Just shy of 26 months old, the tip of my toddler’s index finger was whacked off.  The slivering occurred with her daycare teacher and me standing inches from the appendage, on opposite sides of a play yard fence.

While we talked, and without looking down, her teacher tugged at the fence latch to open the gate. The hinge tended to stick, so when her teacher hit some resistance, she tried again with more force, then a third time yanking it even harder. A quick hatchet job, there was no time for my toddler to react until the top of her tiny limb hung loose on the metal latch.

A tiny finger, an even tinier slice. Just tissue, no bone. A traumatic injury in the eyes of both ‘copter mom and teacher.  But any ordeal is a matter of perspective.  Her 4 year old brother said  “Ummm, she needs a band-aid,” then turned away to play with a friend.

Gate latch for post
The gate latch looks something like this one.  Push up on the handle to release. But the latch won’t open when the hole is filled with a combination padlock, or a curious toddler’s finger.

Plucking the severed chunk of fingertip from the fence, my medivac instincts flew us to the hospital where we waited patiently until the plastic surgeon declared reattachment unsuccessful. The surgeon followed her finger’s recovery over the following weeks and months, attempting to reduce scarring and nudge healing. Eventually the wound closed – her fingertip and nail reshaped in slightly different form. 

To ensure my children received the highest quality care, I drove 40 minutes round trip to the daycare, before making another 50 minute commute to work. We try our best to protect our children, but accidents happen. No amount of additional hovering could protect my toddler … she is a curious one, her finger found that hole intriguing.

Curious children find accidents (sometimes it seemed as though my daughter would test all nine of her lives before entering kindergarten). In all, the finger hacking ranked just slightly more traumatic than an incident a year later when she fell off a step biting her tongue almost in half, and slightly less traumatic than several years later when she fell while jumping on a bed hitting her head on the dresser corner.

Finger Hack, grown up
My toddler’s index finger on her wedding day –  fully functional though slightly deformed. Her curiosity  remains fully intact.

A medivac helicopter parent can be useful yet over bearing during accidents.  I tried to remain composed, but still wonder if the hospital personnel thought I overstepped by insisting the plastic surgeon be called.  Even if I over-hovered at the hospital,I tried to remain calm in the presence of my child.

A severed finger is more extreme than most of us face on a day-to-day basis. But our child feed on our energy and emotion. If you rush in making a big deal out of a situation, hurt or not, your child will be upset.  You might enjoy rescuing him after a fall and calming him down – after all you feel useful and needed when that happens – but those actions teach your child that falls require your love and intervention to overcome. Children are not well served by adult overreactions to accidents.  Even a toddler needs to learn how to pick himself up and move on after a tumble.

When the finger chop occurred, my heart raced wildly but I tried to remain calm. On. The. Outside.  When we left the hospital, my tipless toddler was smiling, pointing at the world with her bandaged finger, curiosity intact.


* Curious about how the daycare handled the aftermath? The daycare fence gate was permanently locked after the slicing, with pickup and visitation procedures modified to accommodate. Everyone is required to enter the play yard from inside the building. Some parents are disenchanted with the new policy, assuming I overstepped and complained. My child’s fingertip removal forced the change, but not by my intervention.



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