I just read a post by one of my favorite blogger moms, the first I ever followed, that made the past come crashing back at me.
I followed Betsy first on BabyCenter, at Babes in the Woods. It was the first blog I followed faithfully, identifying with her as my two oldest boys are around the same age as her daughters. Now I also follow her on Numbmum. This post recalls the terrible burn her daughter Ilsa suffered, from Betsy's hot tea she left unattended for just a minute. I remember when she wrote about it the first time, how I read her posts out loud to my husband Troy when she returned following Ilsa's burn. Every time, no joke, I hold a hot tea around my babies, I think of her and Ilsa, reminding myself to put it up when I leave the room.
Betsy details how guilty she felt, still feels, that she has Ilsa's scar confronting her everyday.
We all are faulty though, not ever-vigilant, often distracted. As parents your faults have never before been so disgustingly obvious. I'm in a hurry, pressing them forward faster than they would like, or I'm tired and impatient, or frustrated with other things and short with them as a result, or too busy to play, or just not actually listening when they're talking to me. Pausing and appreciating them, being with them, listening to them is difficult and I have to remind myself. Shouldn't it be so easy?
As a crawler, Seth drank Windex I left down one time. Not knowing how much had been in the bottle to begin with, he spent the day haunting the emergency rooms with Troy, his blood levels being tested routinely. He was fine, just a scare for us. (He thought it was great to play with new toys and have his Daddy to himself for the day.) It was a dose of strong guilt for me though. Why had I left it down? Where was I when he found it? Why couldn't I even remember if it had been full or not? How could I have been so negligent? Irresponsible, no good... and we were lucky.
One day at my in-laws, we were visiting for a long weekend, around a doctor's appointment Seth had in Halifax. Troy's parents were at work, I was running around with a towel in my hair after a shower, answering the phone, trying to schedule an appointment with another specialist while we were in town. It was last summer, just weeks after Max had been born, he was fussing in the living room. Troy was changing him, the boys were watching tv, I thought I would have to feed the baby soon. Troy had entertained Max long enough for me to squeeze in a shower. I put down the phone to realize I didn't know where Claire was.
But then I saw the gate open and just knew exactly where she was.
I found her in the pool, alone, her hair floating at the top, her little eyes open under the water. Her eyelashes had air bubbles on them. She was fine when I pulled her up, except then she was confused and scared by my ballistic screaming as I held her tight and close. We were both dripping wet, Troy was behind me, I passed her to him to see if she was okay, I couldn't even think what to look for. Her little blue pyjama top stuck to her, she only had on that and a diaper. Even her little toes were tanned. I remember it all, every single last detail, but don't remember it at all. I don't remember crossing the deck from the dining room to the pool. I went down the stairs instead of jumping in, why did I do that? Why was the gate open? We were neurotic about keeping it shut. Something in the back of my mind recalled that Thane had told me he had checked the temperature that morning, he wanted to go swimming. Had he told me that? I didn't remember, was I even listening? I didn't hear her fall in. Had she fallen in? Was she playing on the pool stairs and got in too far? She was scared to let go of the stairs railing yesterday when we were swimming, she didn't like how cold it was, she wouldn't get in when we wanted her to. I was shaking, felt like we had failed her. "She could have died", I kept repeating, Thane and Seth watching their crying inconsolable mother with wide eyes. I had the sudden realization there could have been a huge hole in our family. Our chaos had almost cost us our daughter.
Those of us who don't have lasting scars from our parenting failures have just been lucky not to be visibly caught in them. All of our kids wear our flaws in who they turn out to be, just as we wear those of our own parents. It's part of the gig. You try, really really hard. But sometimes you fail.