Don’t Take Your Kid’s Stitches Out Yourself

At some point in the past our oldest son smacked his head on the stairs at the playground. I can’t remember how old he was at the time – he could walk but he wasn’t in diapers, if that helps. From across the playground we heard him crying and assumed someone had smashed his sand castle, or called him a boo-boo head. Kids are always making mountains out of molehills. When he ran toward us with split in his forehead, and lots of blood, it became a legitimate mountain.

In terms of head lacerations, our oldest takes after his old man. We both had stitches three times before first grade. Mine were from:

  1. tripping into the coffee table, and catching my fall with my face,
  2. trying to open a door with my eyebrow, while running, and
  3. back-flipping into the edge of a pool rather than into the water.

Headbutting the playground stairs was our son’s second ER visit. He also caught his fall once with one of his two front teeth, which ended up getting pushed upward into his gums. It was gruesome – at first, we thought he had swallowed it. So, my oldest and I both have a history of catching ourselves without using our hands, or arms, or legs. Just our head and face.

This reminds me of an injury I saw while teaching gymnastics. I was spotting a girl as she fell from the uneven bars and braced herself with her hands and arms when she hit the mat. When falling backward, it seems natural to stop your fall with your hands, but you’re supposed to sort of tuck and roll instead. This works because there aren’t any coffee tables or doorknobs nearby. Well, she put her hands back and her elbow completely dislocated and bent in the wrong direction. It was frightening to watch. Not as bad as a tooth mashed into gums, but still pretty terrible.

Most the time, I’m one of those parents who ignores their kids when they get hurt. That, or I might ask, “do you want to go home and take a nap, or keep playing?” It seems to work. They always choose “keep playing.” I also encourage activities that are usually considered unpleasant, like canoeing in the rain and camping in the winter. It’s not so much that I want my kids to be tough and brawny. Instead, I want them to be optimistic and enjoy overcoming challenges.

I’m also one of those parents who likes to do everything himself. When a pipe bursts, I spend all day soldering and re-soldering it, while an actual plumber could fix it in about 15 minutes. When my son gets stitches, I take them out at home.

I wish that last part weren’t true.

On Christmas Eve the year after the head-stair collision, the same son was spinning on the trapeze in our family room. Yes, I put a trapeze in our family room. Where else would it go? Anyway, he lost his footing when he dismounted, sending his eyebrow into the corner of our piano. There was crying, and yelling, and pressure to stop the bleeding. Next, there’s usually a moment when you assess the damage and determine if a butterfly bandage will suffice. But, given the blood flow, we didn’t even check. I just picked him up and headed for the car.

The ER at the children’s hospital was pretty tranquil at 8PM, probably because most kids were snuggled in bed dreaming of sugarplums, not performing acrobatics. We were back home in less than an hour.

A week later, not wanting to go back to the ER to have them removed, I decided to cut the stitches out in our kitchen. The doctor said they could come out in five to seven days, so the timing was right. Plus, I had seen it done once before. How hard could it be, right? Dads have been cutting out their kid’s stitches for thousands of years.

My dentist friend gave me a pair of fancy tweezers and some piña colada anesthetic. After numbing the area, I started snipping and pulling. I was feeling pretty good about my surgical skills until the last stitch. That’s when I realized I was out of my league, that my red-neck confidence had gotten me into trouble. I’m not a red-neck, or a the kind of doctor that helps people. As soon as the final thread was cut, my son’s brow popped open like it was never closed. No blood or pain – just a gaping wound that now needed to be restitched. My training had not prepared me for this.

I wasn’t looking forward to another ER visit, putting my son through all the trauma of needles next to his eye. So, I called my doctor friend, who ended up cleaning and super-gluing the cut in his kitchen. He told me that the wound should have closed by then, and that I shouldn’t feel bad about removing the stitches myself, that he would have done the same thing. That made me feel a little better.

The moral of this story: don’t remove your kid’s stitches yourself, unless you’re a true red-neck, or the kind of doctor that helps people.

I guess there’s another lesson to be learned: trapezes, like uneven bars, should be in a gym rather than a family room.

How to Build and Indoor Swing

Background

The Minnesota winter is upon us and kinderclaustrophobia is setting in. I guess it’s not really a phobia, more like a hysteria, resulting from prolonged exposure to rambunctious children in a confined space. Either way, what we need is a swing in our living room.

I’m not talking about a traditional swing, the kind at the playground with two ropes, the one-dimensional kind that only moves forward and back. Even better is the tire swing type – with a single connection point up top you get a second dimension, swinging and spinning in all directions.

It gets better. By inserting a trampoline spring or two you can swing in the third dimension: vertically. Three dimensional swinging, indoors.

Materials

  1. Stud finder
  2. Large hook screw(s), 5/16″ x 4″ works well
  3. Carabiner(s)
  4. Trampoline spring, max load should be above 60 lbs
  5. Rope, 1/4″ is perfect
  6. Dowel, 1 inch thick, a foot or two long
  7. Drill with 5/16″ bit
  8. Sand paper

Indoor swing materials   More indoor swing materials

Assembly

  1. Find a stud – First, I used the cheapskate method, knocking around till my knuckles were raw, then hitting a nail through the sheetrock until it stuck into something wood-like, which it never did. After many nail holes in the ceiling, I bought a $10 stud finder at the local supercenter.

  2. Stick in the bolt – A friend gave me a solid loop bolt thingy that he found at Ikea – they sell a little indoor swing kit for pretty cheap. I put that one in the living room. In the kids room I used the hook screw, which is cheaper and just as strong.

    Indoor swing bolt   Indoor swing hook screw   Lots of indoor swings

  3. Rig up the trapeze – you can cut the dowel to any length, but I made mine about two feet long, enough to sit on, or dangle from by ones knees. Drill a hole in each end, just wide enough for the rope to pass through, and tie some knots. PVC pipe also works, but you’ll need some grip tape. This twisted clove hitch works too.

    Indoor swing dowel   Indoor swing dowel knot   Indoor swing pvc handle

There you have it – in about 30 minutes, a flippin swing, in your house. By nature, kids need to put in a certain amount of acrobatics every day. Now, the ninos can release their wiggles without dangling from the curtain rods or the chandelier.

Variations

A simple rope swing works nicely, but my kids don’t have the grip strength to hold on. They can stand all right on a huge knot tied in the end, but one of those disc seats would be perfect.

My 1 year old was jealous of her older siblings so I grabbed a bucket seat for $14 at Menards, a hardware store in our neck of the woods. They had a nice build-your-own-playground section with plastic slides and outdoor swing kits, vinyl seat with chains. Home Depot had nothing of the sort, though they were the only place with springs.

My buddy Tim-o, who inspired this project, installed a series of swings in his living room. That’s right, a series. The handles are PVC, each about six inches long, and a few feet apart.