Triumphs and Fails: How to get a staple out of your child’s finger and help them solve conflicts at recess.

Triumph! The Best Way to Get a Staple Out of Your Child’s Finger.

Triumph! The Best Way to Get a Staple Out of Your Child’s Finger.

The parenting grade.
May 8 2015 4:33 PM

Getting a Staple Out of Your Child’s Finger

There are some things school nurses can’t do.

Crying young boy with finger injury

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.

Remember the time you overcame your hatred of crafts to make the perfect costume for your kindergartner’s school event? Remember the time the Tooth Fairy fell asleep and forgot to visit? What about the day when your kids agitated for a social cause they strongly believed in? What about the first time your 7-year-old dropped an F-bomb?

These little triumphs and fails happen to all parents, and they’re all worth celebrating (or ruing). At the beginning of each episode of Mom and Dad Are Fighting, Slate’s parenting podcast, we reveal parenting triumphs and fails from our own lives. We’ll share them here every other week, after the episodes go live.

Allison: So, there’s been a recess situation at H’s school lately. H mentioned it to me in passing a few times, but the other day I picked him up from school, which I rarely get to do, and he poured his heart out to me. I don’t know about you, but when I am home from work and ask, “How was your day?”... I get nothing. For some reason, picking him up at 2:30, I got a lot. It makes me wonder how much I’m missing!


The short version is that a boy in H’s class, who is clearly a good kid but also popular and therefore powerful, had started holding the national championships of soccer every day during recess and declaring that the teams are “best” versus “worst.” H says this kid told him he had to be on Team Worst, and he was pretty frustrated about it. The day I picked him up from school, he started asking me all of these questions that were essentially him trying to figure out social dynamics. He genuinely wanted to understand why this kid got to make all the decisions, why other kids listen to him, how he knows who is good at soccer and who isn’t. I talked to him about standing up to this kid, but he was reluctant to do it, cause he wants the kid to like him. I told him about my own experiences trying to get the popular girls to like me—like trying to get Jennifer Gucci to like me—

Dan: Jennifer, if you’re listening right now ... Allison turned out great.

Allison: We’re Facebook friends. Anyway, after all this, H came up with the idea of, instead of standing up to this kid, he would bring his own soccer ball to school and try to start his own game. I told him that this might lead to soul-crushing disappointment, because other kids might not want to leave the national championship to play in H’s game. But that I would be proud of him if he tried and that I would be proud of him if he decided not to. Because I know in the moment when he tried to round up other kids, he might get scared or not want to do it. I don’t even have to tell you the result. The reason I am considering this a triumph is because it was my first real experience dealing with elementary school social dynamics, and though it’s easy just to say, “Just find other kids to play with!” or “Screw that kid!” I didn’t, because it’s not that easy! And I think he actually got something from our conversation—I’m not always confident, but I felt like, “I just taught a human being something and helped a human being through something,” which is very, very gratifying.

And now, he’s the National Champion!


Dan: What a happy ending for everyone! I also had a triumph this week. My triumph is that I handled a children’s health emergency with aplomb and a strong stomach. Allison knows this.

Allison: I saw photographic evidence!

Dan: Allison did see it. We’re going to upload the photographic evidence on our show page for all to see. I was working from home with Alia the other day and she got a phone call, from the nurse, and didn’t answer it. Then I got a phone call and I answered it. It was from the nurse that H, our younger daughter, had stapled her finger. Somehow. There’s a staple so far in her finger that the nurse can’t get it out. “So, can I please come to school and deal with it.”

And I grumbled a little about what nurses are for when they can’t get staples out of your children’s fingers. Anyways, I went to school and when I got there, I saw her finger. And I am proud that I did not barf. I understood, then, why the nurse couldn’t get the staple out of her finger since the staple went all the way through her index finger. All the way through it would poke out the other side of her index finger, except the underside of her fingernail would stop it from doing it.


Allison: What was she stapling?

Dan: She was stapling her finger, Allison. I asked her what had happened. She said she checked to see if the stapler had staples in it. She opened it all the way up, saw it had staples, then she closed it. But by the way she closed it, her finger was under there and stapled her finger.

She said she wasn’t intentionally doing it. I believe her. She’s not the type of kid that likes to experiment that way to like trying stuff out the way I did when I was a kid—I just actually stapled myself, because I wanted to see what it felt like.

So, it was gross. I didn’t barf. I also made a great health care decision which is often hard to do at the heat of the moment. I tried once with tweezers to pull it gently to get it out. And it clearly caused her a lot of pain, so I stopped. So, I thought “where should I take her?” I didn’t want to take her to the emergency room, because that would take forever and it would be expensive and I would be in a huge fight with the insurance company. Then I thought, Is there an urgent care nearby? It turns out, there is one very close to my kids’ school. There was no one waiting, because it was in McLean, Virginia, where bad things never happen to anyone. So, there was no one in urgent care besides us.


They took an X-ray to see if it wasn’t too close to the bone. They numbed her finger with some shots. She took it like a champ when they pulled out the staple in one quick jerk. She didn’t even feel it. She was so proud of herself, but I was proud of myself for only spending $270—which I’m now going to expense since I talked about it on the podcast.

All in all, it was as good as an experience you can hope for for putting a staple all the way into your finger. I’m proud of the way I handled it and that’s why I am going to view it as a triumph.

Allison: Was she sobbing the whole time?

Dan: No. She was fine, except until when people were wiggling it and trying to get it out. She was fine. By the time we got to urgent care, she thought it was the funniest thing that has ever happened to her.

This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Allison Benedikt is Slate’s executive editor. Follow her on Twitter.

Dan Kois edits and writes for Slate’s human interest and culture departments. He’s the co-author, with Isaac Butler, of The World Only Spins Forward, a history of Angels in America, and is writing a book called How to Be a Family.