Last night was the first time a child in my sister’s and my care got hurt and had to leave for the hospital. Little Cash was darting around the room, our happy-go-lucky boy whose energy makes up for other five kids who aren’t nearly as lively. We had no way of knowing that his tiny foot would get caught and twisted up in a wooden chair and send him sprawling head-long into one of those long wooden stoves all nurseries had back in the day.
“Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed. Out of habit, I clapped a hand over my mouth. “Abbie, ask him if he’s ok,” I said, because she was situated closer to him than was I. She did, and his reaction was the saddest, most adorable thing from a two- or three-year-old.
Brown eyes wide, his hand clutching his forehead where a cut swelled, he nodded, first slowly then vigorously. “Yes. Yes. Yes.” His voice died down to a whisper by the third “yes,” and then sobs racked his small body. We paged the parent who was always ready in case something happened in the nursery, and the usher brought Cash’s parents. They tried cleaning the cut, but the little boy screamed every time they got the wet paper towel anywhere near. They finally calmed him down after explaining they needed to go to the hospital so a doctor could fix him up, and that they would get him a yummy milkshake afterwards. Poor Cash readily agreed to this, until he realized he’d have to leave the nursery.
“Mommy, Mommy,” he said from his perch in his father’s arms, looking around at the rest of us sitting on the floor in the midst of our various occupations, “Why – why we have to go out?” His parents’ replies almost set off his tears again, but they were out the door a few seconds later.
Cash’s reaction to Abbie’s asking if he was alright hit something inside of me. I’ve often read that guys like to put on tough fronts, when they’re actually soft and sensitive. The authors of those kinds of books are none that I know, so I’ve no idea how reliable they are; and I don’t think any of the true guy friends I have would try to put up tough fronts (then again, I could be totally wrong there). But my first thought, as I sat there staring at the heart-wrenching scene of Cash staring wildly around and insisting he was fine even as the tears welled up and slipped down his tiny cheeks, was, Man, they start putting up that front at a young age!
A little later, as I got out the watercolor paints for the other kids, three- or four-year-old Jenna piped up, “I’m going to paint a picture for Cash.” I was touched by this, and suggested we all paint pictures for him. By the time Abbie and I left, we were assured that five colorful paintings would be in little Cash’s hands before the night ended.