Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Science Times Scares the Bejesus out of Montclair Mom

The science section of the NY Times frightened me half to death this morning with this story about a 23-month-old who had choked to death on popcorn, even with her CPR trained Marine father sitting right next to her. I just started giving my children (ages 7 and 9) popcorn this year, but I might take it back now.

I am the most hypervigilant mom in the world when it comes to safety. At parties where children run wild while the adults chat around the chips and salsa, I am the only parent watching the kids. No, you cannot throw soccer balls at people's heads, and please don't all 15 of you stand in the play structure pushing. I can't help imagining a heap of little broken bodies.

Yet my children's three emergency room injuries all happened on my watch. My son broke a wrist while running down the front steps in 1st grade; the following year he tripped over a tree root in our yard and got a piece of wood lodged in his knee.

My daughter's injury was the worst of all. Our house was built in 1897, so the steam pipes are outside the walls. One early morning, when she was a toddler, very soon after I impulsively quit my job at ym (I can be an Irish hot head), I was foggily making coffee while she played behind me. In a split second I heard a scream. Her hand had gotten stuck between the pipe and the wall. I grabbed her, and ran the hand under cold water. She cried a cry I had never heard before. I saw the skin peel right off her hand. My baby now has a scar from her wrist to her thumb. And to me it is a symbol of my failed parenting.


  1. Thats crazy talk. you are not a failure. you were right there. imagine what would of happened had you not been there. On the other side of that coin, baby's have to learn some things from experience. Once, Olive went to bed with a rubberband around her wrist and when she woke up here hand was swollen and blue. I almost threw up when I saw it. ripped of the rubberband and raced to the hospital. fortunately her hand was fine. they keep ya on your toes, thats for sure!

  2. I feel horrible whenever my daughter falls or trips and skins her knees. I've been lucky (so far) to not have her sustain a huge injury, but any injury is difficult to watch. And, like you, I am super vigilant about watching the kids.

    I was at a party where all the kids were expected to be upstairs with babysitters (that I didn't know) and I was the only parent who refused. My daughter stayed with us the entire time.

  3. ohmigawd, you were not alone. my husband and i were freaking out too. additionally, i am also the kid-police mom. i wish we could tag-team it at parties, sometimes it gets lonely.

  4. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Buried under it. Hate it. Yet, I can't seem to stop myself. I'm reading your blog while I should be at my 6th grader's graduation. I left early when I became overwhelmed by the crowds and the muffia all turning out better adjusted and more lovable families than mine. These self-inflicted wounds are making me woozy.

  5. being a mom is all about the guilt, isn't it? As long as they never hate you, all will be fine.
    (but i will never forgive myself for the time my daughters stroller fell down the stairs and she bumped her head and had a black eye at only 8 months old...)

  6. Being a parent means accepting that you are profoundly vulnerable, that there is no way to perfectly protect those beings whose safety and security is more biologically important than your own. That vulnerability is so hard to bear that we find all kinds of ways to combat it: from hypervigilance to guilt (actually easier to deal with than the fear), to trying desperately to create the most perfect conditions for our children.

    I can so barely tolerate the idea of anything bad ever happening to a child (mine or anyone else's) that I have to repeat to myself: children are resilient, children must learn to heal from pain/injury/loss as opposed to simply avoiding it, the world is not under my control but it is a mostly good place... etc.

    These are the mantras that enable me to let my daughter explore her own independence and her own boundaries. It is so hard to do, though.