But, this status doesn’t stay unchanged. Like everything else, this evolves. We don’t stop caring and we don’t stop worrying, but we do transform. We learn to let go, watch them marvel at the world in their own little ways and then come back and share the mundane things in the most incredible manner.
A very significant incident comes to mind when I talk about these distinct phases in my parenting journey thus far. It is so vivid and dramatic that I will never be able to repel it from my conscious brain. Yet, what I took away from it will last much longer, in a subconscious level of my understanding.
This incident occurred about a month after we had moved into a new place. Gy was a year and 9 months old at the time.
As any new mother will tell you, the stress of constantly watching a crawling infant or an active pre-schooler explore her surroundings is an act that can rival those tough corporate jobs any day. I went through the gamut of fear- plugging up open sockets, keeping glass objects out of reach, rounding off sharp edges, keeping her off slippery floors- and I would still worry myself about her hurting herself.
And despite all that, it happened! Three seconds. That was all it took.
It was a Saturday afternoon in April. As usual, I was out on my bedroom balcony, hanging clothes out to dry. Gy was busy playing indoors and then wandered out in search of me. One minute she was climbing up onto a bicycle and the next, she was on the ground, face down.
She let out a large howl and as I picked her up and turned her over, I was horrified. Her forehead, above her left eyebrow, near the hairline, had a wide and deep gash and it was bleeding profusely!
For the next five seconds, I froze. I literally stood there, not knowing what to do!
Then, I rushed to the next room, where my husband was working and we piled into the car and raced to the closest hospital. In the emergency room, I spent the most agonizing two hours of my life. The sedative meant to drug her didn’t work and after desperately trying to get her to sleep, we had to physically hold her down, while the surgeon stopped the bleeding and stitched up the gash.
Never in my life have I felt those ripples of pain as I did in those moments, where I had to hold her squirming little body still. She stopped crying very soon after the procedure, but clung on to me, unwilling to let go.
Every grain of guilt I could ever feel, washed over me, as I sat there, holding her.
My mind raced over all the ‘What ifs’, as I clutched my injured child.
What if I hadn’t been out on the verandah?
What if I had not left the bicycle so easily accessible?
What if I had remembered to shut the balcony door behind me?
I wept freely and in the midst of her pain, Gy reached up and wiped my tears away! She never could bear to see me cry.
And , even in the middle all the guilt, was my voice of reason and sanity, speaking calmly and reminding me to count my blessings.
It’s a good thing her eyesight was saved, as the cut was near the hairline.
It’s a good thing her dad was around, so we could get to the hospital in time.
It’s a good thing that she didn’t have a lasting emotional scar from the incident(although, for a brief while, she refused to go near a doctor without yelling in fear).
Through the fall, the recovery and the many months that followed, the one thing that rankled was my guilt. I just couldn’t shake it off for quite some time.I felt I had failed her, as a mother and as a caretaker.
In all of that, I am filled with amazement when I think of Gy. She trusted me wholly and even when she was in pain, she never associated the cause with me. In her own way, she was a constant reminder of the fact that we cannot possibly control everything.
We cannot prevent them from coming to harm.
We cannot watch over them night and day.
We cannot cover up every scar and soothe over every possible bruise.
And, you know what? It’s okay that way!
It’s okay to let go and live life.
It’s all right to stumble and pick oneself up.
It’s natural to make mistakes and learn from them.
Probably the best thing I took away from this incident and which I recall with gratitude every single day is the fact that my husband never once said to me, ‘ You could have prevented this. You should have been more careful.’
Do I still worry when she crosses the street without looking? Do I still watch the clock anxiously when she has gone out to play? Of course, I do!
But, I am learning to let go, to let her live and let her experience life in its myriad forms. I do this with the hope that, no matter where she goes and what she sees, she will still want to come back and share it with me.