when your toddler is a superhero

The doctor leaned in to my three-year-old girl and said, “It was an honor to treat you.” He turned to me.

“I have never seen a braver toddler that age.”

Dramatic words, and perhaps a bit overdone, but still, it turns out my baby girl has the pain tolerance of a … well, let’s just say that she can take more than you can.

It started in the playhouse in the country. NK smashed her thumb in the door … twice in two days. I was sitting inside the playhouse holding the baby the second time. She cried and screamed, and I struggled to get both kids outside where E could pick up NK and hold our sobbing daughter.

Fifteen minutes later, everything was fine, the night a stream of running and bubbles and laughing with her cousin. Three days later, NK got a fever and stopped eating. Four days later, her thumb swelled up to three times its normal size, and puss started leaking out from under the nail.

This is when a car would be nice. But with no car, we left a day early and rushed to a late train. NK and I took a taxi to the hospital (this journey has been recounted countless times since then, usually with Daddy injured in his leg). A nurse took NK’s temperature and a doctor examined her within minutes.

“I need to check under this nail, stat!” he said, except calmly and without saying “stat!” NK would get a local anesthetic, he said, but the needles to do that would hurt, a lot.

He bent down and spoke a little sternly to her. It was OK to scream, he said. It was not OK to hit the doctor.

So he stuck in the needle, and NK winced. I was reading her an Angelina Ballerina book and paused. She turned and said tersely, “Read.”

The doctor stuck three different needles into her thumb. He twisted them. Her lips curled.

Only after, when the pain was over, did NK grimace and need an ice cream. Then the doctor returned and cut off her thumb nail. NK watched the whole time. I was still stuck reading the book. I paused as the doctor showed me the wound and the puss under the nail.

“Daddy, read.”

Both the nurse and the doctor acted truly shocked by all this … and charmed. After his little speech of honor, NK and I took the bus home. Two days later, E took NK to a nurse to have the wound dressed (all these visits cost us about 18 dollars, by the way). During that painful procedure, NK’s toes curled, nothing else, and the nurse asked E if our daughter was in shock.

No, only tough.


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