Today, while walking cookies over to a neighbor to thank him for shoveling our walk, I slipped and fell. My arms were full of my purse, books for the library, cookies, and my baby. I thought I could carry everything. I couldn’t. When I fell, everything in my arms tumbled and I gripped my daughter tightly, even as I watched her small head slam against the drain pipe and back into the safety of my chest.
I couldn’t speak. I think I was whimpering, Ellis was sobbing. My neighbor kneeled over both of us and said the kindest thing anyone could say in that moment, “She’s not bleeding. She’ll be okay.”
By the time we made it back into the house, Ellis was happily munching some Cheerios and we headed off to the Library. I thought everything was okay, until I held her up to the fish tank to say “hi” to her pals the goldfish, and saw the giant bump and the small trickle of blood. Right there, in the lobby of the library, I started sobbing. When I calmed down, I called the doctor.
It’s important to know that she is fine. Her little bump went down. Her spirits were lifted by Cheerios and music and the doctor says there is nothing to worry about. “At some point,” she reassured me, “you’re going to drop one of your kids and then you send the other one to college.”
“Just one?” My sister-in-law laughed when I told her the story. “Oh man, this week, just one of my kids banged his head twice. They both have chipped teeth. I say, if you get to 6 months without letting your kid drop a few feet, you should get a gold medal.”
The truth, of course, doesn’t settle the sick feeling I still have in my stomach. I let my baby fall.
I know this happens. Parents fail. Children fall. Bumps and bruises happen. As a kid, I fell out of more trees and off more roofs than I feel comfortable admitting too. Then, falling was an adventure, falling didn’t stop me from trying again.
But these days, everything feels like my arms are full of precious cargo and I’m skating across ice. Slipping and falling isn’t just a fear, it’s an unavoidable scenario. And I’m not a pessimist, I’m just a realist. I often feel like I am living in the space between catastrophes. Biding my time before the phone call comes to tell me about the car crash, the cancer, the personal crisis.
I forced myself to learn how to stop living a life of fear. I wanted to do that before I would have kids. I remember telling Dave, “If I can’t get a hold of this, I don’t want to parent. I don’t want to make someone else live that kind of life.” And for the most part, I’m okay. I can get through most days without seeing the horsemen of the apocalypse around every corner. But there are moments. Small moments. Moments when there is a penny in Ellis’ mouth, when there is a lump on her head, when the car in front of me fishtails. In those moments, fear chokes me and I have to put my hand on my heart and remind that scared little girl, the one inside and the one in my arms, that while falling is inevitable, so is flying.