Parents often wax poetic about the light a baby brings into their lives, but rarely do you hear them mention the darkness. The immediate, gut-wrenching darkness that descends the first time you imagine your child getting hurt in any way. Nothing can prepare you for how strongly you will react to the mere possibility of this. It is both physically painful and emotionally haunting, as though Andre the Giant is kicking you in the gut, ripping out your heart and forcing you to watch Lisa Rinna get the silicone sucked out of her trout pout while Jesse James runs over you with his monster truck. Only a million times worse. Just knowing that threats lurk around every corner, and that it is impossible to protect your child from these threats every second of the day, is enough to make you want to chain your child to her bedpost until she’s collecting Social Security. And the way the Social Security Trust Fund is going, that means she will be chained up for the rest of her life. PROBLEM SOLVED.
This is why I cannot bear to watch or read the news anymore: “Toddler killed by babysitter in violent attack. More at eleven! Plus… are pomegranates killing your pets? You may be surprised by the answer.” Before becoming a parent, I would feel the appropriate pangs of sympathy (about the attack, not so much the murderous fruit) and shake my head at the senselessness of it all. Now…? The blood leaves my face and the bile fills my throat, choking me as I stammer about Andre the Giant and Jesse James’ monster truck. And all Mr. Candy can do is nod in agreement and whisper, “Don’t forget about Lisa Rinna’s lips,” before we grab hands and check in on Skye to make sure her chain is still secure.
Oh, chill. She has plenty of food and water!
Pretty much every worst-case scenario has passed through my insane, overly protective mommy brain. I worry that the old lady at Starbucks is going to spill her hot coffee on Skye. I worry that the homeless man muttering to himself at Starbucks is going to throw his hot coffee on Skye. I worry that texting-and-driving motorists are going to run red lights and hit her stroller. I worry that the stranger walking past us is going to grab her stroller. And while I am doing all of this worrying, Skye is climbing out of her stroller and about to make a break for the Mexican border because I FORGOT TO FREAKIN’ STRAP HER IN. Yes, yes, this did happen once. Probably because I was too distracted by shooing the cats away from the pomegranates.
So when I pulled up to daycare on Monday afternoon and Teacher Amanda ran to my car, a look of dread on her face, Andre’s size-24 foot went straight to my stomach. I opened the car door, my hand shaking slightly.
“Skylar just hurt herself,” Amanda frowned.
Be strong, I told myself. So, naturally, the tears sprung to my eyes. Dammit.
“What happened –”
“She fell and hit her eye on the corner of the xylophone. It’s bleeding pretty bad and, well… you may want to take her to the hospital. It just happened a few minutes ago –”
I was already running for the classroom. A thousand different thoughts went through my mind. (Yes, a thousand — I’m a terribly slow runner.) What if she damaged her eye? What if she lost an eye, like my brother did after a toy gun accident when HE was little? If only I hadn’t stopped to brush my f*cking hair and put on lip gloss. Then I would have been there earlier and this never would have happened…
Mostly, I just wanted — nay, needed — to hold my daughter.
I threw the door open and saw a teacher cradling Skye in her arms.
“Hey, you –”
Skye’s head popped up, a huge smile crossing her face as she reached out for me. They had already wiped the blood away, revealing just a tiny cut above her eye. Not nearly the bloody eye gash I had envisioned. Heck, it wouldn’t even require a cool eye patch, which was probably bittersweet for my accessory-loving daughter.
“Oh, that looks much better than it did before!” Amanda exclaimed with relief.
“She only cried for a couple seconds,” the other teacher said, as Skye grabbed my nose and laughed, completely oblivious to my wobbly knees.
“She’s a tough cookie. A lot tougher than I am,” I admitted.
“Yeah. The girls around here are tougher than the boys,” Amanda laughed.
Some things never change, I thought, reflecting on the time my husband spent an entire week on the couch because he thought his toenail was going to fall off.
The next morning, my baby’s eye was just a little swollen and red. Skye was so traumatized by the incident that she ran around the house, giggling, and proceeded to fall down and come uncomfortably close to hitting her eye again, oh, four-hundred-billion times.
Mmmm… bile. (Not to be confused with the similarly nausea-inducing Mmmm…Bop.)