” I say to Madison with my hand on her shoulder. “Want to see something?” I show her a dark spot on my right thigh. “I crashed my bike in Venice. There was sand on the path and when I went to turn, the tires slipped out. It was much deeper than your worse one and took about a month to heal. I was riding my bike the next day and while it looks a little funny it doesn’t hurt at all now.” +1 for you will get through this without permanent physical or emotional damage.
“If you have scars, think about the cool story you will have for your friends.” +1 for humor and assumptive close (imagine you are already over it).
“You are lucky walking will be painful. You can spend all day lying on the couch playing video games!” +1 for humor and gratitude for the disaster. Hello silver lining.
“More popcorn.” Madison asked calmly and with a slight grin. On the mend already.
I am happy to say Madison is healing quickly and back to her spunky, smiling self. She has not gotten on the bike but says she wants to.
Unattended Disaster = Trauma. Disaster reframed into Adventure = growth.
Which would you rather? The choice is yours.