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.