The scene has been replying itself in my mind ever since I witnessed it last night. It was the reason I couldn’t fall asleep last night and it was the first thing I thought of when I awoke this morning.
My friend and I were shopping for Easter egg fillers for Little Miss and Bug for the hunt next weekend. As we walked down one of the main aisles of the large department store, we passed two other women shopping together. Each had a shopping cart; the one in front was pulling the cart with a toddler in the seat and the other was pushing a second cart behind them. The one at the back had turned to look at something and in that moment, terror struck my heart.
The toddler decided very quickly decided he didn’t want to be in the cart anymore. With a sudden lurch, he pulled himself up, stood in the seat, and then stepped out into thin air.
It was your typical terrifying moment: slow motion but too fast to react all at the same time. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t watch. Because I was too far away to help, my immediate reaction was to whirl around and cover my eyes. “Oh God!” I cried.
The mother screamed “AIDEN!” and there was a sickening thud. It seemed the world went silent and then there were sobs. I turned back, begging silently that there would be no blood. There wasn’t. The mom, a young woman of maybe 20 years, had collapsed on the floor and was holding her son in a death grip against her chest. Sobs wracked her body as she curled herself around her son in a posture that seemed an attempt to ward off any ill effects of the fall.
Not sure if the boy was conscious, I took a step closer and heard him let out a cry. I felt my chest tighten and I stifled the urge to wrap my arms around the terrified mother. Her friend was already at her side, comforting her and asking us how the boy had landed. My calm, cool, collected friend told her he’d landed on his back. The girl ruffled through the boy’s brown hair as his mother rocked him and sobbed.
No blood. He’d have a welt, and it would hurt, but he’d be okay.
“Are you okay?” I dumbly asked the young mother. She didn’t hear me. Store associates were running to the scene; one woman told the mother not to move, to stay right there, and she ran off to find help. The mother didn’t respond. Her eyes were unseeing, her mind only playing and replaying the scene as she rocked her baby and let her friend comfort her.
I had to fight the urge to cry myself, and it wasn’t even my child or anyone I knew. We continued through the store, but it took me a good ten minutes to feel somewhat normal again. And when I got home the first thing I did was hug my Little Miss tight.
The reality is that kids hurt themselves. They make unpredictable split-second decisions and not every injury or stupid mistake can be avoided or averted by parental intervention. A friend of mine told me about rounding a curve on a local busy road only to see a toddler about to dash off the curb and into traffic, Daddy running in full-out panic mode a few feet behind. Even the most attentive parent cannot be everywhere at once. The key is to be consistent and persistent in teaching your child what is and is not safe, pay attention to what they’re doing and do your best.
Do your best.
And acknowledge that even your absolute best cannot be perfect.