I hate bringing up tragedies involving children. I constantly go there in my head, worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. Getting blindsided by these terrible stories have made me want to stop reading social media, and even watching television. So I really hesitate to talk about the most recent tragedy on this blog. But I think it’s important not just because of what happened and the lessons we can learn from it (i.e., you’re never safe from gators in Florida), but because of our reaction: Blame.
Blame Disney for not having better signage — although I agree that would help. “No swimming” to me means “The water is gross” or “There’s no lifeguard here” not “You may be eaten by a wild animal.” Plus, gators could attack people who are at the water’s edge. Why were there even “movies on the beach” when alligators could be lurking on said beach?
Blame the parents — why were they letting their kid wade in the water at 8 o’clock at night? Why weren’t they right next to him? Well, maybe they were right next to him. I couldn’t stop my kid from falling into a coffee table and needing 12 stitches when I was right next to him. I doubt I could have stopped a four to seven foot gator that was faster than it looked. As for why they were out so late, blame the movie night on the beach for that.
But didn’t they think about the gators? They were from Nebraska. Without signs or some kind of literature distributed to guests, how would they know? What’s common knowledge for Florida residents or people who travel to the south frequently might not be on the radar of midwesterners. This is supposed to be a safe place. The happiest place on earth.
But none of this is really the point. We could debate all day long how this could have been prevented. No doubt those parents will be thinking about that for the rest of their lives. Woulda coulda shoulda. Hindsight is 20/20. Disney will make the appropriate corrections, and those parents will replay the night in their minds. “If only we had done things differently,” they will ask themselves.
So why the endless debates? Why, after a child gets into a gorilla pit and a $15,000 Lego exhibit is destroyed by a kid and a child is killed by an alligator, do we — the internet, strangers — feel the need to play the blame game?
I thought it was about sanctimommies. But I think it’s actually bigger than that.
It’s actually not about the parents of the child at all. Like any bullying, it’s not about the victims. It’s about the bullies themselves.
Bullies appear confident, arrogant, full of swagger and self-assuredness. Bullies can be mean, but they are always sure they’re right. Bullies are strong.
Except they’re not. Not at all.
Bullies are scared. Bullies are cowards. Bullies bully because they lack confidence, and bullying makes them feel like they have power over something. Bullies know, deep down, that they are not right. Bullies have no self-awareness. They bully to feel better about themselves.
Bullies aren’t just kids. Bullies can be grown-ass adults who are scared shitless that something like this could happen to them. But instead of facing up to that, they deny it. They say they are sure, 100 percent positive, that such a tragedy could never, in fact, happen to them. That their parenting skills and abilities are so much better than these people’s, or the gorilla mom’s, or the Lego parents’, that they spew all over the internet how they would have done it differently. But deep down they must know it’s not true.
It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.
What’s more, it’s easy to pretend that everything in life happens for a reason. There is perhaps no platitude I hate more. Maybe it works when you’re talking about things that were unplanned but had positive outcomes. But you know what it doesn’t work for? Death.
Death, especially when it affects the young, is tragic and horrible and doesn’t make sense. You can try to look for an explanation, but there is no rhyme or reason to it. It affects good people and bad people. It isn’t just doled out to people who deserve it. It’s chaotic and unpredictable.
Kids themselves are chaotic and unpredictable. Side note: my son is now very into dinosaurs, so I showed him the parts of Jurassic Park that aren’t violent (pretty much only the baby velociraptor being born and the sick triceratops). But watching further in after he’d gone to bed, I realized how much I related to Ian Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum) theory of chaos, particularly as it applies to children:
I love kids! Anything can and does happen.”
Dr. Malcolm gets it. You cannot say with total certainty what will happen to your children. This is why parenting is so terrifying. You can watch them. You can try to follow all the rules. You can feed your kid all organic and make sure his car seat is buckled properly and teach him how to cross the street and obey the no swimming sign.
Except maybe one time you make a mistake. You misinterpret the no swimming sign, because that sign is not very clear. And something tragic happens. Because you are human. Because you erred. Because you were not infallible.
For the rest of us, we don’t want to believe that we could have been that parent. So if we can find someone or something to blame, it will protect against it ever happening to us. If it is everyone’s fault but our own, nothing tragic will ever befall us or our kids.
But life — and death — doesn’t work that way. The world does not follow set patterns. Bad things happen to good people. Horrific tragedies don’t make sense. We spend our life hoping and praying that one doesn’t happen to us. But it could, and we have to live with that.
Where is God in all this? Funny you should ask. I have no idea. But I certainly don’t believe there is some big plan that we’re all a part of. Because death is never a good thing, unless maybe the person was old or suffering. How can the death of a child be part of a plan? I’m reminded of a quote from the fantastic movie Rabbit Hole, about a mom (Nicole Kidman) whose son is hit by a car and killed in front of her home. She goes to a support group, and a fellow parent who’d lost a child (funny how there’s no one word for that, like there is for widow or orphan) says that God must have needed their child to be an angel. Nicole thinks this is bunk:
Why didn’t He just make one? I mean, He’s God after all. Why didn’t He just make another angel?”
Look, I’ve been through six miscarriages. I’ve held my tiny baby of 17 weeks gestation in my arms. Like those who can see thestrals in Harry Potter, I’m a member of that unfortunate club that has known death. So I’ve done a lot of soul-searching about what bad things mean in the universe. I’ve tried and tried to come up with an explanation. Brighter minds than mine have spent their whole lives trying to figure that out. So what did I discover?
Nothing. Not a damn thing.
Basically, shit happens. Sorry, but it does. The world is full of chaos, uncertainty and horrible things. As much as the blame-gamers want to find a cause, because then they can protect themselves against it, it just doesn’t exist. We are human and we make mistakes. Accidents happen. Obviously reasonable safety precautions should be made. But beyond that, we’re on our own.
Does this sound really, really negative? Maybe. But for me realizing this was freeing, to accept that I don’t have power over death, that no one does, maybe not even God. So I can just live every day fully and realize that each day is valuable in and of itself. Nothing is guaranteed, so I try not to take anything for granted. And while I still see danger and tragedy lurking around every corner, I’ve come to realize that I can only do my best and spend the time I have here wisely.
Strangely, this outlook has allowed me to see not only the tragic things in life for what they are (meaningless), but the good things in life for what they are (meaningful). I can appreciate the birds chirping and the flowers blooming and the wind blowing while I sit outside and watch my son play. Things that seemed mundane and ordinary are special. Tradition and family and love — these are the things I’m trying to focus on now, not all the negative stuff. We simply don’t have the time on this planet to do that.
I’ve stopped trying to figure it out. I’ve stopped trying to find blame. It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting there.
What do you think about placing blame when tragedy occurs? How do you find meaning in the universe when bad things happen?
I was sitting in the dark on the floor next to the door to my son’s room, ready to make my escape as soon as he fell asleep. The light from my phone was the only illumination in the room, and as I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook I noticed that some people were posting about Paris. What had happened? I quickly switched to a news site and was shocked to see that the city had been attacked in several different incidents. My gasp was audible, and I worried LM would wake up.
“What kind of a world is this?” one friend posted. That simple sentence summed up my initial response. Even after witnessing with my own eyes the horror of 9/11, I was still surprised that such evil could happen in the world. I looked over at my sleeping, innocent child. What kind of world would he grow up in?
As my shock subsided, I realized that the world he would grow up in is the same as it’s always been — filled as much with bad things as with good.
It’s tempting to let our emotional response to the horror of that night in Paris take over. I’m a super worrier, so you’d think I’d be the first one to let my fear run my life, and my son’s. But let’s look at the bigger picture.
Statistically, the world is much safer now than in years past. Whenever I see moms worried about predators ready to snatch their kids up, saying things like, “Such a sad world we live in,” I remember that child abduction is actually very rare. And, despite our nostalgia for the seemingly innocent world of our own childhood, there were more kidnappings a generation ago than there are now.
Let’s expand that line of thinking. Our own parents had to deal with the threat of nuclear war, as well as the war in Vietnam. Our grandparents had to deal with the threat of Nazi Germany and the holocaust. War, terrorism, fighting over land and religion — these are nothing new. As a history major, I remember the atrocities that were committed hundreds of years ago. Would I have wanted to live in the Middle Ages? Um, no.
Putting things in that perspective, we can realize what a comparatively safe, privileged world we live in. Our daily life is generally worry-free, and the biggest complaints we have are about coffee cups and how to appropriately celebrate Christmas.
Even the Christmas debacle, though, is evidence of an underlying fear that everything we hold dear as Americans is under attack by foreigners and immigrants. But again, this is an emotional response. We are looking for scapegoats for the growing sense of uncertainty in our world. We are letting our fear take over.
Isn’t that what the terrorists want? Isn’t this the most they can accomplish?
I am not immune to the fear. I am worried about going into Manhattan this weekend to celebrate my birthday. What if the restaurant I’m going to is the target of a terrorist attack? And should I cross Paris off the list of places to travel to next year for my tenth anniversary? It’s enough to make me want to hole up in my house and never leave.
But as I pull back again from that sense of insecurity, I know I shouldn’t change my plans out of fear. As one of my favorite travel experts, Rick Steves, points out, “There’s a difference between fear and risk.” (He responds further in this followup post.)
Worrying about travel plans, though, is also evidence of my first-world privilege. While we are shocked by an event that rocked our western world, people in other parts of the globe deal with such terror on a daily basis. We don’t think about them, maybe because of our feeling that that’s just what happens there. An attack on a city that we identify with, one we would normally consider safe, is a different story.
So what does any of this have to do with parenting? Nothing directly, if you have a toddler. Fortunately my two-year-old doesn’t have a clue what’s going on, and I don’t have to figure out how to appropriately discuss it with him. But indirectly, my attitudes about the world will rub off on his. My beliefs about foreign people, war, fear and guns will all affect my son’s as he grows up. My worldview will become his.
It’s another reason to try to rise above, to try and think intelligently and not be ruled by fear or complacency. Who I am will affect who he is. And that might be the scariest thing of all.
How will your response to the Paris attacks affect your parenting?
I looked around at the other moms’ kids, sitting quietly and eating their lunch. My child, on the other hand, was running up and down the little hill next to the picnic tables, all reckless abandon. He darted near the parking lot, near the road, before taking a header next to a pile of deer poop. At least he didn’t faceplant into it. Exhausted from chasing him around, I caught my breath as he struggled to his feet. Then he was off again.
Welcome to the life of a mom of a runner, I thought.
LM has become increasingly difficult to handle in recent weeks. I love his spirit, I really do, but it’s flat out exhausting. His boundless energy for running, running, climbing, then more running, is wearing me down. This is why people have children in their twenties. I’m too old for this sh*t.
One of my main concerns with dropping him off at school was that he would make a beeline for the door when it opened and run straight into the road. The teachers assured me that they have a system for moving from classroom to classroom, and that him running away wouldn’t happen. I’m still nervous.
I wondered if his enthusiasm for taking off was just normal toddler behavior. After talking to other parents, I don’t think it’s abnormal, exactly — but I know not all kids are like this. After witnessing LM’s antics, a friend who has two older girls and recently had a baby boy asked, “Is this what I’m in for? My girls were never like this!” So I know it’s not just me not being able to handle it. LM is a legit handful. Not to gender stereotype, but maybe it’s a boy thing.
Last weekend we went to a pig roast at our friends’ family’s house. They own a pond store, and while it’s beautifully landscaped, the property is pretty much the opposite of baby-proofed. Ponds to fall into are everywhere. Rocks on which to crack your skull open abound. Lit fire pits beckoned LM to get closer. And a whole pig roasted on top of an open flame. Perfect place for a toddler! We spent the afternoon not more than two feet from him as he darted down pathways and climbed up stone steps. After dark it was even more fun to chase him through the shadows. Although it was a fun afternoon, Foggy Daddy and I were both wiped out when we got home.
So tell me, fellow moms of runners, what do you do to keep your wild and crazy children safe? I am seriously considering a harness, detractors be damned. LM doesn’t want to hold my hand, and to be honest it’s hard for me too, because I have to do everything else with one hand. If I let go for a second, he’ll be off. And he’s fast! I think a harness would give him the illusion of freedom, but let me stop him if he tries to make a break for it. But do I really want to do deal with all the judgmental looks I’ll be sure to get? I know I shouldn’t care — my son’s safety is more important.
I don’t want to be a helicopter mom. I really don’t. But when your kid just doesn’t listen to you, and thinks it’s funny to do things that are dangerous, what are you supposed to do? I feel like I’m that mom who can’t control her kid. And the combo of having a runner and being a super worrier mom is not doing much to help my anxiety.
Sometimes I wish I had a more sedate child. But then I realize that I have to curb that way of thinking. I can’t wish for LM to be anything other than who he is. I want him to own his own identity and personality. I want him to be confident and fun. I want him to be spirited and bold and strong-willed and a force of nature.
I just want him to slow the f*ck down.
Moms of runners, how do you handle it? I need advice!
Just like everyone else in America (and probably the world), I’ll never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. I was living in Hoboken, NJ, across the Hudson from New York City, and working my first job at a small publishing company on the banks of the river just north in Edgewater. I didn’t have to be there until 10 am, so when I woke up the first plane had already hit the World Trade Center. I heard about it when I turned on my radio to listen to Z100’s morning show as usual, but then I swiftly switched on the TV. My first impression was that it looked so small it must have been a tiny plane whose pilot didn’t know what he was doing. I got in the shower. When I emerged there was more news. A second plane had hit.
I didn’t really know how to process what was happening. Should I go to work? Unsure of what action to take, I quickly got dressed and left my apartment. The day was beautiful and brightly sunny, but the streets seemed deserted except for a lone UPS guy. I passed him feeling like I should say something, but what? “Hey, do you know what’s going on across the river?”
I felt like I needed to be with people, so I got in my car and drove up the Hudson to work. I could see the smoke rising from the city. As I listened to the radio I found out that another plane had hit the Pentagon. I started to feel like it might be the end of the world. I drove faster, needing to be reassured by human contact.
When I got to work I found my colleagues sitting on the rocks on the banks of the river, staring at the smoke’s plumes. We could see that the first tower had already collapsed, although I scarcely could believe my own eyes. I went inside to see my boss, and someone yelled that the other had come down as well. When I went back outside there was nothing left, just a huge cloud of smoke.
We stared at each other, dumbfounded. Our company was closing, my boss said, and we could go home. I didn’t want to leave everyone. I felt helpless and alone as I got back in my car. But I couldn’t get home anyway, because the road to Hoboken had been shut down. I called everyone I could think of — my parents, my sister, my friends, to see where they were. I was extremely worried about my friends who worked in the city. Unable to reach anybody or to make any headway in my car, I parked and planned to walk the five or so miles back to Hoboken. Then my phone rang. It was my sister, who told me she thought I should try to get to our parents’ house in the New Jersey suburbs. I got back in my car, only to find the Turnpike and most other major roads closed. I finally ended up on Route 46, which was nearly deserted, and made my way to my childhood home.
Once there, I was alone once again with only the scary news reports on the T.V. to keep me company. Finally my mother came home, and I felt safer. I was not able to reach any of my friends until that evening. One of them, who worked in midtown, had walked home over the George Washington Bridge. One who worked at another of the World Financial Center buildings felt the vibrations from the planes hitting, and luckily was able to leave on a ferry to Hoboken before the towers collapsed. I had a few acquaintances who worked in the towers themselves, but they were all safe: One had been downstairs getting coffee, one had been late to work, another had exited the building when they told him to stay put (if he had followed the rules, he’d probably be dead). My friends all got together for a mournful “glad we’re still alive” night of drinking that I unhappily missed, although I was grateful to be with my family.
When I finally was able to get back to Hoboken the next day the smoke was still rising. Even across the river, you could smell the burning. Little pieces of paper and ash floated in the air. Flyers for the missing were posted all over town. People gathered outside, talking about where they were and what their story of the day was. My roommate and I attended a candlelight vigil at Frank Sinatra Park, which overlooked the former site of the WTC. It all felt a bit surreal to me; I was somewhat removed from it, having not been in the city that day and not having anyone I knew perish. I was lucky.
Everyone says it feels like yesterday. And it does; although at the same time it’s hard to imagine the world before it. I believe our sense of fundamental security about life was shattered that day. Anyone, anywhere, anytime could do something horrific. We realized life was not a given — which it never was anyway, so maybe the sense of security we had was a false one. But now we are watchful, we are on alert, we look for possible suspicious packages and people everywhere. This is the definition of “terror.”
Although I was not a mom before 9/11, I do believe that day changed not only our collective social psyche, but the way we parent. People talk about “the world today” as if it’s a much scarier place than a generation ago, when in reality it’s statistically safer. Maybe part of what’s behind helicopter parenting is a drive to keep our kids safe in a world that we now realize is out of our control.
I’m not sure what the answer to this is. Being a super worrier doesn’t help matters; although I try to remember the feelings of my childhood — of safety and warmth and fun — and impart those to my son instead. No, the world is not “safe.” But it never really was. All we can do is enjoy each day that is given to us, and hope for more to come.
How has September 11 affected you as a person and as a parent?
Here I am, mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed when I see that someone has linked to some tragedy about a child, or about a mom, something so horrible I can’t even handle the headline. Don’t open it, I think to myself. But if I don’t click on it, I can’t stop wondering about it. My imagination comes up with a plot that may be even worse than what actually happened. So I go back and click on it. Like a train wreck that I can’t look away from, I read the whole thing. The story jolts me to my core, and it takes a day or two to get it out of my system. But just as soon as I’m feeling better about the world, someone posts another one.
I’m not going to link to any of these stories here, or even mention what they were about. No doubt if you’re a parent you’ve already read them, too. But there are two things I don’t understand about this phenomenon: Why people post these stories, and why I insist on reading them.
I think people post them for a couple of reasons. Once you read the story, it festers in your brain. You can’t stop thinking about it. It has brought out some primal fear, some animal instinct to protect your children. And the only way to exorcise this demon that has crept into your mind is to blurt it out to someone else. Once it’s out there, once you’ve spoken it, you’ve passed along the horror and the worry to someone else. They take up the banner of concern and march with it until they pass it off to someone else in turn.
Sometimes the story is just a link or a “like” (even though I’m assuming the poster doesn’t actually like it, in the actual sense of the word). Sometimes they write a preamble: “I can’t stop thinking about this story. That poor family. I can’t imagine what it’s like to endure such a horrible tragedy.” Sometimes they, out of respect for others, post the link in the comments so not everyone has to see it. But I challenge you to read a post that says “tragic story in comments” and not click on it. You just have to know what it is.
People also post these stories as cautionary tales. Did you know that xyz could harm your child? Well, it could, because here’s one who died from it! Chances are, I have probably heard of the caution before, because I am one of those super worriers who knows and sees the dangers in everything. Maybe if I wasn’t, I’d be thanking the person who posted the link to the tragic story; but actually, moms who don’t worry probably wouldn’t take the story to heart anyway, because it was something so rare that it couldn’t happen again, right?
Sometimes, as unlikely as it may seem, someone in one of my mom FB groups actually knows the tragic family in question. This brings it home for me – it wasn’t just some random person, it was someone who knew someone I know (on FB anyway). In the case of one tragic story last year, I actually knew the person myself. Not well – it was someone I went to high school with – but still, I knew him. Having such a connection makes it seem as if these tragedies are less rare, because they can strike close to home – or strike your home itself.
OK, but if I don’t know the person, why do I insist on reading these stories? What need do they satisfy? Is it like watching a horror movie, where your fears can be explored and subconsciously dealt with while remaining safely on your couch? Maybe. But if anyone should be avoiding these stories, it’s me. There is too much in my past, too many lost babies, for this not to rattle me. Because I went through so much to have LM, I feel his vulnerability so deeply. I see the fragility of his life. I already know these things and I do not have to be reminded of them by a news story about an unlikely tragedy.
My fingers itch to type the stories here, so my readers can share in my misery. If others know about them, I’ve gotten them off my chest and can free them from my mind. I so badly want to write about them. They stick in my mind otherwise. I need to release them.
But for your sake, reader, I won’t.
I’m not sure what bothers me more, the stories about dead children or about dead moms. I think the children. But the moms get me too – what would happen to LM if I was gone? I can’t think about those kids crying for their mother. How awful.
Stop thinking about it.
And to the news media, why must you insist on reporting these stories? They really have no bearing on my life. But I think news reporters know that people can’t resist a tragedy. They eat it up like candy. There is something deep and dark inside people that enjoys reading them. Because they’re happening to someone else.
But for those of us who’ve actually gone through tragedy, a carefree scroll through Facebook can sucker-punch us, instantly taking us back to that mental place of misery we’ve known personally. So for our sake, people, please stop posting them. I just don’t want to see it.
Do you get annoyed at people posting tragic stories on Facebook?
On Sunday I took LM for a makeup swim class, and FD (Foggy Daddy) came along. Since LM hates the water and had been screaming in my ear for half and hour, I was pretty stressed out by the time the class was over. I decided to take advantage of having help, so I changed LM out of his swimsuit and then gave him to FD so I could change in peace.
Swim class is at a local college in an older building that is not exactly kid or stroller friendly. I was expecting FD to wait with LM at the bottom of the stairs so we could carry the stroller up together, but as I emerged from the locker room and looked around I saw no sign of them. I waited a few minutes, then took out my cell phone and called FD. No answer.
You might be thinking that this was the possible tragedy – not being able to find my son. It wasn’t.
I went up the steps – hard, concrete steps – turned at the landing and went up again. At the top there is a metal railing all the way across the opening for the large staircase – one bar across with only one other horizontal bar underneath. Plenty of room for a little person to run practically right off the edge down a 12-foot drop to concrete.
Near the steps – I’d say about 10 feet away, but FD says 15-20 – is a lounge area. This is where I found FD and LM, who was not in his stroller but instead was running around. When I realized he was loose I grabbed his arm and publicly called out FD for what I saw as a major lapse in judgment. “He could have run right off the edge!” I yelled. “I was watching him,” FD said. “That’s why I didn’t answer my phone.”
Suddenly, the tragedy that didn’t happened fully formed in my mind. In a horrible irony, FD would have looked down at his phone to see who was calling – me. And in that split second, LM would take off. FD wouldn’t be able to catch him, and he’d run right off the edge. Standing below, I would turn to see him falling, falling to his death. I’d scream, onlookers would gasp. “Call an ambulance!” I would yell, but it would be too late. Instead of spending the rest of the day purchasing baby proofing products and an Easter outfit at Buy Buy Baby and Target (which is what really happened), I would be sedated and hospitalized. Returning home, I’d see the last remnants of our family life: toys strewn about, a half-eaten yogurt on the table that someone forgot to put away, pot tops on the kitchen floor where LM was playing with them.
This scene played in my head throughout the day until I let it all out on FD later that evening. He defended his parenting, but I was positive he had put our son’s life at risk. FD is only human after all, so why, I asked, would he have gotten himself into that situation? Why not wait at the bottom of the stairs, instead of the top? It turns out that he had taken LM to watch a basketball game that was going on upstairs, and had come out to see if I was ready.
The incident highlighted for me the difference in our parenting styles. He is laid-back; I am, well, not. I am a super worrier, in part because of my personality and in part because of some sort of post-traumatic stress from my losses. I am terrified that I will lose LM, too. No child is replaceable, but LM is literally irreplaceable. I’m not physically able to just have another baby.
So I see danger everywhere. In some ways I think this is a good thing – I do as much as I can to prevent the worst from happening. I am fully up-to-date on car seat safety. When LM was little, I knew all the SIDS risk (no bumpers for us, thank you very much!). Upon entering a new environment, my eyes do a sweep over the place to identify and neutralize any potential hazards. My situational awareness definitely doesn’t suck (movie reference, anyone? A Perfect Getaway).
But at what point does it become overkill? At what point does it cross over from life-saving precaution to life-altering anxiety? I am cognizant of it, which is the first step, right? I still don’t think it was a good idea to play near that dangerous drop. But the worst didn’t happen, so I should have stopped imagining that it did. I need to just let it go. FD now knows how I feel. Hopefully in the future he will be more aware of my risk-averse nature and not take any chances – and even if he doesn’t think something is taking a chance, if he think I’d think it was taking a chance, I’m hoping he won’t do it.
After all, the world isn’t baby-proofed.
Does your imagination run wild when confronting dangerous situations for your child, too? Tell me about it!
OK, so much has been said about Nationwide’s “dead kid” Superbowl ad, in which a kid recounts all the things he’ll never get to do – because he died in a household accident. The controversial ad was meant to stir up conversation and make people think about kid-proofing their home. Mission accomplished.
But for those of us who’ve suffered the trauma of losing a pregnancy or child, I’d argue that this ad was in extremely poor taste. Since holding my miscarried baby in my arms, the death of little ones is too often at the forefront of my mind. Everywhere I go I see danger. Sometimes I even get a touch of agoraphobia and feel safe only inside my home. Maybe, I think, we shouldn’t ever leave…
And then I think about the TV falling, or the bookcase. I think about electrical outlets and dangling cords and loose wires. I think about the bathtub and the toilet and the stairs and the million other ways my child could die in my own home, even though I’ve done what I can to protect against it.
I wish I could be one of those moms who say, “Whatever, our parents didn’t worry about all this stuff when we were young and we all turned out fine.” My response to that is usually, “Uh yeah, except for those of us that didn’t.” But then again, I’m a super worrier.
I do long for those days when we didn’t worry so much – but the problem with those days is that there were more deaths from preventable accidents than there are now. So I suppose I should be glad we live in a world where we try to be super-vigilant about danger. But I’m already hyper-sensitive to it – I don’t need a Superbowl ad to remind me.
As soon as it aired, I caught my breath as if I’d been sucker-punched. All of a sudden I was back in that hospital room with Samantha, holding her tiny body. Then I was back to the present, with an overwhelming sense of panic that something would happen to LM.
I literally had nightmares that night – children being murdered, blood splattering everywhere. I woke up completely freaked out about what my warped mind had come up with, but I know that it was a reaction to that damn ad.
Losing your child is every parent’s worst nightmare. LM is all I have. Not that one child can ever replace another, but I don’t have the ability to easily have another. Having him was a hard-won battle for me. It makes the idea of losing him all the worse – especially if it were my fault because I didn’t anchor the TV to the wall.
My husband says he tries not to think about it. But I can’t help it. I feel like no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try to guard against something happening to him, one day he’s going to go off into the world and I won’t be there to protect him.
In the meantime I guess I’ll be getting some furniture tethers.
Did you hate that Nationwide ad, or did you think it was a good reminder about child safety? Are you hyper-sensitive to danger, too?
**Vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs so I can be listed on their blog directory – just click the badge on the right (it will take you to the site, automatically registering that you came from Foggy Mommy). Thanks!**
While talking to my mom about LM the other night, I got some advice from her.
“You better accept him for who he is,” she said. “Otherwise you will cause some real psychological damage.”
Ouch. Thanks, Mom. But at least she told it like it is. Because while I like to think I will accept whoever LM turns out to be – whether he’s gay or straight, into music or sports, good at math or English – I know she has a point.
I constantly worry about my son. I’m a super-worrier, and sometimes I take my concern to the next level, a level that’s not healthy for him or for me. I’m just always worried there is something “wrong” with him.
My fears have some basis in reality. While I was pregnant I had a couple scares that there was, in fact, something wrong with him. Some wonky bloodwork upped his chance of having Down syndrome (further testing showed he didn’t). At one point an ultrasound measurement had my MFM (high-risk OB) concerned that his femur bone was too short. I thought I might have a dwarf, but he was perfectly fine.
However, I’m still worried about how short he is now at 14 months. He has been on his own growth curve, in the range of 10-25th percentile for height. It’s not like there aren’t kids shorter than he is. But what if he ends up as short as, say, Danny Devito?
LM has always been small, only weighing 5 pounds 10 ounces at birth. At his most recent doctor’s appointment he had even lost weight; if he hasn’t regained it by our next appointment, I’ll probably have to see a specialist. So I’m worried he’s not growing properly – and not just on the outside but developmentally as well. Other kids younger than him are already walking.
Next worry: Maybe his walking problem, if there is one, is actually caused by his weird feet. His doctor has been concerned that they’re really short and puffy on top. She wants to wait and see what happens with them. But what if that’s the reason he can’t walk yet?
He also isn’t talking. He says hi but that’s it. What if he has a neurological condition? Or what if he’s just not smart?
And then there’s the fear of autism. LM has a tendency to sit and stare into space when we are out in public. At home he’s all over the place, laughing and smiling and interacting with us. But I take him to baby gym class and he just sits there while the other babies crawl and climb around. I think this probably means that he’s just shy, that he’s overwhelmed and intimidated in a loud, busy environment. But what if it’s something else?
Relax, you say. He’s very social with people he knows. So what if he is just shy? Well, I was a very shy kid (and actually am a pretty shy adult) and it’s not easy being that way. Of course I’d wish him to be confident and outgoing.
As I run through the list of these worries in my head, they seem perfectly reasonable. But say them out loud, and I get the above response from my mom. Being worried that he will have some physical or psychological condition that might make his life more difficult is one thing; but I realize I am worrying about other things as well. Maybe he won’t be smart, or outgoing, or tall. Maybe he won’t “fit in.” Does that mean I will be disappointed?
I don’t want to be a tiger mom. But I might be headed in that direction if I don’t check myself and stop comparing him to other babies. Soon enough, he will be able to pick up on my vibes and fully understand the words I’m saying. I have to lighten the pressure I put on him, and on myself. I need to love him for whoever he is, and that doesn’t just mean whether he’s good at music or sports. I have to love him for all his quirks, for the things he may not be good at, for the issues he might encounter, for the struggles I may have to help him get through.
What are your expectations for your children? Would you accept them even if they didn’t live up to your ideals?