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Maps and a Big Toe

  • Posted on September 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM

The first day of school was a full day for Willy, but his little brothers only had to attend a Ready-Set-Go conference. When I took Ben to his conference, he was really excited to be out with Mama all by himself—until we arrived at his school. His enthusiasm plummeted and he plodded his way to the door.

After picking up on the body language, I tried to get him to communicate his feelings, asking him, “Is school good or bad?” All he would say for me was “school” in a ho-hum sort of voice.

He explored his new-but-familiar classroom—the same classroom he started the last year in—and silently sat at his desk drawing with a highlighter. His new-but-familiar teacher talked to me about what she already knew about Ben, with the speech and occupational therapists adding in their own comments. The new teacher showed off the things she’d set up for him, including a basic map of the world with each continent in a bright primary color, because “I know Ben loves maps.”

Meanwhile, Ben ignored their greetings and their attempts to engage him. Finally, I crouched down next to his desk and said, “Ben, what’s that?” He looked up, saw where my finger was pointing, and clearly and accurately said, “North America.” Then, he looked back down at his drawing.

“What’s that?” He looked up. “Europe.” Again, he said this clearly and accurately. I could feel the excited hum behind me. The teacher and therapists were watching. “What’s that?” “Asia.” “What’s that?” “Africa.” “What’s that?” “Australia.” “What’s that?” “Pacific Ocean.” “What’s that?” “Atlantic Ocean.” “What’s that?” “Indian Ocean.”

The people behind me were bubbling with excitement.

Ben took my finger, as if to say, “Mom, you missed one,” and placed it on one of the bright continents. “What’s that,” I asked. “South America.” I pulled back, but Ben wasn’t done. He took my finger again and he said, “What’s that?” “Antarctica,” I said, very slowly and clearly. Then, he copied me, “Ant-ark-tick-ah.” Then, since there was one left, I put my finger on the last label on the map, “Artic Ocean.” “Ark-tick Ocean.”

This time I stepped back and the teacher took my place, opening up one of the books she’d picked out for Ben that had much more detailed maps in it. My point was made.

The next week went pretty well. Then, one morning last week, I noticed Ben’s toe nails were rather long. I figured it could wait, since the bus could come any moment. But when he was in his shoes, he was limping a little. So, since the bus hadn’t come, I took off his sock and shoe and cut the nails on that foot. His foot and toes all looked fine, aside from the long nails. I put the sock and shoe on again.

Then, since the bus still hadn’t come, I took off the other sock and shoe and cut those nails. Again, his feet looked fine. I put the sock and shoe back on and noticed that he still favored one of his feet. Walking out to the bus, the limp seemed more pronounced. I figured his foot must feel funny now that the nails were cut. That wasn’t unusual for my boys.

When I got home, though, Mark told me to look at Ben’s foot. The toe nail on Ben’s big toe on his right foot was deeply bruised and the knuckle was swollen. It looked like it was broken. His limp was much more pronounced, too. But how? How could he have hurt his toe so thoroughly when I was right there watching him the whole time and nothing the least bit untoward had happened?

Maybe he stubbed it, I thought and left it go at that for the night. After all, aside from the limp, there were no signs of pain. He didn’t cry. He didn’t rub it. He didn’t seem to care too much at all. But in the morning it seemed worse, not better. I sent him to school and he limped throughout the day.

Well, I thought, maybe it is broken. But, aside from the limp, he didn’t seem bothered by it. So, I scheduled an appointment for the following morning. Ben got a half day off of school and three x-rays to determine that while it very well could have been broken, there was no break and it was just a bad strain. On with his socks, on with his shoes, and back to school.

Now, it seems to be healing quite well and there’s barely a limp at all. I’m not sure whether to feel vindicated that I waited to take him to the doctor or vindicated that I took time off from Ben’s class time to take him to the doctor or both. But I sure do know Ben likes maps!