Sometimes it's tough to be a parent. Last night was one of those times. My oldest son has been having trouble with his leg for weeks, limping everywhere he went. We didn't really think much about it, writing it off to his typical "any little bit of pain is incapacitating" behavior, until we noticed that he limped all the time. My wife took him to the doctor, who confirmed that most of his limping is in his head, but there is some real pain in his knee (the doctor ordered some blood work to check for anything more, but those results haven't come back, yet).
Needless to say, when the doctor ordered him to stay off his feet for a week, we knew we had an uphill battle on our hands. How exactly do you keep a semi-active eight-year-old off his feet? He's in the middle of his basketball season and he loves to play active games with his friends, let alone the normal chasing around he does with his siblings (you know the kind, the "let's run around the house like screaming lunatics to drive Mom and Dad insane" kind).
Well, last night I took him over to cub scouts. They were focusing on a flag ceremony that they're going to be doing this Friday for a special "Blue and Gold" ceremony (whatever that is, I'm still re-learning all the scouting lingo). My son is the one who's calling the flag-bearing scouts forward and leading the pledge of allegiance, so he really needed to go. After scouts, they always play games in the mostly empty parking lot, like tennis, or, like last night, dodgeball.
Before going to scouts, my wife and I warned him that if they played those games, he wasn't allowed to play. He told me he understood before we went, but you can guess what happened. Sure enough, when scouts was officially over and they all bolted for the door to head for the parking lot, he was right alongside them -- running with his limp. I called for him to come with me to go home and he had a meltdown. He started crying right there in the parking lot.
His friends were totally confused about what was going on, and I felt like the meanest father on Earth. He wasn't in trouble or anything, but I knew that all the twisting and dodging involved in playing dodgeball would not have helped him in the least. He kept repeating the words, "I'm fine! I'm fine!" to me. Nevertheless, I stuck to my guns and told him to come get in the car. To his credit and amazingly, he obeyed -- for which I'm grateful. He continued crying out "I'm fine!" all the way home (a 5 minute drive) and even into the house where my wife told him nearly the same things I did.
We reminded him how he needed to rest, how the doctor gave him a note excusing him from P.E. at school so he couldn't play now, either; and how the running and twisting of the game would not have helped him. Both of us challenged him to walk without limping, and being unable to do so, he told me that one of his legs was shorter than the other, which was why he was walking funny (I give him points for creativity on that one).
He kept asking to be taken back to the church so he could play the game, and we refused. By this time it was about 8:15, a good 45 minutes past his bed time. We could tell that some of his show of emotions was derived from his exhaustion. Sitting across from him trying to comfort him, I looked down and noticed that my fly was undone. Deadpan, I said, "Great, I've been walking around all night with my fly undone." The comment was so random and in his tired and emotional state, he thought that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. It was like a giant reset button. He went to bed somewhat cheerfully after that.
I can totally understand why he was struggling with this. Our efforts to keep him from running around too much have been difficult, but his improvement is noticeable. Now that he's feeling slightly better, and getting used to being in pain, he thinks he can just run around like he normally would. He finds it difficult to understand that he needs to take it easy, now as much as a few days ago, so that he can heal, and we haven't been able to help him understand that concept very well.
Nevertheless, we're tough on him because we love him. Isn't that what parents do?