My child stood in the doorway of my bedroom with a big smile. It was 6 a.m., and he was getting dressed for school. The smile was because he thinks it’s hilarious to be naked, as all 6-year-olds do.
And, as all 6-year-olds do, he started acting goofy. With his pants around his ankles, he decided now would be the perfect time to try to dance. It only took a few seconds for him to topple over, his face narrowly missing the corner of my nightstand.
Another near-miss. He got up and resumed his dance-dress routine, smiling and saying “Phew!”
I tried to convince my heart rate to slow down.
How many near-misses must my children have? We come this-close to disaster almost daily: the 3-year-old stumbles at the top of the steps but doesn’t fall; the kindergartner toddles on the back of the couch in what he claims is practicing his gymnastics.
These incidents are such a paradox. In the blink of an eye, we go from all smiles to near death. As a parent who is watching these moments unfold, however, time seems to stand still.
It’s like the day my son, who had just turned 2, disappeared in a department store. One moment, he was by my side begging me to buy him a toy train. The next, he was gone. GONE. It took what felt like a lifetime to find him, though I suppose in reality it was about five minutes.
In those five minutes, anything could have happened. A stranger could have grabbed him, he could have tripped and split his head open, he could have wandered into the parking lot.
Fortunately, this was another near-miss for us. A fellow shopper knew what to do when I approached her in tears asking if she had seen a little blonde boy. My son was found minutes later by the doors at the front of the store, unharmed but confused as to where his mother – the source of food and trains – had gone.
These are the moments that literally take a parent’s breath away. They are the reasons we can’t sleep at night. These near-misses are frustrating reminders of our health and happiness.
Our children, of course, rarely recognize that for a few seconds during the day, we thought the world was going to stop spinning. The kids can’t see a near-miss. Bless their hearts, they don’t know a dodged bullet when it flies by their sweet little faces.
I, on the other hand, can’t stop my mind from traveling to the dark place, where the near-misses aren’t misses at all. I see myself calling 911, trying to explain to my husband why the toddler even had a choking hazard in her hand in the first place, wondering how in the world I will plan a funeral for my baby.
As parents, we know how lucky we are that the near-misses don’t materialize. We have read the stories. We have gone to the emergency room. We have felt the panic, whether it happened to us or a friend or just someone else we could relate to because we have been only a few seconds or a few inches away from being in that person’s shoes.
How these moments seem fleeting and all-encompassing at the same time is beyond me. Just like everything else in parenting, it flies by but takes forever. One moment, your baby is looking up at you for the first time, the next, he is waving good-bye from the school bus, and all the days in between seem like they will never end.
In a way, my children’s youngest years seem to be a near-miss. We verge on disaster often. My heart rate skyrockets and my stomach drops, and it’s all I can do to keep from screaming.
And somehow, we come out the other side with a smile and a “Phew!”