Preventing what would seemingly be easily preventable.
That is one of the areas that I face the most motherhood guilt.
When Jerry was just learning to walk, he had a fascination with our stairs. They were simply too tempting for his young mind to resist. He could crawl and coast along on the furniture and even climb on the sofa. Why would the stairs have been any different?? Any discerning parenting mind can tell you exactly why stairs are different. We have an old, wide, wooden stair case. There is no carpeting. There are 15 ascending steps of rustic pine. I have actually slid down them before unintentionally. They are not very forgiving.
I was doing…whatever moms of one-year olds do. Laundry. Dishes. Maybe sitting on the couch for a few minutes while he played happily.
Then the thud. Then the squeal.
Turns out my brave boy had made his way out to the steps, attempted to climb a few unsuccessfully, (obviously) and then came crashing back down. Rob got to him first. I saw that look in his eye when he scooped up Jerry and looked at me. That piercing look that reads, “and just where were YOU?”
Before you think my husband is a jerk, let me point out vehemently that I, too, have flashed that look at him. I have even had that sentence run through my mind when listening to stories from other moms. People who read horror stories on the news are quick to think the same thing. Because human hearts are sometimes kind of wicked and almost always quick to judgement. Because that’s all that goes through a parent’s mind when their child is hurt. First the, “are they okay???” and then a quick second though, “why did this happen???”
And even though my husband knew then, and still knows now, that I would never intentionally or even unintentionally neglect any of our children, when your child is crying at the bottom of the stairs over something that was seemingly preventable, your protective instincts kick into overdrive.
The sad thing is, though, before I got close enough to read the lines all over Rob’s stressed out face, the thoughts had already crashed loudly through my head.
This was my fault.
Jerry was new to the exploration stage of toddler-hood. It was only recently that I realized he had a growing fascination with our steps. I was sure though that he would have never attempted to climb up them. Boy, was I wrong. And what a time to be wrong, right?
I instantly became defensive, quickly reminding Rob that something like this could very well happen to him one day. Which really is an awful thing to say, and something that I would never wish on him or any other parent. No parent wants a slice of humble pie in the form of a goose egg, or worse, on their child’s head to learn that no matter how much you stand guard, if you want to let your children see the world, if you want to let them learn to navigate it, they’re going to find trouble.
Unfortunately, I was right. Not because I’m all-knowing. Not because I can see the future. Only because of the sad fact is that our children will hurt themselves. They will jump through hoops to hurt themselves. They will bounce off of the couch. They will trip on shoes left out in the kitchen. They will be running away from you during hide and seek and smack their head against the dining room table. They are prone to finding ways to hurt their little bodies.
That doesn’t always reassure you when your child has a fresh bruise and tears running down their face, no. 5 years into parenting has shown me that I can live by some of the perspective that I have gained. Now when they hurt themselves, even though it wrenches my insides, I understand that these things happen. It has served to make me more diligent, but at the same time, it has caused me to go easier on myself when things like that do end up happening.
There probably is no worse feeling than feeling like you are supposed to be their protector and that you have failed them. That’s why there is wine and chocolate and prayer. That’s why it’s wonderful to know that we are forgiven. It’s great to remember that they really aren’t in my hands, they’re in their Creator’s hands. This doesn’t give us cause to kick back and let the universe handle it. It gives us grace for when things inevitably come crashing down.
I say that now, but as summer approaches, there will be mosquito bites and bee stings and skinned knees. Here is hoping that I remember that I’m not alone.
And neither are you, dear momma.