In an Instant

The moment it happened is frozen in my mind.

The loud school bell ringing out the morning call to class — big kids running across the blacktop, trying to get to class before the teacher closes the door.

Moms chatting and laughing, making coffee dates and lamenting the pile of laundry waiting for them at home.

My little girl by my side, watching her big brother head off to school — a place she still wouldn’t attend for two more years. She in her 3-year-old exuberance was smiling and laughing.

And then, the crash.

Big, third-grade boy — late to class — didn’t see my tiny wisp of a girl and plowed into her as he ran. She didn’t see it coming, couldn’t even put her hands out to catch her fall.

I will never forget the sound I heard as her tiny head hit the blacktop. An eerie calm took over me, and everything seemed to happen in slow-motion. I sat down and took her tiny body in my arms, and for just a brief bit of time she was out cold. My baby, my girl — who had just moments before been smiling and laughing — was just not there.

And then, the tears. She was back, with quiet sobbing tears, in a voice that I didn’t quite recognize.  Low, moaning sounds punctuated with tears.

It scared me.

And yet, I still felt that eerie feeling of calm. I needed to get her home, needed to call the doctor. Why I didn’t think she needed an ambulance, I will never know. I just felt like I could do this, I could take care of my girl and she would be fine.

When I got her home and called the advice nurse, her message was clear.

Call 911. Now.

My husband held her, listening to the low, moaning sobs and trying to keep her awake.

When the paramedics came, her tiny body seemed so much more fragile than it had just an hour earlier. As they loaded her on the gurney into the ambulance, I remembered — she needed Bunny. The bunny she had slept with since her first birthday… the bunny that was supposed to protect her from these very dangers.

I bolted into the house to retrieve Bunny, then climbed into the ambulance with my girl. As we sped to Children’s Hospital, her eyes were closing. I kept telling her to stay awake.

What the paramedic said to me was haunting. “It’s not a problem if she goes to sleep. The problem will be if we can’t wake her up.” With those words, the seriousness of the situation hit me in the gut.

Walking the halls of Children’s Hospital, waiting for the CT scan to be completed, I saw them around every corner. Worried mothers with little children, playing with the doctor’s office stash of toys like everything was normal.

But these children I saw were very sick — some bandaged, some hooked up to tubes and dragging IV carts behind them. These mothers worried each and every day that their child would not be OK tomorrow.

It was an eye-opening experience, to see these women and fathers and grandparents, waiting in small rooms with obviously sick children, yet exuding calm and hope and continuing to parent, even when their child’s future was unclear.

My daughter was fine a — mild concussion and some badly-damaged glasses were her only remaining wounds as we left the hospital. Life would return to normal, or at least our version of it.

But those other mothers, those whose every waking second is spent cherishing the mundane, the usual, the ordinary — they showed me the other side of the mothering door. Where spilled milk at breakfast isn’t a bother. Where laughing and being silly is cherished because it’s rare. A mothering world where a mother just sees every day as a miracle, worries herself to sleep each night, then gets back up to do it again the very next day.

If we needed to, any one of us would fight for our child’s life and be strong in the face of tragedy.

It’s what we do.

But once you’ve seen the other side, no matter how briefly — you never want to go there.

 

 This piece originally ran on Moonfrye

 

Baby Love

I want a baby.

Not a third baby — and no, I don’t want your baby (nice try, though).

I want my baby back. The boy or the girl, it doesn’t really matter at this point. Maybe both of them.

Just not at the same time.

For the past few months I have been going through this horrible, embarrassing midlife “thing” where I love babies. LOVE them. And because the stars are aligned or life is really cruel my Facebook and Instagram feeds seem to be overflowing with wee little ones who are sleeping, learning to walk, just born or maybe celebrating a first birthday. Chubby little thighs, the tiniest of fingers and a smattering of fine, wispy hair. The bright blue-eyed babes are especially yummy, as both of mine sport different shades of blue, even into their teen years.

These babies in my stream? Clean slates, all of them. Asking nothing more from you than to hold them, feed them and love them unconditionally. What is simpler and more life-affirming than a brand new baby? It’s a fresh start, a reminder that life goes on. A reason to love yourself a wee bit more than you did. Babies don’t hold grudges, roll their eyes when you ask a favor or leave their socks on the floor. They take a lot of care, but what they give back you can’t get anywhere else. Joy, happiness, that look of I-love-you-so-very-much that you can only get from a little one without a curfew, a driver’s license or a list of chores to complete.

I find myself willing my soul back in time, grabbing frantically for what was once my daily life with babies and trying to remember. To remember how it felt to snuggle a sleepy one right up next to my neck in the early-morning hours when the rest of the house slept. To remember what it felt like to bathe that tiny first baby, so afraid he would slip from my hands and be hurt, or scared.

To remember hearing, “It’s a boy!” and “It’s a girl!” and both times feeling that somehow I already knew who they were, that I could feel their presence in my daily life since those little lines appeared on the pregnancy tests. To remember when they started to dance, to sing and to play pretend — and all of it without any feelings of self-consciousness or anxiety. To remember what it felt like to rock in the kitchen with a baby girl on my hip and feel her heartbeat through my hand on her tiny back. To soothe tears, protect, console, teach, or just to be in the moment.

But I can’t remember.

You’re making memories!” people loved to say to me during those late afternoon grocery store runs or endless hours spent pushing a swing robotically at the park. I probably say that now, to my much-younger friends who are just starting their little families. And somewhere, deep inside they get it. They know too, that while their time feels long and routine and boring it will all end faster than they can imagine.

But memories! “You will have all the memories!” they shout. But the memories you make aren’t all solidly defined or outlined as time goes by. Some memories have jagged edges, some are raw and painful and many of your memories won’t match up with how your kids remember them (which is a shock). But then there are moments that stand alone as if a searchlight shines on them, so vivid and defined that you can relive them at any time.

Just rewind.

But other memories? The day-to-day routine, the bath times and the bedtimes, endless renditions of Hop on Pop or Brown Bear, Brown Bear and the countless boxes of mac and cheese I made, scraping the bottom for a few scraps of my own. The “firsts” and the “lasts” for each baby, from taking tentative first steps to losing a first tooth to starting high school.

To graduation, and beyond.

They blur together — like a fog that I can’t see through just yet. I comb through boxes of printed photos (yes, my little ones were pre-digital) that span an entire childhood and I can “see” it all. It happened, it was real and we all lived to tell about it. There were camping trips and amusement parks, birthdays and sleepovers, friends, family, beloved pets and favorite toys. I didn’t have a blog or a journal when mine were small. We made videos and took pictures, so we do have lots of great memories stored in boxes down the hall.

But the blur of memory that I have of those 20 years is unsettling to me right now. I honestly thought I would remember more vividly. I worry at times that I am truly starting to lose my memory, one old and faded mental photograph at a time.

But just give me that baby. My baby, either one of them.

If only I could relive a day with my baby girl on my hip, or my baby boy laughing so hard he would lose his breath.

I promise I would remember — I really would.

I would just love to hit rewind again.

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Little Boy Lost

She just let him be a kid.

That’s what the good mothers do, especially those with little boys who need to run and get dirty and build things.

He needed to ride his bike or his skateboard, needed to build with his dad in their garage, and just needed to be a boy.

So she let him.

We buckle them into seat belts and strap on helmets, wrap sharp coffee table corners in bubble wrap, and use safety gates to prevent little guys from being hurt on too-steep staircases. We puree homemade baby food, vigilantly prevent choking hazards, and sneak into the silent darkness of the nursery at night to watch them simply breathe. We hold little hands as we carefully cross the street, practice calling 911, and use safety scissors.

That’s what the good mothers do, after all. We do everything in our power to keep them safe.

She just let him be a kid.

As I sat in my family room that night the news began to spread through our small town the way modern-day news travels…over Facebook. A comment about a horrible accident, a young boy injured, speculation about who the young boy was, exchanges between young and old trying to figure it all out, and finally the sad news that he did not survive the accident.

And then I saw the message that made my heart sink.

I knew who this boy was, knew his mother. We work together at the school and she is wonderful.

She always talked about her boys.

Now one was gone.

She just did what others mothers do every day: she just let him be a kid.

How do we do this every day, when there is no guarantee? No promise of a future, or of grandchildren on our laps, no cure for cancer, no special bubble wrap that can protect our children? We let them go each day, like small pieces of our hearts with goals and ambitions and a will all their own.

We pray and we wish and we cross our fingers that they will be OK. Throw a bit of faith or fairy dust into the wind as we shout, “Have a nice day!”

How do we do this?

I have wondered this many times over since that night in May…and since the warm evening in June when we all stood and cheered as his mother walked down the aisle amongst the 8th graders to accept her son’s diploma…and since the late afternoon in August on what would have been his 14th birthday, as I hugged his mom in the memorial garden the volunteers have created for her.

How do we do this?

I have become a bit more tolerant of the eye rolls, a bit more relaxed about the have-to-do things. A few more minutes to stay up, an extra hour to browse at the mall, another cookie, maybe a pat on the head as I walk by.

Because life reminded me that we truly don’t have unlimited time with our kids.

So I just continue to do what the good mothers do.

I just let them be kids.

 

 This post originally ran on Moonfrye

New Year’s Resolutions for Moms

The end of the year always brings with it the baggage of the past year; painful remembrances of what really didn’t go well for us. These are usually resurrected in the form of resolutions of what not to do in the coming year.

Why do we do this to ourselves year after year?

There’s just something cathartic about starting anew, getting a 47th chance to succeed, and setting ourselves up for failure achieving our goals. A new diet, exercising every day, being more patient, or getting organized usually top the list. Great ideas, at least on paper.

But most of us aim too high with those resolutions, making them so far out of reach that we’ve failed by February January 2nd around noon.

Or sooner.

So this year I’ve created a list of totally attainable resolutions for the Modern-Day Mother. Feel free to print this out and stick in on your refrigerator next to the Pizza Town magnet and that picture of your nephew in his soccer uniform.

Top Ten Resolutions for Mom

  1. I resolve not to keep each and every painting/piece of artwork/book report/macaroni collage/ceramic ashtray created by my children. Contrary to popular mom folk lore, there isn’t a special place in heaven for me if I do.
  2. I resolve to banish the word thighs from my vocabulary unless it pertains to those from a chicken that have been marinated in some wonderful sauce.
  3. I resolve to smile at each of my children at least once a day. This serves the dual purpose of making them feel loved and making them wonder what I have up my sleeve. Or what they’ve been caught at. It’s a win-win.
  4. I resolve to stop wasting my time looking all over for the missing sock. A close-enough mate is good enough.
  5. I resolve to buy myself one candy treat each time I go to the grocery store, and hide it from the kids.
  6. I resolve to stop asking silly questions like, “Why are these socks still on the floor?” or “When were you planning on telling me about the science fair?” since I don’t really care about the answer.
  7. I resolve to start being more spontaneous. I plan to start this soon after the new year begins, or whenever I can schedule it in.
  8. I resolve to bite my lip when my kids aren’t asking for advice. I may have to bite quite hard.
  9. I resolve to start referring to myself by my name, and not as “Junior’s Mom”.
  10. I resolve to delegate more chores to the kids, who are more than capable of doing them and quite possibly might do a better job than I do.

What resolutions do you have this New Year?

You Know You’re a Mom When….

I’m linking up with Arizona Mamma’s You Know You’re a Mom When-sDaze!  again today…one of my favorite blog hops, you should check it out!

You know you’re a mom when:

  • You are proud that you taught your toddler to make his own bed, but secretly sneak in later to just fix it up a bit.  Boy toddler never catches on to this; girl toddler does the first time you try.  So you stop.
  • On a quiet afternoon with nothing on the calendar, you find yourself parked at the edge of town near a herd of cows….just because you thought it might be fun for your kid to see them.  It is.
  • You can name all of the Bionicle guys, their special powers, and what their battle weapon of choice is.  But you still can’t assemble them properly.
  • When purchasing back to school clothes for your youngest kids, you feel like the most important thing is that they can do the buttons/snaps/zippers allbythemselves….because you want them to succeed in this new challenge on their own.  Because you won’t always be there.

You Know You’re a Mom When…..

I had so much fun linking up to Arizona Mamma’s  You Know You’re a Mom When-sDaze! that I decided to do it again this week!

You know you’re a mom when…..

  • You are diligent about refusing to let the kids eat raw cookie dough (Raw eggs! Salmonella for sure!  You’ll thank me later, when you aren’t sick!), yet sneak spoonful after spoonful when they are out of the kitchen.
  • You can play Name that Stain with anyone in the family, and always win.
  • Other members of your household are amazed at your superpower-like ability to locate lost items without even getting up to look for them.
  • You can sort a bin of plastic dinosaurs by the era in which they lived, not because you were a science major in college, but because your son is obsessed with all things dino.
  • You can fumble through your purse and come up with a band-aid, a quarter for a gumball, a hair scrunchie, a coupon for juice boxes, or a matchbox car when needed.
  • Your kids have adorable clothing.  You haven’t bought anything for yourself to wear that didn’t come from Target in years.
  • Some of your best memories involve crawling, spit-up, loose teeth, broken bones, ice cream sundaes, and finger paint.  Maybe all in the same day.

I’m being sneaky and also linking to Word Up, YO! hosted by Natalie (Mommy of a Monster), Kristin (Taming Insanity) and Liz (a belle, a bean and a chicago dog) .  The word of the week is fumble.

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Free Range Kids

Remember when you were a kid how liberating it felt to go out on your own?  Just you and your friends, or maybe you alone on a bike ride……leaving parents and home behind, feeling independent, grown-up, and even a little daring?  I can vividly remember that feeling, but I often wonder if my own kids will. 

The parental life vests that most of us have our kids wearing leave little room for adventure or daring.  OK, maybe the adventure that mom entered into her Blackberry as “Gymnastics 3 – 4:30” or the daring “Orthodontist 4:45”!  Remember your tutoring appointment, put on your sunscreen, charge up your cell phone, ballet starts tomorrow, soccer tryouts today, can’t you just TRY out for the school play?

I remember when I was in junior high, I was excused to WALK all the way to the orthodontist’s office and back to school.  This was probably 3 miles roundtrip!  How many things could have happened to me on the way there?  Kidnapping, sunburn, getting lost, tired feet, frizzy hair, lost retainer….the list goes on.  It would never occur to most moms I know now to let their kids go on their own to the orthodontist.  We fill the lobby, the “Ortho-Moms”, waiting patiently to hear if Billy is brushing properly and how often he needs to floss.  I was expected to either tell my mom these things, or (gasp!) simply do them myself!

When we played outside, we knew where we could go, whose house we could hang out at, and to be home by dark (or by dinner).  My younger brother would loudly shout, “Both courts and our street, bye!!” as he shot out the door, which meant that he was in the immediate neighborhood if my mom needed to yell for him.  I remember many times riding my bike home from a friend’s house during that time right after sunset, when it suddenly seems much darker than you thought it was.  I always made it home, always lived to see another adventure, and learned to take care of myself.  I even remember a friend who had a bicycle newspaper route in the very early morning hours, and I would sometimes join her.  I never had the impression that this worried my parents at all!  I would have a hard time finding someone today who would let their junior high kid do that.

I am trying to let my daughter go out and about a bit more these days, test her independence and just be a kid.  I still catch myself asking her to take a water bottle (what if she gets dehydrated?), watch for cars, and be careful – which is a blanket statement I think should cover all that I didn’t say.  She has no cell phone (gasp!), so once she’s gone it’s up to her to get home on time, make good judgments, figure things out….without a call home. 

Now I just have to find some time when I can be a Free Range Mommy….