Yesterday I experienced a near-trauma. I know there are so many mothers out there who deal with endless difficult days, whether from a terminal illness or birth defect or other unimaginable paternal ordeal – to you, I bow down at your exhausted feet and offer my love and support and a hug. What I experienced yesterday was nothing in comparison, but was still a punch to my maternal gut.
My almost six-year-old daughter and I went to one of our usual parks near home, a stop on the way home from school before dinner and bath time. She was happily playing, running down hills, scooting down slides, and climbing all sorts of ladders on the large playscape. There were four other children there, possibly all siblings, varying in age from maybe five or six to nine.
The band of them was playing some sort of complicated kid-game, where only they are privy to the rules. It involved turning the park equipment into an obstacle course, and each took a turn. The youngest was lagging behind the other three, and I could see my daughter was nervous to ask them if she could join in the group fun. At almost six, she is sometimes bold and direct, sometimes shy and quiet, hanging back and observing how others play at their fun. I always try to let her navigate these social interactions on her own, figuring it’s a part of growing up and learning to be a functional member of the world.
After some time, I employed the well-known mom clock of “two more minutes” and went back to playing a game on my phone. That’s when it happened, and, I would swear on a Bible, time slowed to a crawl. I looked up at the top of the playscape and saw her head and shoulders appear over a ledge near one of the ladders. She looked panicked, but I was sure she would right herself and go back to playing. Instead, she flopped off the edge and fell a good 10 feet to the ground in a dull thud.
In a sixteenth of a millisecond, I was sure she was dead. How could she not be? She fell so far, so fast, so suddenly. Then she moved her head, and I started to breathe again. As I was running to her side, I feared she had broken her neck, her arm, her leg, her nose, that her teeth would be falling out, and she would have a concussion. But she sat up and was fine – stunned, but fine. She cried, only a little, and held me as I fell to my knees.
The other kids were all running down and brought me her left shoe, which had stayed on the top while the rest of her tumbled down. The oldest, a boy, ran and got his mom while I debated calling an ambulance and my husband and everyone else I knew. My head was imploding and exploding and filled with thick cotton all at once.
She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine.
It was my mantra. But how? How is she seemingly fine? She fell so far and her body is so small and I am shaking like I was the one who fell. I gently move all her joints and feel her head for bumps, check for broken skin or blood. I look into her small face and her eyes lock on mine in fear. “I think you’re ok, sweetie.” I squeak it out to reassure her (and myself). I try to hide my trembling hands. The other mom seems to think everything is fine. I manage to get her up and to the car and then I lose my mind. The abject fear built up over the last five minutes seizes my body and I heave a great, heavy, guttural sob.
And sob, I do.
I drive home with one hand in the backseat holding her perfect little uninjured hand. She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. We get home and I inspect her body while she changes into her pajamas. She’s fine. I set her up on the couch under a soft blanket and wait on her hand and foot…dinner, dessert, books, pillows, stuffed animal friends, television. She’s fine. While she’s happily ensconced in eating pancakes and watching SpongeBob, I go to my bedroom, grab a pillow and scream into it, hot tears streaming down my ashen face.
Since she fell, I had been praying and the built up tension, fear, horror, and helplessness left me. She’s fine.
It was something so small, so insignificant, so slight. A story to tell her teacher and friends at school. A tiny little scary event, but it undid me. So I thank the dear Lord that she is indeed fine, and, again, fall to my knees, this time in thankfulness and supplication, that what could have been so much worse, was just a small thing.
She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. And already so much better equipped to handle life than me.