After the Boy was born I would have these moments when the magnitude of the responsibility I had just undertaken would slam into me. It’s unnerving to think all of a sudden that if I got it wrong, this child could die. It wasn’t anxiety exactly, just these moments, as I was bathing him for example, when I would suddenly think thoughts like, “I am the only one keeping this kid alive right now. If I walk away he will die.” It usually had the result of causing me to hyper vigilant for a while, and humbled and awed by the role I now found myself in. Those moments just kept slamming into me over and over until I barely notice them now. There are all of those days at the swimming pool, and standing under the ladder at the playground to catch if they fall, and sleeping with one ear open, and putting the things they shouldn’t ingest somewhere else, and generally panicking when they’re outside and it’s been longer than a minute since I last saw them. Living under this mantle of responsibility has become commonplace, a regular part of my day.
In addition to these however are the crisis moments, the times when I feel all alone and the weight of figuring out what to do is a bit overwhelming. When the Boy was two I was visiting one of my best friends for a few days and staying at her house. They didn’t have any children yet, but they did have a chocolate lab puppy. The boy and the dog loved playing with each other and chasing around the house. My friend’s husband is a welder and they have a very unique dining room table that he made. It has a metal frame and legs and a glass top. (Do you see where this is headed?)
Sunday morning we were just about to leave for church, I called the Boy to leave off of his running around with the dog in order to leave. He was laughing looking behind him at the puppy that was chasing him. SMASH. We watched in almost slow motion as the corner of the glass top table caught him square in the mouth and threw him onto his back.
I was already running and shouting, too late of course, and rolled him over to see blood spilling out of his mouth and his front tooth bent sideways and pointing into his mouth. I choked back the urge to start screaming hysterically and crying and wringing my hands uselessly. Instead I asked for a clean cloth to soak up the blood so I could get a better look. The Boy was screaming and delirious and fighting me, and so I had to get my friend’s husband to help me hold him down. I looked into the pale concerned faces of my friends and announced, “The only thing I’ve heard to do with teeth is to straighten them out as soon as possible so they won’t set crooked.”
I stared at them, willing one of them to become the expert I needed, wishing I could talk to the Genius Husband who was on the road in a different country far away from us, or a doctor or dentist, wishing some one would tell me what to do. Instead they shrugged and said, “You’re his mom.”
There it was again, the never-ending burden of deciding another’s fate. I took a deep breath, reached inside his bloody mouth and with my fingers carefully and painstakingly pulled the loose tooth straight again. For several days I checked it to make sure it was straight and hadn’t moved and my vigilance paid off because that tooth is still straight. It would be a crowning achievement in my mommy career if I hadn’t failed to notice, until it was too late, that the tooth next to it was also knocked slightly askew, and remains so until this day. Every time I notice it I feel a mixture of relief that I got it back to almost normal, chagrin over the crooked tooth, and worry as I wonder how much we’ll have to pay an orthodontist to correct the problem.
That same friend just sent me a package a little while for the Baby. One of the items she sent was a little bib with the caption, “Instructions not included.”
Ain’t that the truth?