Friday, July 21, 2006

As if I needed a reason to cry at my desk

I usually like writing about good, nice, funny things because there's enough stuff out there to make us depressed. But today I found out that a colleague's six year old niece died in a freak camping accident when a tree fell on the tent where she was sleeping. Her parents were looking for the car keys so they could escape the dangerous weather. They weren't hurt when the tree fell but she died. What if they had gotten out five minutes earlier? What if they hadn't gone camping? I imagine that her poor parents will second-guess their decisions for the rest of their lives.

Until our first daughter was born, I was oblivious to the big and scary nature of the world. She was so tiny and I was overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for her. I remember walking around with her when she was barely a week old and being terrified of the cars and trucks and construction cranes and all the noise. I was so focused on caring for this tiny being that everything else grew bigger and bigger in my mind until normal-sized people seemed like giants. Everything was a threat to her. Thankfully, as she got bigger and stronger and as I got more sleep, the world returned to normal size. But the fear that something bad could happen to her (and her sister) remains to this day.

It's nearly nine years after my first child was born and I still feel overwhelmed by the responsibility to care for little people who can't care for themselves. There are big and small decisions we make daily that impact our kids in the short- and long-run. What to feed them and when to send them to bed, whether to let them sleep at a friend's house, where to live and send them to school, who to hire as a babysitter, where to take them on vacation and whether to let them go out without a jacket. The need for decisions never stops. Don't you wish you had a crystal ball so you could avoid bad decisions and unfortunate wrong-place, wrong-time occurrences? I do. Daily. But I know that my energies would be better spent in improving my decision-making and parenting skills as best I can and worrying less so I can enjoy my time with them more.

I'm struggling to learn something from this tragic situation. I have a desperate need to convince myself that this would never happen to us because it hits so close to home. I tried the easy route by telling myself that we never go camping. But it didn't work. The fact is that freak accidents happen in all kinds of unlikely and otherwise safe places. Ultimately, we have to accept that the world can be unsafe and human life so fragile. Although we may want to, we can't wrap our children in a cocoon to protect them. We have to do our best to prepare them for the world and then let them go. And hope for the best.

6 comments:

landismom said...

Yeah, there are definitely times when, if someone sold kid-sized bubble wrap, I'd buy it. I can't read stories like this anymore without wondering, what must the parents have felt?

Sandra said...

I read about this horrible accident in the Tribune the other day. What a terrible thing. You're right, it can happen to anyone. When I was younger, I always thought nothing really bad could happen to me. But as we get older, we see again and again these things can happen to anyone; it makes us feel more vulnerable. I'm so sorry for the family.

Caryn said...

Oh, no! How utterly horrible. I feel so awful for the parents. You're right; for the rest of their lives, they will probably be second-guessing themselves, even though they couldn't have known, and if they didn't know, they couldn't have done anything differently. The world is scary sometimes.

Kristen said...

So, so tragic. *shudder*

A few weeks ago, my husband dropped my three and four-year-old off at a swim lesson at the YMCA while he went to work out (the YMCA encourages this, because of all of their lifeguards, etc.). I left work early to see the end of their lesson and walked in to see my three-year-old almost drown - the lifeguard was standing right over him and didn't see it, and the swim instructor was three or four feet away and didn't see him. My four-year-old got the instructor's attention right as I ran up and grabbed my younger son out of the pool. He was sputtering and coughing up water. If things had been different by just a few small tweaks, it could have been a lot worse. It's terrifying. We just have to do our best to keep them safe and know that (unfortunately) we can't protect them from everything (although in this case, I removed both of them from the class and won't put them back in a group setting for swim lessons)...

cmhl said...

how horrible for that family...

Kristi said...

Wow, what a terrible tradegy. The other day my cousin, a new mom, confessed that she was secretly struggling with an overwhelming fear that something bad might happen to her new baby and her family. I had to tell her it was no secret and welcome to the club. I once heard that having a child is like having your heart outside you out there walking around in this dangerous world. Renews my convictionthat having kids is the bravest thing a person can do. God bless that poor family, may God wrap them in his loving comfort.