A Mom Rite of Passage

August 3rd, 2017

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I am an extremely anxious person. I spend a lot of time worrying about my daughters and the many, many ways they could hurt themselves or worse. My husband often accuses me of being remarks that I am overprotective, over-cautious, and generally panicky about silly things. So it’s ironic that the worst either of them has ever gotten hurt so far was on my watch. 

Occasionally we take an evening walk to the mailbox. In the two months we’ve lived here this has happened maybe four times. That’s because, as lovely as it sounds in theory to walk the half-mile stretch along a quiet, private dirt road, past a pond shaded with tall pines in dappled light, it’s actually one of the most stressful things we ever do.

Toddlers have minds of their own, and they do not want to ride quietly in the stroller anymore (oh those wonderful days). They want to either walk the dog, a prissy greyhound with very delicate legs and neck, which is dicey and requires a LOT of supervision, or they want to run waaaaaaaaay ahead so that the occasional car coming around the bend fast would definitely hit them. In either case, the poison ivy lining both sides of the road heightens my awareness of where they are in space at all times.

Also, while they do not want to ride in the stroller as a rule, at some point during the walk they will decide they are done and HAVE TO ride in the stroller. Which is why we bring the stroller at all. Which is why, the other night, Phoebe was climbing all over the stroller while I pushed it. Which, yeah, why was I letting her do that? Good question. 

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I pick my battles with toddlers, is my only excuse. But now that I have seen her topple the stroller over, slam head-on into the gravel, and rip her entire fingernail off, Black Swan-style, I do question my judgment. I also remember quite clearly the instructions for the fancy jog stroller, which said, “Never, ever let a kid crawl up and lean on the handle part. It WILL tip over,” That turns out to be very true.

Cut to Phoebe’s finger bleeding wildly while she screamed without oxygen as long minutes turned into hours turned into the long night. Jon carrying her thrashing up the steep dirt hill back to the house. Me huffing madly as I tried to push Eliza in the stroller with Rocky in tow. And a long evening of histrionics and bribery to take medicine and major shame and guilt on my part and yes, some ice cream, “candy” (vitamin C gummies), and Elmo.

I know this is a rite of passage for moms. I do wonder how I am going to handle it when something worse happens — a broken bone, stitches. I’ll be perfectly honest, the moment I saw the blood I felt weak and had to hand her off to my husband, the nurse.

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I remember the countless accidents when we were little. I sprained my arm falling off the jungle gym as a toddler. Punctured my finger with my mother’s sewing shears when young and fainted when I saw the blood. Accidentally put my hand through a window when I was in junior high and had to get stitches late at night at a hospital a half hour away. Broke my arm skiing. And I am not exactly a bruiser. If me, a shy bookworm, got hurt that often, I can only imagine what it’s going to be like for my fearless tomboys.

Since I’ve been a mom I have repeatedly thought of a moment in time a long time ago, a moment I had forgotten about for many years. I was a teenage counselor at this super hippie-dippie camp full of misfits and geeks in Western Massachusetts. We counselors spent a lot of our time that week getting to know each other fast and hard. And I don’t mean in any kind of hormonal way. I mean by talking. We would stay up late confiding in our deepest fears, dreams, and desires. It was a magical time in my life, that one short week.

At the end of the week, one of the other groovy teenage counselors said to me, “You know, I think you’re a lot stronger than you think.”

We were always having super angsty intense conversations; I have no idea what that one could possibly have been about. That’s the only line that stuck in my head. And it stuck because I did not believe it. I thought, this person is giving me the benefit of the doubt, erroneously. But now, I know I am going to have to get a lot tougher, and I hope my friend with the blue Mohawk was right.  

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