What’s the lesson?
A single sentence in yesterday’s Archives post referencing my nine-year old’s ability to use tweezers on his own, transformed into an extraction – that very afternoon – of one, quite deep, wood splinter in his finger.
I joke with Jeb sometimes when he’s having a less-than-fun time, “Hey, don’t forget, this is your movie. You’re the writer, producer, director and star of the film. Make it the way you want.”
In these moments of metaphor I’m also reminding my own self. And I’m still surprised when I find that a few typed words have transcended metaphor, leaping from the page to play out in a real life scenario.
Case in point, the splinter.
As Jeb has been exploring the land around our new home space, he’s increased incidences of thorny hila hila encounters and random, small-scale splinters inserting themselves into heels and hands.
I’ve been impressed with his willingness to handle these minor episodes and doctor himself. A milestone in self-care, my son can use tweezers by himself. And it seems that he almost enjoys the opportunity to dislodge the slivers on his own. Understandably so.
My body still tenses to recall those few occurrences when, as a child, I was asked to bare a vulnerable sole to an adult holding sharp utensils poised at my painful wound. The memories blend with amber-colored bottles, cotton balls and the smell of turpentine. There is the gripping sensation of complete loss of control, knowing that no matter how much the adult may try to be gentle in their extraction, there was no way for them to know the bounds of my nerve centers. They could go too deep, too hard, and there was nothing I could do but feel the pain.
The ability to master my own plucking power was pure freedom. It was a breakthrough when I could operate on myself.
I am reminded of all of this, as Jeb inspects a fairly embedded splinter in his index finger. It’s deep enough that I cannot see its point of entry. Only the shadow of a lead-colored line rests beneath at least one or two layers of his skin.
Accessing the situation, I calmly offer him a new tool for his doctor’s kit: the sterilized needle. The concept is met with great resistance at first (as it was with me, at his age), as it seems just too darn sharp and invasive. But after the rounded tips of his dull tweezers make no headway on reaching the splinter, he agrees to try.
What ensues is a good hour and a half of concentrated effort. All on his terms. Back and forth between the tweezers and the needle, a serious extraction with all of the tools in his own hands.
The experience runs the gamut. From hopeful to hopeless. Gumption to tears. Exhaustion to a second wind. My occasional suggestions at taking a pause on the operating procedure is consistently met with refusal. So I do what a parent can do. Sit by his side and encourage when he needs it, walk away and hang some laundry on the line when he just needs to figure it out on his own.
At the proverbial finish line, we’re there together. He is elated when a sweaty and concentrated ninety minutes produces the finest hair-like specimen on the tip of his tweezers. He goes in three times to pull fragments from skin layers until it is empty.
We wash the open space with disinfectant and pat it dry. A minor wound that conjured such attention.
Is there a lesson?
If Jeb is writing his movie script, he spun that tale to be the hero.
And of course, the Mother, she’s got the script she’s writing, too. Themes of some sort of dance between holding on and letting go. A thread that plays out in the most mundane, turning tweezers into a tool of self-reflection.
We all have the implements we need to extract what’s undesired. The ability to be our own, best doctor. The capacity to heal ourselves.
This is our movie.