My child fell off the monkey bars and other parents called me out for not standing right next to next to him when it happened. I had the same thoughts about myself.
Where was I? I was sitting on the bench. My husband was chasing our toddler twins and our oldest child was happily playing nearby.
Our almost 5 year old son, the one who fell, had been working on the monkey bars for a while that day. Many times my husband and I held his body as he reached one hand before the other. Eventually he shunned us away-confident in his ability to do it alone.
Moments before he fell, he came over to me, proudly pronouncing that he had conquered the Monkey Bars, all by himself. It was a wonderful moment.
The entire day had been wonderful actually.
Then he fell. I didn’t see the exact moment he fell. Another parent caught my attention. But I knew the moment I saw him that he hit hard. As I ran over to him, his little arm was limp and he was shaking.
Some parents stared me down and I felt their eyes go through me . My husband gathered up our other children and we got out of there quickly. Daggers in my back all the way to the car.
I felt guilty. Deserving of the judgement. Why didn’t I hold him-what if we hadn’t gone to the park-what if this and what if that.
At the ER we found out the source of his pain, a broken elbow. Common but also complicated.
Guilt. Tears. All the feels. The self-blame and judgement came rushing up again.
But my stay strong mama instinct pushed through. I felt it rise up as I clinched my fists and chewed my cheeks.
With a lump in my throat, I chose to comfort my child harder than ever. He needed me and I really needed to get myself together and be there for him.
I came to terms-rather quickly-that this was not my fault. Not mine, not my husbands. We said Bye Felicia to the judgement.
Because, we were there at the time he fell-encouraging his independence and cheering on his accomplishments -though not holding him or catching him the moment he fell-we were there.
And you know what?
Things happen. Accidents happen. One moment everything was wonderful and the next we were in the hospital talking about surgical options and pins. Life is fickle.
There is no changing things. No taking back the moment.
So, away went the guilt. Away went the what ifs and away went the self-doubt inside-my-head-talk. Away went the self-indulgent thoughts about future vacations and events this would totally mess up.
Later that week, in the orthopedic waiting room, we met three other children with the exact same injury as my son. One was hurt on a trampoline, one a dirt bike and one just fell wrong off a sofa.
It was a little tribe of us moms and kids. Happy to see each other and share our stories and fears without the judgement. Our kids were almost prideful in sharing their injury stories.
My son is a brave boy. I’m a strong mom. My husband, he is a strong father and together-we’ve got this.
Yes, I felt the judgement. I judged myself and I then I threw it all out the window. My tenacity wins again, my motherly instinct -it’s there and I’m stronger-we are a stronger family because of it.
And my little one-he’s going to be just fine. We all will.