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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: When Children Look Like Wounded Soldiers




I mentioned last week that I was agonizing about what a bad mother I was, having dragged my daughter off to see an exorcist (I was interviewing him) and generally lurching from crisis to crisis with the kids. But maybe it just seems that way because I bare my soul in this column every week. I mean, most of you probably have your children bitten or bumped or traumatized at some point, you just don't catalogue it. Right?


I'm also trying to salve my conscience by saying Russia is not the safest of places.


Take last Sunday when I was out at Beach No. 3 at Serebryany Bor. So far this summer we haven't caught any ghastly diseases from the waters of the Moscow River, but I was told by another mom there that each year a handful of people are killed while swimming too far out by large pleasure cruisers, so I was anxiously watching my daughters in the water when I heard the dreaded words chei rebyonok? (whose child is this), and turned round to find my four-year-old Bobby awash with blood which appeared to be flowing from his head.


A heavy metal wheel, part of the metal play-frame he'd been standing under, had come loose and been dropped on him from above. He was looking surprised at the sight of all the blood but wasn't crying. I plucked him up and cooed confidently that he'd be fine while my legs trembled and my mind went completely blank. A man ran up and directed me to a first aid hut, but as soon as Bobby saw the nurse he burst into tears, recalling the time in Egypt when he had to have stitches with no anaesthetic for a similar head wound.


The nurse stemmed the wound and rushed off to call the ambulance, and then I remembered my girls in the river. Clutching my blood-drenched child I ran down the beach (to the horror of onlookers) to call them out.


In the end he didn't need stitches, but when I brought him to the dacha, babushka took one look at his bandaged head and said: "Don't tell me. I don't want to know." So I didn't.


That night Sasha woke up, switched on the lamp, put a handkerchief over it to dim it and went back to sleep. I woke up at 5 a.m. to the smell of burning and found her bed engulfed in foul-smelling smoke. We doused the smoldering fire with water and the next morning I took down the blackened remains of her sheet, pillow and mattress and met babushka at the foot of the stairs. "Don't tell me anything," she said. "Just throw it out."


We do actually have a smoke alarm, which didn't work, and I did wake up, but I'm still agonizing. My husband, bless his cotton socks, insists I'm a great mother. And the kids? "You're pretty," said Sasha, after some thought. "Pretty eccentric!"