On Mothering: The Safety of Children

Jun 20, 2011 +

I was a bit traumatized (still am a bit) by an incident at the street party and I feel the need to share it, to get it off my chest. Don't worry, Chloe is fine!

I had been watching Chloe play in the bouncy castle which had a bouncy slide attached. A girl about seven years old stood at the top of the slide and instead of sliding, she jumped down to the base of the slide. There was an inflatable wall around the slide but no mesh or anything enclosing it - and when the girl hit the base, she bounced over the three foot high safety wall, with her head aimed toward the concrete pavement. It is by sheer luck that I was standing on the other side of that safety wall. The girl was aimed head down and I caught her with her knees at my shoulder before she hit the ground. It was a strong impact that pushed me a few steps back and I awkwardly lifted her upper body and put her on the ground. The little girl stood there in shock. I asked her if she was alright and I scanned the crowd for her mother. Amazingly, no one else had seen what had happened. A neighbour finally came over... and that is when I promptly burst into tears.

I don't know what I was feeling in that moment. I was overwhelmingly emotional about it. In my head, I was thanking God I was in the right place at the right time. I could so clearly see what could have happened, I could feel the trajectory of her body. But I think it wasn't the "what if" that was making me convulse in sobs. It was that moment when I scanned the crowd and couldn't see this little girl's mother and imagining this mother coming back from the food tent or from inside the house or wherever she was, and finding something so tragic and unimaginable. I identified with her.

There are moments when you realize you are "mom". This was one of those. Later on, when the girl's mother came over to thank me (and I realized that it was Chloe's teacher at the weekly playgroup she attends), I felt the tug of that invisible bond that connects all us mothers. She looked me in the eye, not allowing any tears to fall in defiance of the "what if", touched my arm, and said a simple heartfelt Thank You. There was no Thank You necessary. I get it. We are one in the same. She has kept an eye out for my child during her class and I thank my lucky stars that I was there for hers.

When I was pregnant with Chloe, my female boss said to me "Now you're a mother. Now you are never going to live without fear." She was right. Not a day goes by that I don't worry about the safety of my child. Sometimes and in some situations its a passing thought that I sweep under the rug, realizing I need to be more comfortable with Chloe trying new things and testing her limits. Other days, it spurs me to proactivity... being there before she falls off the dining room chair, clearing counters on the chance she could be tempted to reach for something, keeping an eye out for dropped coins and other choking hazards. Its never going to go away, is it? I just hope when the inevitable day comes that my daughter will do something beyond what she is capable of, there is someone ready to catch her on the other side of that wall.

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