Last week was not our best. Shep is going through a fun phase where he is needy and whiney. Char hasn’t felt great and Erron needed to work late and go out of town. On more than one occasion, the little people and I struggled to get out of the house on time for school, physical therapy, or swim and we all ended up in up in tears, which isn’t the norm. (The tears part. We’re always running late.) With the one year mark quickly approaching, Erron and I find ourselves feeling more fragile these days, with strong emotions simmering just beneath the surface, ready to knock us off our game if we don’t keep our minds busy. Add to that swim lessons. Watching Shep in the pool 4 days a week learning how to float and swim so he can get to the side of the pool should he ever fall in….It pretty much fries my nerve endings, and causes the scars on my heart to throb a little more than usual. Like many kids, during the first lesson Shepherd cried when he had to go under water. (While his teacher held him.) “I couldn’t see you mom!” He said to me with weepy eyes when the lesson was over. I wanted to crawl under the table and curl up in a ball. Erron banned me from being in the pool area and I spent the next few lessons watching behind the glass in the hallway. Mercifully, the tears were minimal and I have a friend whose kids have swim at the same time so she keeps me distracted. By day three Shep was begging to take a dip all the way under. I adore his teacher, I’m thrilled he’s doing so well in the water… but I still have to look away several times during each lesson because I’m so sad and angry with myself that he didn’t have those skills when he needed them.
It makes me feel like I failed, like I didn’t do enough to protect, or at least, prepare him for what happened.
That guilt…it’s a lot like Charlotte’s bed time routine. I put her down. She gets back up. I put her down again, remind her that this is the last time. When I think I’ve finally bested her, I give my attention to other things, but when I least expect it, she’s crept out of her bed and is standing in her doorway, waiting for me to come tend to her. (And yes, I’m aware Char’s bedtime routine sounds flawed…It’s a work in progress.)
Back in ICU, I remember scanning the other rooms, wondering if it felt any different to be a parent of a child who wasn’t in there due to a preventable accident. Perhaps not, but I hated that Shep was in there for drowning. Child Protective Services came to our hospital room, took pictures of an unconscious Shep and sat us down for interviews. They were doing their job, it was obvious they hated to add to our pain, but I can no longer casually joke about them coming to my house after my kids have popcorn for dinner one too many times or because they never wear shoes. After we got home from the hospital we got our scheduled visit when they came to my door and politely checked my fridge, running water, and Shep’s room.
Parenting is gamble on the grandest scale. The little ones we tuck in tonight are our greatest treasure on Earth. But we cannot lock them away in padded rooms and guarantee their safety. We can be careful, and intentional to be sure…but I listen to friends of much older children and some of the experiences they’ve had take my breath away. These are great mommas that I look up to. They’ve just lived longer…so it hits me, again. Just because we survived this accident with an incredible outcome, doesn’t mean we are done with our scary moments and heartache.
I’m aware this is not a healthy place to sit, and this ache in my heart was brought on by watching Shep in the pool. I also know most momma’s have had moments like mine where things just happened…because you can’t be everywhere, all the time and life is full of risks that you never see coming. I know that. But last week my heart forgot it, and it hurts.
Letting your heart walk around outside your body certainly puts you in jeopardy, you’re all in, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Anything that happens to them, happens to you. But then there are lots of days I look at the two tiny towheads running around my house…. and I swear I’ve hit the jackpot.