It’s fair to say that this week was unexpected in its events. On Monday afternoon, I received a phone call from my son’s school, just as I was just finishing up a meeting. Like most parents, I’ve come to dread these calls, as it usually means something is wrong.
And something was very wrong with my son. I rushed down there, taking the car despite it being less than a 10-minute walk. When I arrived, he was bent over, and unable to move his neck. He couldn’t really feel his left hand and had reduced sensation in his left arm. At lunchtime, a friend had playfully put him in a headlock, squeezed, and they had both fallen to the floor.
I drove him straight to hospital. That hospital sent him by ambulance to a larger one with more specialised equipment. He had an MRI scan. At one point it looked very much like spinal surgery would be necessary.
Given my son had been knocked out on the school premises last year, I met with the headteacher to talk about their emergency procedures. On both occasions I had to drive my son to hospital. On both occasions they should have called an ambulance. Serious head and neck trauma always requires immediate help from medical professionals, especially with children.
At the time of writing, my son’s prognosis is good. He had the rest of the week off school, and was delighted that he was encouraged to play PS4 games to improve the sensation in his left hand. That’s returning, thankfully, and he has a greater range of movement in his neck. The spinal consultant told us in a follow-up visit on Friday that my son should make a full recovery. Just no sport for a few weeks.
There’s been a steady stream of my son’s friends coming around to visit, bringing cards, presents, and their best wishes. I was particularly impressed that the friend who caused the injury was the first to come around and express his deep regret. I certainly wouldn’t have had the courage or wherewithal to do that aged thirteen.
In life, I think it’s reasonable to expect the unexpected. Stressful events and worrying times befall us all, so it’s good to prepare ourselves for them. I was strangely calm throughout all of the events of this week, which is in marked contrast to when my son had his first febrile convulsion at the age of two.
Since then, I’ve read a lot of Stoic philosophy, become a more experienced parent, and gone through some therapy. As a result, while I’m obviously not unfeeling, I was able to separate my own emotions from the situation.
As I’ve shared before, there’s a particularly useful saying from Epictetus which is worth quoting again:
If you wish your children, and your wife, and your friends to live for ever, you are stupid; for you wish to be in control of things which you cannot, you wish for things that belong to others to be your own… Exercise, therefore, what is in your control.Epictetus
That’s not to say that I was preparing for my son’s death. But it’s good to be reminded that there are some things that we can control, and some things we cannot. In fact, pretty much all of the teachings of Epictetus come down to this.
Everything else this week has faded into insignificance compared to the injury to my son. I worked two half-days on Monday and Tuesday for Moodle, as well as Friday. On Wednesday and Thursday I continued doing some work for the co-op in preparation for launching a community space for public sector leader. We also had some conversations with potential clients.
Over the last few days I’ve collated a bunch of quotations at Discours.es and published a Thought Shrapnel article with a particularly long title: There are many non-essential activities, moths of precious time, and it’s worse to take an interest in irrelevant things than do nothing at all. That’s a quotation from Baltasar Gracián.
This week’s microcast, Strategies for dealing with surveillance capitalism, was my response to an audio provocation from Stephen Haggard, and the link roundup, Friday feelings, contained some particularly interesting links, I thought.
I’d just like to take this opportunity, buried down here at the bottom of my weeknote, to thank my family for being so fantastic. My wife obviously found what happened this week traumatic, but was dependable and loving in equal measure.
My parents rallied around, taking my son out for walks and looking after him while my wife and I needed a break. And my daughter has got on with things like an absolute boss, being Star of the Week for her “perfect behaviour, hard work, and great attitude”. Thank you all.
Next week is half-term, so given we’re not going away, instead of taking full days off, I’ll be working half-days for both Moodle and the co-op. There’s another storm coming, apparently, so Team Belshaw will mostly be huddled inside, sheltering from the weather…
Image by Dhruv Weaver