About a month ago, our younger son was taken to an emergency room after falling and hitting his head on the edge of a cabinet in our living room. He was bleeding heavily, crying and screaming. It was obvious that he was in much pain and shock. My husband tried to hold him tightly and wash the wound but soon realized that the cut was too deep for us to adequately handle. We called up an urgent care facility which was close by, but they recommended the emergency room of a local children’s hospital. We waited for about one hour before finally being seen by a nurse, and then waited another hour before a doctor saw us. While waiting to be seen by the doctor, my husband went out to get some food for us with our older son, leaving our injured son in my arms. By that time he had fallen asleep. He was exhausted. The wound on his forehead looked really painful, but his face didn’t show any sign of pain while he was asleep. I had no choice but to wait while feeling his weight on my lap. For a second, I regretted not having my iPod with me so I could listen to some program while waiting. But then I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I just held him for more than a few minutes. He is no longer an infant; he loves to walk around and explore the world, and doesn’t want to be held for a long period of time. It was a really rare occasion for me to just be with him, without having to think about cooking dinner, cleaning up the kitchen, or getting them ready to go to bed. He seemed to be calm, and comfortable just being in my arms, sleeping. I didn’t quite know what to make of the fact that he got injured. I felt partly responsible because we could have done a better job to childproof our place. Then I thought, his injury could have been much worse. I was certainly grateful for the fact that it seemed minor; he didn’t lose consciousness or anything after he had fallen. I thought about the time when he got hospitalized for 4 days when he was only 5 months old. He’d had some trouble breathing, and had to go through a series of treatments. He had looked so small and had been experiencing great discomfort while being treated in his hospital bed. Even though I knew that he was in good hands and would eventually recover, I felt powerless as a parent. All I could do was to be there for him, watching him helplessly. This time, it was obvious that we could take him home after getting some stitches, and I was certainly grateful for that. But then I thought, this is just the beginning. There will be injuries and accidents that I will not be able to protect him from. There are times we choose to leave him in others’ trusting hands while we go to work, and something can happen during that time. Even if we could be there for them 24/7, this kind of accident could still occur. The accident we experienced was a proof of that fact as it unfolded literally right in front of our eyes. We were right there in the same room, inches away from him, and we still could not protect him. He ended up getting three stitches, and it’s likely that it’ll leave a visible scar on his forehead, right above his right eyebrow.
When our kids were newborns, I sometimes had horrible images of them getting hurt in an accident. Sometimes I had nightmares, other times it was like a vision that came from nowhere and went away. They are no longer infants, but I am still afraid that something bad might happen to them. Apparently, it is not uncommon for parents with a young child to have these worries, and I assume that this kind of feeling may never go away regardless of the age of the child. I was talking to my mentor about my fear the other day during a weekend course. She said that this fear is a reminder of the depth of my love, not only for my kids (though it’s an obvious channel for me to feel love), but for people around me. She then suggested that when I start feeling afraid, instead of focusing on the feeling of fear, try to see it as a reminder of how much I love them. She shared her own experience about her children, and told me that with time, she was able to move herself to the place of joy and love, whenever she started feeling fear and worry. That evening I looked at my son’s face, and his scar. I don’t know if it will disappear or be less visible as he grows older. The thing is, he will probably get more scars, visible or not, because of who I am – imperfect – and part of being a parent is to live with the fact that I can’t shield my children from being hurt, physically or emotionally all of the time. This feeling of being afraid probably will not go away either, but I feel that now I am aware of a choice I have always had, which is to shift my perspective if I so choose. When I can’t fall asleep in the middle of the night, thinking of the things that might happen to my kids, I will be thankful of having that fear, for making me really feel just how much I love them.