Monday, August 8, 2011

Angels Over My Angels

I’m a catastrophist with a vivid imagination.  This means that when I began driving, at age 30, I kept picturing myself mangled in a gory episode of vehicular carnage - like something you’d find in that Troy McClure driver’s ed film on The Simpsons.  

When my children were born and I assumed full responsibility for tiny, helpless beings that I loved more than I had loved anything previously, I had similar visions of disaster.  Would I drop them?  Roll over on Mr. R if we co-slept?  Would I turn my back at the grocery store and find Lady A in her stroller gone? 

Those fears were not relieved by anything I read.  In fact, most parenting material just made things worse.  Much worse.  Parenting magazine has a monthly feature called “It Happened to Me” that details horrible accidents, such as a child dumping a cup of boiling water  (placed near her by the server) on her lap at a restaurant or a baby rolling off the lap of a sleeping parent.  

The very helpful book Super Baby Food not only gives a Bible worth of tips for healthy eating and saving money, but also brings every disaster lurking in your home into the clearest focus possible.  And let’s not begin to discuss the omnipresent babyproofing industry.  Since forewarned is forearmed, all this information is meant to do parents a service. Except for the fact that while some accidents are preventable, others happen the second we turn our attention away, or result from the most seemingly harmless of actions.  

So much is entirely beyond control. 

Our children have certainly given us a greater familiarity with mishaps.  Some have ended in momentary pain, like a head bumped on the corner of a table because the corner covers were (thanks, kids!) recreationally removed.  Others have created more lasting and visible injury, such as when Mr. R initiated a very unstable hug that caused him and his dear friend to fall into a coffee table.  Mr. R ended up with a big goose egg on the outer corner of his right eye.  And then there are the events that required a trip to the E.R., such when during X-reme Horseplay (after bath and before bed), Mr. R slammed Lady A's right pinky finger in a bedroom door. The last two incidents were almost cinematically foreshadowed.  Unfortunately, J and I were powerless, or just too slow, to act.

But what about the times when the momentum of an accident is stopped in its tracks? 

A few weeks ago between the end of a morning birthday party and lunch, I was rushing to buy Lady A some desperately needed shoes.  I lifted Mr. R from his carseat on the street side and instructed him to stand near me on the sidewalk as I removed Lady A from hers.  I was just about to slam the rear passenger side door when something told me to check first.  

Mr. R’s fingers were in the little space between the two side doors!  

I screamed, more like barked, at him, “Don’t you ever put your fingers there again!  I could have smashed your little fingers right up.”  He began to whimper at my explosion, his little lower lip quivering.  I felt horrible and bent down and hugged him.  I apologized, explaining in kiddoese how scared I was that I could have hurt him very badly.  That we might have had to go to the hospital.  That I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. We made a plan that next time he’d either sit in the front seat or wait close by me on the sidewalk.  For the rest of the afternoon whenever I thought of what might have happened I almost threw up.

Naturally, this isn’t our only incident like this, but it has left the strongest impression.  How did I know not to slam that door, something that in most circumstances I would have done automatically?  Was it luck?  Common sense?  Or was it something more divine or extra-sensory? 

There’s no way to know.  

The world becomes a more magical place when you have children, but it also becomes a place fraught with danger.  All the information out there about safety provides us neurotic worrywart parents with an inexhaustible catalog of horrific what-ifs.  We are extremely lucky, blessed really, that in even our worst family disaster, the finger slamming, Lady A's pinky was fine.  

I’m not religious, but after each near miss, I have to look up and say, “Thank you.”


  1. I can relate big time with my little one. I didn't think envisioning catastrophes that deal with our children was normal, but I like to think it keeps us alert and in a way ready just because we never know what might happen to them.

  2. for starters, this sentence had me doubled over in hysterics: "I’m a catastrophist with a vivid imagination. This means that when I began driving, at age 30, I kept picturing myself mangled in a gory episode of vehicular carnage - like something you’d find in that Troy McClure driver’s ed film on The Simpsons." erik is writing a math test and looked up to see just what was making me laugh so hard and i had to read it to him. thanks for the laughs!

    i'm totally with you on how scary the world is now that there are pieces of my heart walking around outside of my body and not safe inside where they should be. for years i have had nap nightmares about our youngest in particular (affectionately nicknamed "our son the space cadet") being hit by a car. on no less than 4 occasions have i literally dragged him out of the way of a passing vehicle that he didn't see or hear. i'm shaking just thinking about it. my mom used to say "god protects babies and fools," and from my experience with ziad that has proven to be true.

    i think that as parents we get to know our children well enough to sense when something's going to go wrong. somehow you just *knew* to check for riley's fingers that time -- maybe it's divine (and i don't knock that possibility at all), but maybe it's that on some deep level you noticed his posture before you turned and calculated where and how he would move next, and checked just to be sure. i think it's that intimate knowledge that is the key, especially when they're little. it used to freak me out that my mom would always know what we were up to, but now i get it. she called it "mommy ear," and now i do too. now when i call out to the boys, "put down that (fill in the blank)" or "did you just break the (fill in the blank)" from another room, they ask how i knew, and i say, i have mommy ear; i got it from your grandmother.


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